William Eichler 08 July 2022

Councils urged to face up to poor Ofsted ratings

Councils urged to face up to poor Ofsted ratings  image
Image: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com.

MPs have called for local authorities to ensure all looked-after children are receiving full-time education in a school registered with the Department for Education (DfE).

Published by the Education Committee, a new report has called for schools and local authorities to face hit to Ofsted ratings if they fail to ensure that children in care receive full-time education.

Just 7.2% of looked-after children achieved the grade 5 ‘good pass’ threshold in English and mathematics GCSEs, compared to 40.1% of non-looked-after children, according to the committee.

Children in residential care at age 16 scored over six grades less at GCSE than those in kinship or foster care. The story is the same with employment outcomes.

Over 40% of 19–21-year-old care leavers are not in education, employment or training (NEET) and just 22% of care leavers aged 27 are in employment. This is compared to 57% of others, and even when they are in employment, there is on average a £6,000 pay gap.

The committee called for local authorities to ensure all looked-after children are receiving full-time education in a school registered with the Department for Education. This is currently not happening. Just under 10% of children in children’s homes are in unregulated education provision, which is not inspected by Ofsted and has no quality-assurance. A further 6% of children in children’s homes are not in any education, employment, or training at all.

The MPs warned that these problems are compounded by a ‘black hole’ of data at the centre of the care system, leaving the DfE blind to the full extent of children in unacceptable or non-existent education.

Committee chair Robert Halfon said: ‘Children’s time in a care home shouldn’t define their life prospects. It is wrong that these children have been forgotten – just 7% of these young people achieve a Grade 5 in their English or Maths GCSE and 41% are not in employment, education or training.

‘These children are being let down by the system which should be there to support them. The least the system can do is its legal duty to make sure that looked after children get prioritised for the good and outstanding schools that can cater to their needs, which are often more complex than children living with their parents. But many are abdicating even that responsibility, using children’s own circumstances against them with impunity.’

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Children and Young People Board, said: 'Councils want to ensure that the children in our care are living in loving homes where they get the very best support and education to enable them to thrive.

'For children in care, instability and traumatic life experiences can have a significant impact on their education. This is why evidence highlights that the stability provided by a longer time in care can have a positive impact. It is vital that for all children in care, we are able to provide the holistic support that they need to cope with earlier trauma, and the educational support including for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) that can help them thrive.

We want every child in care to be able to go to the best school for their needs, which is why we continue to call for powers for councils to direct academies to take looked after children, as pledged in the Schools White Paper.

'The recent Independent Review of Children’s Social Care and SEND green paper are both opportunities to ensure that we are better able to meet the needs of children in care, including children with special needs.

'We urgently need to reform our children’s social care and SEND systems, including transformational investment in the services that give all children the best start in life.'

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