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Louisa Gothard
Louisa Gothard
Senior Solicitor, Head of Family Law
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Outcomes for children looked after by local authorities: 2017
Date:28 MAR 2018
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Senior Editor

The Department for Education has published a range of outcome measures at national and local authority level for children looked after continuously for at least 12 months


Under the Children Act 1989, a child is legally defined as ‘looked after’ by a local authority if he or she:
  • is provided with accommodation for a continuous period for more than 24 hours
  • is subject to a care order; or
  • is subject to a placement order.
This statistical first release provides information at national and local authority level on the outcomes for children looked after continuously for at least 12 months at 31 March 2017. The outcome measures cover:
  • educational attainment (at key stages 1, 2 and 4)
  • special educational needs
  • absence from school
  • exclusions from school
There are two new tables this year at national level at key stage 4; both provide additional breakdowns of the Progress 8 measure (school type and length of most recent period of care).

The report also includes experimental statistics on educational attainment (at key stages 2 and 4) of previously looked after children who left care through an adoption, special guardianship order (SGO) or child arrangements order (CAO).

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Key findings

  • From 2016 to 2017, the percentage of key stage 2 children achieving the expected standard across all subjects increased for all three groups: looked after children, non-looked after children and children in need. Looked after children perform slightly better than children in need but attainment for both looked after children and children in need is much lower than for non-looked after children. 
  • In 2017, there was an increase in the percentage of looked after children at key stage 4 achieving a pass in English and mathematics from 17.4% to 17.5% and also in entering the English Baccalaureate. Looked after children progress less well than non-looked after children but slightly better than children in need.
  • Looked after children are almost four times more likely to have a special educational need than all children and are almost 10 times more likely to have a statement of special educational need or education, health and care plan than all children. In 2017, 56.3% of looked after children had a special educational need, compared to 45.9% of children in need and 14.4% of all children.
  • Absence rates for looked after children increased from 2016 – overall absence increased from 3.9% of sessions missed in 2016 to 4.3% in 2017. The percentage of looked after children classified as persistent absentees has remained steady over recent years from 10.1% in 2013 to 10.0% in 2017.
  • The rate of permanent exclusions for looked after children is higher than the rate for all children, but continues to be less than the rate for children in need. Looked after children are more than five times more likely to have a fixed period exclusion than all children, around one and a half times more likely than children in need.
  • The percentage of pupils at key stage 2 who had previously been looked after who achieved the expected standard at reading, writing and mathematics increased since 2016 to 38 per cent. Pupils who were the subject of a child arrangements order are more likely to achieve this standard than those who were
    adopted or the subject of a special guardianship order.
  • The percentage of pupils at key stage 4 who had previously been looked after who achieved a pass in English and mathematics increased from 31.6 per cent to 32.8 per cent since 2016. However, the proportion of pupils who achieved
    the English Baccalaureate decreased slightly from 7.5 per cent to 7.1 per cent.
  • Adopted pupils performed better at key stage 4 than those who were the subject of a special guardianship order or a child arrangements order.
Click here to view the full report.

Click here to view the national tables.
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