Headlines: May 8th, 2006

Almost half of looked-after children have had their education disrupted by extra changes of school after entering care, according to survey results from the charity the Fostering Network published today. The Network also highlights the gap in achievement between looked after children and their fellow pupils.The study is released this morning to coincide with the beginning of Foster Care Fortnight. The results show that 47 per cent of looked-after children had experienced at least one additional change of school on top of normallyexpected age-related moves. One in five of those who responded to the survey had undergone two or more additional changes of school, with one in 20 having to move schools at least four times.

Looked after children also do less well at school. The figures show their educational achievements across the country fall well behind those of their peers. In England, only 11 per cent of them gained achieved five GCSEs at grades A-star to C last year compared with 56 per cent of all children. Less than 5 per cent of care leavers go on to university and those poor outcomes are mirrored in the figures in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, said children going into care had a hard enough time finding their feet without having to cope with moving schools. It was not surprising, he added, that those who moved schools a number of times failed to match the achievements of children from more stable backgrounds.

“More foster carers will make it more possible to find children foster families who are right for them and who live locally. Fostering services that are prepared to pay and support their foster carers properly have shown that it is possible to recruit the number of foster carers they need,” he said. The theme for Foster Care Fortnight is fostering brighter futures, and Mr. Tapsfield said,” If we want fostered children to have a bright future, national and local governments m st work together, both to encourage more people to think about fostering, and also to ensure that all foster carers are given proper financial and practical support for the challenging work that they do.”