The Educational Attainment and Progress of Children in Need and Children in Care

  • Berridge, David (Principal Investigator)
  • Cartwright, Mim A (Co-Investigator)
  • Staples, Eleanor M (Co-Investigator)
  • Luke, Nikki (Co-Investigator)
  • Sebba, Judy (Co-Investigator)
  • Strand, Steve (Co-Investigator)

Project Details


The educational attainment of Children in Care (CIC) is generally lower than other pupils and this remains cause for national, and international, concern. Our previous research (2015) examined this problem quantitatively, by looking at all pupils in England who took their GCSEs in 2013, and qualitatively, by interviewing young people in care about their educational experiences. You can watch a short video about the research in the links section [1]. Findings influenced policy and practice at a local and national level, including changes to DfE policy on reporting on the educational attainments of Children in Need (CIN; those receiving social work support while living at home) alongside CIC; and being used by Virtual School Heads in local authorities to influence individual decisions affecting children. David Berridge won a Vice-Chancellor’s Impact Award in 2016 for the research.

The current project builds on our 2015 study. Also using a mixed methods design, it will be prospective (rather than at one moment in time, as in the previous study), allowing us to explore the effects of earlier adverse experiences and to better capture the fluidity of the care system, which sees many children entering and leaving each year. Our previous research indicated that CIN make less educational progress (Key Stage2-4) than CIC. This project will look at data relating to CIN and CIC and produce qualitative data with CIC, CIN, families, carers and key professionals.

We will investigate a cohort of all children in England who began their education (KS1) in 2006-2007 and track their care and educational histories through to GCSEs in 2016-2017 (KS4), utilising the National Pupil Database (NPD) and annual datasets on CIC and CIN. Interviews will be conducted with primary and secondary school-aged (30) CIC and (30) CIN and their parents/carers, social workers and teachers, and Virtual School Heads. Narrative and visual methods will be used, where appropriate, to produce rich data about how children and families experience barriers and enablers of educational progress.

The overall research questions are:
- compared with all pupils, what are the educational trajectories, attainments and progress of children who are CIN/CIC at some stage of their schooling, and what are the associated factors;
- how can we account for children who succeed in their educational attainments at 16 years despite experiencing severe early adversity, and;
- what are parents’, pupils’ and professionals’ perspectives on the overall factors affecting educational progress for CIN and CIC.

We shall again be working closely with the DfE, Ofsted, ADCS, and NAVSH.

Funder: Nuffield Foundation.
Effective start/end date1/09/1731/01/20

Structured keywords

  • SPS Children and Families Research Centre


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.