Shock At NI Children In Care’s Exam Struggles

Only 17 out of 181 children in care in Northern Ireland who sat GCSE examinations in 2006 obtained five or more passes from grade A* to C, it can be revealed.

That equates to only 0.1% of the overall number of 15,596 children who achieved five or more GCSEs at grade A in examinations sat in June 2006.

The shock figures were released by Health Minister Michael McGimpsey in response to questions submitted to the Assembly by MLA Alastair Ross.

The figures also show that out of the 181 who left care aged 16 and over who were eligible to sit GCSEs in 2006, only 33 obtained between one and four GCSE grades between A* and C.

Five children did not obtain any qualifications, while 82 did not sit any examinations.

At the end of last year, 2,356 young people were in care in Northern Ireland – 1,127 aged under 12, 765 between 12 and 15 and 464 were 16 and above.

The figures prompted Mr Ross to ask questions about the level of service being delivered to the thousands of children in care.

He said: “We are already very aware that vulnerable children are less likely to succeed academically, whether they come from socially deprived families, suffer from a disability or have unstable family set ups.

“It is particularly worrying, however, that the many children who live in care in Northern Ireland are particularly vulnerable and are unable to get the most basic qualifications they need to help themselves succeed in life.

” I firmly believe that education is the building block of life and that a good education can help an individual prosper in life. It is imperative that vulnerable children living in care are not left behind and that they are given the education that they need.”

Mr Ross said the Employment and Learning Committee recently met with Include Youth, a group which works with children in care and helps them gain basic qualifications and assist in getting them work placements.

“Children who live in care often come from broken families, have little or no parental support, can often be unsettled for long periods and a high proportion have become involved in alcohol or drug abuse,” he said.

“This obviously makes these children particularly vulnerable. I would urge all of the relevant departments to work together to ensure that children in care can gain basic qualifications and that assistance can be given to groups that are working to this end.”