The Fostering Network works to improve educational outcomes for fostered children and young people, through its programmes, training and policy work.
Why do we need to support the education of fostered children and young people?
The Fostering Network believes that it is vital to support the education of fostered children and young people because the available evidence shows that children who are looked after generally have lower attainment at school than other children.
For example, in 2017 just 32 per cent of looked after children in England reached the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics at Key Stage Two (the end of primary school). For children who were not looked after, 61 per cent reached the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics at the same age. This is a significant difference or ‘attainment gap’ between looked after children and other children. This is reflected in similar findings across the UK.
Unfortunately, this gap remains as children get older and research from the University of Oxford showed that young people leaving care are less likely to attend university and have poorer employment prospects than the general population. This can have a negative impact on their opportunities and life chances.
What can make a difference?
More research needs to be done in this area, but we know that some factors can make a positive difference.
Research from the University of Oxford showed that longer term foster care from an earlier age can have a positive impact on the educational outcomes of some looked after children. The researchers also spoke to looked after young people, who identified the positive influence of individual teachers and school staff and the importance of having someone who genuinely cared about them.
The Fostering Network programmes have also identified factors that may have a beneficial impact. During the evaluation of the London Fostering Achievement programme, young people spoke of the importance of having high aspirations for their own future. Foster carers also benefitted from peer support to increase their knowledge of the education system and the services available.
A recent report by the Scottish Government also showed that that, for young people leaving care, those who had been in foster care had higher attainment than those in other forms of care. Placement stability was also directly linked to better educational outcomes.
What do we do?
The Fostering Network wants better opportunities and outcomes for fostered children and works to achieve this through its programmes:
Fostering Potential is a new programme in England, aiming to raise the educational outcomes of fostered children by increasing foster carers’ knowledge and confidence in their role as ‘first educators’.
Fostering Achievement worked with foster and kinship carers to improve educational outcomes for fostered children in Northern Ireland. This programme has now been replaced by Fostering Attainment and Achievement (more information coming soon).
The Fostering Community Champions programme provides direct peer support to foster carers throughout Scotland, including support on educational issues. The Fostering Network also provides support to the CELCIS Education forum, which includes teachers from across Scotland.
Fostering Excellence is a three-year national programme of improvement and support in Wales, placing foster carers at the centre of the team around the child. Workstreams include Fostering Achievement masterclasses, which are based on recent research into educational needs in Wales.
The Fostering Network website has a page with links to education resources for foster carers, including resources to support the education of looked after children in Wales and our publication ‘A Guide to the Education of Looked After Children in England’.