Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families First Report

3  Education

14. In Care Matters: Time for Change, the Government highlights the low average educational attainment of children in care, and emphasises its determination to provide improved opportunities and support. The Bill contains provision on a number of education issues.

Higher Education bursaries

15. The White Paper proposed young people in care who go on to university should be provided with a bursary of "a minimum of £2,000" to tackle the financial constraints that students from care backgrounds face compared to other students.[17] The Minister explained that bursaries were being introduced specifically for HE as research showed looked-after children who do reach higher education incur higher debt than other students. This is £2,000 on average, and so the bursary will be £2,000, paid in instalments across the period of the course.[18] He added that "the assumption behind [the bursary] […] is that it would lead to a 10% increase" in the number of young people in care who go on to university.[19]

16. A question that was raised with us was: why is there no similar provision of a bursary for those going into further education, vocational training or apprenticeships? The Foyer Federation expressed concern that the bursary was only for higher education "and does not apply to further education and non-academic choices such as A-levels, BTECS and NVQs."[20] NCH said:

    "NCH is of the view that such support should not be restricted to higher education and that financial support should also be made available for further education provision. This is of particular importance given that 30% of care leavers aged 19 were not in education, employment or training."[21]

17. The Minister told us:

    "[…] some of the debates and consultation that have gone on in the other place have led us to wanting to cogitate a bit further on what more we can do around training to ensure that that is not missed out in the equation here. Perhaps I will have an opportunity to say more about that at a later stage of the Bill. Certainly it is a pertinent point that has been raised, and one that we are looking further at as we speak."[22]

18. We welcome the Minister's comments that he is giving consideration to increased support for those undertaking other education and training and not just those in higher education. We recommend that a broader bursary system is introduced for looked-after children in post-16 education and training.

Designated staff member

19. The Bill puts on a statutory footing existing guidance that schools should designate a staff member to have responsibility for the educational achievement of looked-after children.[23] The Minister said that there were difficulties in putting it on the face of the Bill, but confirmed to us that the dedicated staff member must always be a teacher.[24]

20. This provision will apply to all maintained schools. The Minister confirmed that this does not include Academies, as they are classed as independent state-funded schools,[25] but that did not mean that they would not have to provide such a teacher:

    "[…] we will make it a requirement in future […] as part of an agreement for any future Academies that they will have a designated teacher for looked-after children. That will be written into every agreement with the Academies. The vast majority of the existing Academies […] have a designated teacher. We are confident that, without having to legislate to force them to do that, we can persuade other Academies that the small number that do not—I believe it is a tiny minority—should have a designated teacher. My understanding, therefore, is that it should be possible to achieve that without having to put it on the face of the Bill."[26]

21. We consider that the requirement that all schools must have a designated staff member with responsibility for the educational achievement of looked-after children is an important statement of intent, and we support it. In particular, we welcome the confirmation that the designated staff member must always be a teacher.

22. Given the importance we place on this requirement, we consider it unfortunate that the Government has not taken the opportunity to apply the legislation to Academies as well as to maintained schools. The Minister made clear the Government's intention to apply it through other means to future Academies, but there remains the issue of existing Academies. We expect all existing Academies to designate a teacher to have responsibility for the educational achievement of looked-after children. If the Minister's voluntary approach does not result in every Academy making such an appointment we expect him to reconsider his decision to exclude Academies from the legislation.

17   Care Matters: Time for Change, para 6.73; Clause 19 of the Bill. Back

18   QQ 25-26 Back

19   Q 25 Back

20   Ev 46, para 2.4 Back

21   Ev 62, para 12.2 Back

22   Q 27 Back

23   Clause 18 Back

24   Q 22 Back

25   Q 19 Back

26   Q 20 Back

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