Children in care ‘shock’: 92% get no GCSE passes

‘IT is shocking’ that none of the young people in care in Jersey are gaining the basic educational benchmark of five good GCSE passes (grade five or above) including maths and English, the children’s commissioner has said.

Children's Commissioner Deborah McMillan (29724253)
Children's Commissioner Deborah McMillan (29724253)

New figures reveal that fewer than 8% of children in the care of the Children’s Minister get any GCSEs at all. And almost 43% of them leave care and find themselves in the ‘NEET’ category – not in education, employment or training.

Deborah McMillan has called on ministers, who act as ‘corporate parents’, to start ‘making a fuss’ about these children and treating them as if they were their own.

The commissioner says it is a problem the government has known about for a long time but has made no meaningful progress on.

She said: ‘These are the most recent figures, and the story behind them is compelling: the outcomes for children in care are poor.’

She added: ‘The problem is not a new one. It is an ongoing issue. What we are asking is: “What are you going to do about it?”

‘Our ministers are these children’s ‘‘corporate parents’’. If it was their own children who were not getting their GCSEs they would be down at the school, making a fuss.

‘We want them to start making a fuss about these children.’

Mrs McMillan says that she wants to see more money allocated to schools to provide for children in care. And she is calling for an end to school exclusions that are creating gaps in these children’s education.

Mrs McMillan explained that all children in care were supposed to receive a personal education plan, or PEP, setting out their needs.

But she said: ‘What we are learning is that schools are not completing PEPs because they don’t have the resources, and that the quality of the PEPs that are completed is poor.

‘If schools don’t complete the PEPs they can’t draw down the extra money, the Jersey Pupil Premium, to help them.’

She also said that excluding troublesome youngsters from school only made a bad situation worse.

‘If they are not in a school they are not learning. Of course they need to be removed from the classroom if they are interfering with other children’s learning, but there needs to be trained adults there to help them.

‘They are in care for a reason. They will have suffered adversity growing up.

‘We are not saying: “Don’t remove them from the classroom.” But don’t remove them from the school. There should be provision for them within the school.’

Mrs McMillan said that she was guided in her role by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and pointed out: ‘Part of it is the right to an education.

‘That is not just a place in a school. It is about giving them the right qualifications to make choices in life,’ she said.

‘Five GCSE passes including maths and English are the minimum requirement for college and university.’

The States are due to debate school funding next month [December].

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