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Vulnerable children who received help from children’s services missing crucial education

One in 15 children in England who got help from children’s social care aged 8 to 14 were no longer enrolled in a state school in their crucial GCSE years, aged 14 to 16, according to new research from UCL.

16/03/22

Vulnerable children who received help from children’s services missing crucial education

Recently published research shows that vulnerable children may be missing out on education aged 14 to 16.

The data shows that children who received help from children’s social care are almost three times more likely to not be enrolled in a state school for vital education years than those who did not receive help.

Researchers from UCL’s ECHILD team said that those with more intensive support from children’s social care were the most likely to be not enrolled. Of the 1% of all children who were looked after in foster or residential care, one in ten (10%) were not enrolled aged 14 to 16. For children closely monitored on a child protection plan (2% of all children), 8% were not enrolled. And for those receiving other types of help (9% of all children), 6% were not enrolled.

The research team used the anonymised National Pupil Database linked to social care data for 1 million children starting state secondary school in 2011 and 2012. The study covered all children in English state schools, including alternative provision placements. This is the first time that a national study has examined school enrolment in children who got help from children’s social care or for special educational needs.

The study also showed that children who got both support from children’s social care and for special educational needs were most likely to no longer be enrolled in state school aged 14 to 16.

Researchers said that they do not know for certain whether these children are receiving an education as some of the children in the study may have become home or privately schooled but, given their circumstances, they say it is likely that a substantial proportion are not receiving an education.

Dr Matthew Jay, lead author of the study, said children receiving help from children’s social care services or for special educational needs are some of the most disadvantaged and most in need of education and protection.

“The GCSE years are crucial for future employment, earnings and life chances.”

The authors also point out that even where children stay enrolled in state school, there are many children who are frequently absent from school and some are excluded. Past research has shown that children who get help from children’s social care are also more likely to be absent or excluded from school.

Professor Ruth Gilbert, co-author of the research, added that “the Department for Education and Ofsted recognise this problem and it is welcome that Virtual School Heads are being extended to all children with a social worker and that Ofsted inspect schools with a view to tackling off-rolling. More, however, could be done. Schools are likely to be under-resourced to meet the complex needs of these children.”

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