Educational progress of looked-after children in England: A study using group trajectory analysis
2017 by the American Academy of Pediatrics. BACKGROUND: Looked-after children in local authority care are among the most disadvantaged, and measures of their well-being, including educational outcomes, are poorer than other children's. METHODS: The study sample consisted of all children in England born in academic years 1993 to 1994 through 1997 to 1998 who were in local authority care at any point during the academic years 2005 to 2006 through 2012 to 2013 and for whom results of national tests in literacy and numeracy were available at ages 7, 11, and 16 (N = 47 500). RESULTS: Group trajectory analysis of children's educational progress identified 5 trajectory groups: low achievement, late improvement, late decline, predominant, and high achievement. Being looked after earlier was associated with a higher probability of following a high achievement trajectory and a lower probability of following a late decline trajectory. For children first looked after between ages 7 and 16, having a longer total time looked after by age 16 was associated with a higher probability of following a high achievement trajectory. For children with poor outcomes at ages 7 and 11, being looked after by age 16 was associated with an increased chance of educational improvement by age 16. CONCLUSIONS: This study provides evidence that early entry into care can reduce the risk of poor educational outcomes. It also establishes group trajectory analysis as an effective method for analyzing the educational progress of looked-after children, with the particular strength that it allows factors associated with a late decline or improvement in educational progress to be identified.