Teachers play an important role in the educational performance of children in care.


A study was undertaken to look at the educational performance of children in care compared with those not in need and not in care, and known vulnerable students not in care. The study found that children in care perform better in school than vulnerable students who remain in the home setting. The report also revealed that support and stability were valuable in helping a child in care perform better in school. Support and stability comes from long-term care placements, teachers and pastoral staff in the child’s school.


The educational outcomes of 640,000 students in England, taking their GCSEs in 2013, were analysed next to data from the National Pupil Database (NPD) and the Children Looked After Database (CLAD). In addition, these data were compared with those relating to Children in Need (CIN) and to those not in need and not in care.

Data analysis was carried out concomitant with interviews of 26 young people (who had been in care for 12 months or more in six local authorities), 18 carers, 20 designated teachers, 17 social workers and six Virtual School Headteachers.


  1. Teachers and pastoral school staff play an important role in the educational performance of children in care. The support given by foster carers was not the main factor that determined the education outcomes of children in care. Therefore, it is important that teachers and school pastoral staff work together effectively to support children in care in the school setting to benefit their educational outcomes.
  2. Students enjoyed and benefitted from one-on-one tuition. This was funded by schools using Pupil Premium grants and was reported to have a very positive impact.
  3. The attainment gap between children in care and those that are not in need and not in care widens gradually overtime. Interestingly, it is not specifically associated with the transition from primary to secondary school.
  4. Students needed to feel cared for. Students reported that it was important to feel that their lives mattered, and that somebody cared about them and would not let them down. This encouraged some students to feel gratitude towards those people and a sense of not wanting to ‘let them down’.


  1. Children in care perform better in school than vulnerable students who remain in the home setting by an average of 6 GCSE grades.
  2. Care, notably long-stay placements, provides a ‘protective factor’ that creates an environment that promotes education.
  3. The issues regarding a child’s birth family continues to be problematic for many children in care throughout the teenage years, irrespective of whether they had entered care, and has an impact on their educational outcomes.


Judy Sebba (OUDE)

David Berridge (University of Bristol)

Nikki Luke (OUDE)

John Fletcher (OUDE)

Karen Bell (University of Bristol)

Steve Strand (OUDE)

Sally Thomas (University of Bristol))

Ian Sinclair (OUDE)

Aoife O’Higgins (OUDE)

Contact information

email_icon-sm rees.centre@education.ox.ac.uk

Research Role








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