Published: 1 December 2015
Researchers at Bristol and Oxford University have published new research which suggests that children in foster care achieve better grades and make more progress at school than other vulnerable children who stay with their families in a troubled environment.
The research, commissioned by the Nuffield Foundation, looked at the 2013 GCSE results of more than 640,000 teenagers in England and found that by the time the child gets to 16, there was a difference of at least 6 GCSE grades and that children in care dropped at least 2 GCSE grades for every 5% of classes they were absent from.
Of the 640,000 teenagers examined, 14,000 of them were classed as 'in need' and were supported by social workers whilst still living with their birth parents and their results were considerably worse than the 6,000 pupils examined who were in a care environment.
The results of the study highlighted that children in care felt more protected and encouraged, which dispelled a popular theory that going into care could hurt their educational progress. Professor David Berridge from Bristol University, said that children made more progress "once they felt safe and secure" and that the longer the child remains in foster care, the better their chances are of progressing at school - especially as a safe and stable environment also limits the amount of time the pupils are absent from school.
Some of the pupils in foster care told researchers that the feeling of being cared about and new found levels of discipline and encouragement made the biggest difference to their performance and attitude towards school, as well as the feeling of being free from intimidation, hunger and abuse they felt at home.
Professor Berridge said, "Young people told us that coming into care had benefitted them educationally. They said they could only do well at school once they felt safe and secure, that they mattered to someone and that their birth families were also being supported. If all this was in place then teachers could help them make progress. Carers, teachers and social workers need to work together to achieve this."
The Director of Rees Centre for Research in Fostering and Education at Oxford University, Professor Judy Sebba, added that the research also highlights that frequent changes of school can have a negative impact on a child's progress in education.
She said, "We believe such moves should be avoided, particularly in the two years leading up to GCSE exams. "
The Association of Directors of Children's Services responded to the report, saying that the results play "an invaluable part of helping us to better understand the experiences of these vulnerable children and to make sure that both the education and care system is built to meet their individual needs."
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