Children in care school study urged
The Ombudsman for Children has criticised the lack of any data into educational outcomes of youngsters in care.
Some 6,300 children are cared for by the State in Ireland, with the majority placed in foster homes across the country.
Emily Logan called on the Government to address the deficits in information on educational experiences for those youngsters by starting a longitudinal study.
She revealed the lack of adequate data meant researchers could not generate a clear profile of attendance, participation and attainment rates in education among children in care or to compare them with the general population of school children.
"When the circumstances and experiences of children in care come under the spotlight, the focus is often on matters relating to their safety, protection and welfare," said the Ombudsman. "While work to identify, highlight and address shortfalls in this area is vital, we should be mindful not to overlook or neglect other significant areas of these children's lives."
Ms Logan's office commissioned the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and the Children's Research Centre at Trinity College to research the area to strengthen an understanding of the educational experiences of children in care.
They found children in care can face significant challenges to pursuing their education, including attitudinal barriers, placement breakdowns, inadequate care planning and review, and shortfalls and delays in assessment. And when encountered, these challenges place children in care at higher risk of suspension, exclusion, absenteeism and early school leaving.
"Given that there are currently 6,300 children in the care of the State - a relatively small number of children relative to the overall population of children living in Ireland - a longitudinal study that builds on the ESRI/TCD findings should be feasible," Ms Logan added.
"Moreover, the valuable viewpoints and insights shared by children in care, young care leavers, carers and professionals who participated in this current study indicate that a longitudinal study could benefit future policy-making and practice."
Researchers also identified ways in which the Irish education system, along with health and social services, can support attendance, participation and attainment in education by children in care. Ms Logan recommended the development and implementation on an inter-agency basis of a joint action plan focused on strengthening educational opportunities for children in care and the mainstreaming of opportunities for children in care, and their carers, to express their views on decision-making processes about issues that affect them.