Foster children outperform peers in care in GCSEs, study shows

Foster children significantly outperform their peers in other forms of social care when it comes to GCSEs, a new study has shown.

Children in foster care secured exam results at least six GCSE grades higher, on average, than children who remained with their families and received support from social workers.

The joint study by the University of Oxford and the University of Bristol, and funded by the Nuffield Foundation, looked at thousands of pupils’ key stage 2 test scores and compared them with their GCSE results.

The researchers found that fostering “protects” the education of children better than other types of care, while other factors such as the timing and number of care placements or school moves, and the type of school attended, also played big parts in their attainment.

Professor Judy Sebba, director of the Rees Centre for Research in Fostering and Education, Oxford University, said the study “clearly” showed children who had been fostered for a year or more performed better than children in residential care or those living with their birth parents in families supported by children’s services.

“We found that, in general, the longer the child was in foster care, the better they did educationally, particularly if they attend high-performing schools,” Professor Sebba said. “The findings also show the impact of school moves. We believe such moves should be avoided, particularly in the two years leading up to GCSE exams.”

The findings from the report, called Educational Progress of Looked After Children in England: Linking Care and Educational Data, also showed that young people in care who were in special schools and pupil referral units aged 16 scored more than 14 grades lower in their GCSEs compared with those in mainstream schools.

Edward Timpson, children and families minister, said: “As someone who grew up with over 90 fostered brothers and sisters, I’ve seen first-hand just how education coupled with a stable home environment can transform the lives and futures of some of our most vulnerable children.”

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