Think tank blasts UK education of children in care

The education of children in care in the UK has been labelled “a national disgrace” by the chief executive of think tank the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU).

Addressing the LGIU’s Children’s Services Network conference, Andy Sawford highlighted the stark contrast between the six per cent of children in care that go on to university in the UK and the 60 per cent that do in Denmark.

Opening the conference Sawford said: “We should be ashamed at how seriously we fail children in care in this country.

“Those children, who have the wealthiest parent of all, the state, are more likely to end up in prison or on the dole than they are to go on to higher education.”

Sawford called for “a year of political change” on the issue and proposed the creation of a national academy for achievement in social care, which would give more looked-after children access to good quality education and training.

But Colin Green, director of children and young people at Coventry City Council, said there were dangers in comparing the UK with other countries.

“This argument is based on a major misunderstanding of care and what it does,” he said. “The primary reason that children do badly is because of what happened to them before they came into care.”

Green also criticised the practice of viewing children in care as “one lump”. He added: “I take issue with this seriously simplistic view. It is a volatile population with a lot of movement in and out with very different areas of need.”

The conference also heard from Eilen Bengtsson a Danish expert who has championed social pedagogy in Denmark – a model aimed at supporting the whole development of a child rather than just focusing on their immediate needs.