Children placed in foster care do better at school than those who are ‘in need’ but still living with their birth families, researchers claim.
Academics from both Bristol and Oxford University analysed the GCSE results of 640,000 teenagers in England. Around 14,000 children living at home were classed as ‘in need’. There were around 6,000 teenagers living in care at the time they sat the exams in 2013. The researchers found the equivalent of at least six grades difference between children in foster care and those living with troubled families.
Researchers also interviewed several children in foster care who claimed that “coming into care had benefitted them educationally”. Children in care said they could focus better at school “once they felt safe and secure, that they mattered to someone and that their birth families were also being supported”.
However, despite doing better than ‘in need’ children living with their birth families, those in foster care did not do as well as pupils in the general population.
Professor Judy Sebba is the director of the Rees Centre for Research in Fostering and Education at Oxford University. She said that another finding of their research was that children who move from placement to placement suffered damage to their educational progress.
“Such moves should be avoided, particularly in the two years leading up to GCSE exams”, she added.
The results of this study support research published in September which suggested that placing children in care does not necessarily harm their education.