The Fostering Network welcomes the publication of Estyn’s Raising the attainment, achievement and aspiration of children who are looked after - a best practice report, and especially the fact that looked after children’s educational outcomes are improving. However, we are concerned at the continuing wide achievement gap between looked after children and other pupils.
Dr Emily Warren, director of The Fostering Network in Wales, said: ‘We are aspirational for all children, and we want to celebrate the successes, educational or otherwise, of children who grow up living in foster care.
‘Children are not simply statistics, and we should take time to applaud the individual children who have made good progress educationally. At the same time however, we must ensure that we continue to examine why others are not achieving and to remove every obstacle that gets in the way of looked after children fulfilling their educational potential. We urge everyone involved in the education of looked after children – foster carers, school staff, local authorities and Welsh Government – to read, learn from and act upon the main findings of the report, as well as the Understanding the Educational Experiences and Opinions, Attainment, Achievement and Aspirations of Looked After Children in Wales (2015) report that was produced by The Children’s Social Care Research and Development in conjunction with The Fostering Network.
‘We also call for a recognition of the role of foster carers as first educators, and for foster carers to be seen as a professional equals in the team around the child. Foster carers must be key partners in the team that works together to secure the best possible outcomes for a child in care.
‘While we cannot expect dramatic and immediate change in educational outcomes for young people in care, it is positive to see a consistent improvement over time. There is clearly still a long way to go, but we know that being in foster care can improve educational outcomes: University of Oxford research (2015) showed that educational outcomes are higher for fostered children compared with those living on the edge of care. And recent figures from the Scottish Government show the same thing. Going forward we urge Estyn to publish educational attainment figures by the type of accommodation allowing comparisons to be made.
‘The Fostering Network in Wales will continue to develop our projects and programmes, including the running of education masterclasses and an education guide for foster carers, which aim to improve the educational aspirations of looked after children, ensure fostered children have the same educational opportunities as their peers, and celebrate the achievements of children living with foster families.’