Belfast Telegraph

Schooling plea for children in care

Almost two-fifths of children in state care do not get any GCSE or equivalent qualifications, it has been revealed.

Foster carers need to motivate young people to achieve their full potential, the Fostering Network Northern Ireland said.

The Department of Health said 61% of looked-after children attained at least one GCSE/GNVQ, an increase of 11% from 2007/08.

Fostering network director Kate Lewis said: "While it is great that there has been improvement in the educational attainment of children in care in Northern Ireland, it is disappointing that almost two-fifths of looked-after children who could take GCSE or GNVQ exams did not take them.

"This is not what most of us would want for our own children and is symptomatic of the lack of aspiration for the education of children in care."

The main findings from a Department of Health survey were that, between 2006 and 2009, the educational attainment of children in care in Northern Ireland had improved in some areas and remained static in others.

Overall, children in care in Northern Ireland continued to do significantly less well when compared with their peers in the general school population and with looked-after children in England.

Ms Lewis added that a conference of experts would discuss the matter in Belfast.

"At our conference this weekend we will be calling on all those working with children in care to take a more active role in their education and highlighting the vital role that foster carers play in motivating fostered children to enjoy learning and achieve their full potential," she said.

"We need to focus on the importance of education in creating better life chances for children in care."

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