Are we making the grade? The education of children and young people in out-of-home care
This report is based on a PhD study, undertaken between 2005 and 2010, focusing on improving educational engagement and outcomes for children and young people in care. The views expressed in this report are those of the author and not those of the Department of Family and Community Services. The purpose of this report is to inform the NSW education and out-of-home care sectors about the findings and the implications for better policy and practice in this area. The poor educational performance of children in care has been a concern, internationally, for a number of decades. In Australia, it has received less attention even though the limited research to date indicates that children in care are performing more poorly than their non-care peers and face a range of barriers in engaging with their school life. This study sought to develop an understanding of the issues impacting on the educational engagement and outcomes for children in care in NSW. The research and data collection were guided by five main questions: What are the educational outcomes for children currently in care? What are the factors that affect the educational engagement of children in care? How do the various transitions children may experience in care affect their education and how can these transitions best be supported? What are the experiences of children in care in their transition to high school and how can this transition best be supported? How can the immediate environments of children in care facilitate positive educational engagement and outcomes? This report presents the findings from two main sets of data: case studies of a sample of children in care before and after they made the transition from primary to high school and large-scale data on children's educational participation and performance. The large-scale data highlight how children and young people in care are performing on educational assessments (n = 2317) compared with students in the general population. The case studies of children making the transition to high school (n = 56), together with individual and focus group interviews with adults in their lives (n = 187), provide a rich understanding of the complex issues involved in improving the educational engagement and achievement of children in care.