Children in children’s homes 18 times more likely to be attending a Pupil Referral Unit

New data highlights education inequalities facing children living in children’s homes.

18/02/21

Children in children’s homes 18 times more likely to be attending a Pupil Referral Unit

Children living in children’s homes were 18 times more likely to be attending a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU), according to new data released by Ofsted.

Although less than 1% of all state-funded, mainstream-educated children attended PRUs nationally, the figure for those in children’s homes was 18%. Children in children’s homes make up less than 0.1% of the state-funded school population, but they represent more than 3% of the PRU population.

Children living in children’s homes were also found to be 20 times more likely to be in special education than all children nationally, which Ofsted says “reflects the complex needs” of many children entering children’s homes.

Private companies running children’s homes were increasingly found to also own special schools, used primarily, or exclusively, to educate children living in their children’s homes.

Around 1 in 7 children (14%) living in children’s homes were attending special educational provision owned by the same parent organisation as their children’s home.

“Around three quarters of children’s homes are in the private sector, and many have linked educational providers,” the research found.

“As a result, around half the children in private children’s homes attended independent education, compared with around one tenth of those in local authority homes.”

Local authority foster carer and journalist Martin Barrow, speaking on Twitter, described this as private companies ‘doubling their money’, adding: “In my view, children attending a school run by the same company that owns their home is always a red flag.”

Children living in children’s homes were also found to be less likely to attend education provisions rated ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted.

Eighty-two per cent of children attended ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ education provisions, two percentage points lower than all children nationally (84%).

However, the gap was much wider for children in children’s homes attending state-funded mainstream schools, with just 76% attending establishments with the top Ofsted grades, compared to 84% nationally.

Similarly, 88% of children in children’s homes attending state-funded special schools were in institutions rated ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’, compared to 93% nationally.

Children living in children’s homes and attending state-funded education were more than 20 times more likely to have education, health and care (EHC) plans compared to all children nationally.

Furthermore, 27% of children living in children’s homes and attending state-funded education were receiving SEN support, compared to just 6% of children nationally.

“For several decades, it has been recognised that there are substantial gaps in educational attainment between children in care and their peers,” the analysis said.

“Research has concluded that children in children’s homes have the largest gaps in levels of attainment from their peers.

“These are much larger gaps than for other children in care, for example those in kinship or foster care.”

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