Children in care or in need: educational progress at home and in care

Ian Sinclair, Nikki Luke, David Berridge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
210 Downloads (Pure)


By the age of 16 the attainment of most children in or on the edge of out of home care has fallen well behind the average for their age. This paper uses the English National Pupil Database to examine how much of this falling behind occurs before the age 7, and how any subsequent decline relates to time in care as against time outside it. To do this we compare the previous progress of three groups of 16-year-olds: 5,175 looked after by the state (CLA), 17,392 in need but not in care (CIN), and 22,567 children exactly matched with the CLA or CIN on initial attainment, special educational needs and eligibility for free school meals.
We found that the attainment of the CIN and those CLA not yet in care was approximately one SD below the cohort average at age 7. It then fell relative to their peers while their rate of unauthorised absences and exclusions grew. Removal from home to care appeared to halt or greatly reduce this decline but did not, on average, reverse it. We conclude that educational interventions for CLA should also include CIN, start before 7, target problems associated with both school and family, and exploit the educational opportunity which care provides.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-460
Number of pages18
JournalOxford Review of Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jul 2019

Structured keywords

  • SPS Children and Families Research Centre


  • ‘out of home care’
  • ‘children in need’
  • education
  • attainment
  • exclusions
  • attendance


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