HC Deb 06 February 2002 vol 379 cc846-7
4. Mr. Jonathan Shaw (Chatham and Aylesford) Wh

What research his Department has carried out into the educational attainment of children in care. [30887]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Mrs. Barbara Roche)

The social exclusion unit is investigating what more might be done to raise the educational attainment of children in care. It is currently gathering evidence and undertaking an intensive programme of visits to schools and children's homes. It is also consulting widely with professionals and with children in care.

Mr. Shaw

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. The work of the social exclusion unit has been critical in sending a message to all local government departments that the record of educational attainment of looked-after children has been woeful. It is something for which we all have responsibility, particularly since we gather that 75 per cent. of young people leaving care do so without educational qualifications.

However, there is some good news. In the Medway towns in my constituency, two such young people have been the first to receive bursaries from the local authority to go to university, and there is one more to follow. That is the sort of thing that we want to see—young people who have been in care getting the same as other young people, rather than anything special. I hope that my hon. Friend's Department will continue to monitor carefully the attainment of such young people, so that they get what they deserve, which is nothing less than others get.

Mrs. Roche

I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. The record of attainment of educational qualifications among young children in care is woeful, and we all need to take that very seriously. Looked-after children need our absolute commitment, which is why I am delighted that the social exclusion unit is pursuing the matter. I welcome my hon. Friend's news.

Some good practice is on the way. For example, I recently visited Brighton and Hove council to talk to teachers, foster parents and looked-after children. The council's track record of designated teachers is very good.

Angela Watkinson (Upminster)

What mechanisms are in place to assess the relative success of the social exclusion unit compared with its costs?

Mrs. Roche:

The social exclusion unit takes on projects at the direction of the Prime Minister and under the direction of the Deputy Prime Minister. So far, it has had a tremendous success rate. A good example is the meeting of targets on reducing rough sleeping and on reducing teenage pregnancy. Those are extremely good developments. Of course, there are more projects on the way, such as that on transport which my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister has already mentioned.

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