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The fact that most children in care lag behind their peers in their educational achievement has long been a concern. However, this latest research finds that children who are fostered make better educational progress than children in need and, in general, the longer they are in care the better they do. After controlling for other factors, researchers estimate that by the age of 16, children in foster care or kinship care achieved GCSEs at least six grades higher, on average, than children in other forms of care. In addition, the researchers’ analysis shows much less difference between local authorities than is generally assumed.
The research, led jointly by the Rees Centre for Research in Fostering and Education at the University of Oxford and the University of Bristol, and funded by the Nuffield Foundation, looked at the academic scores in the national curriculum tests of thousands of children at the end of primary school, comparing them with eventual GCSE results at age 16. The researchers conclude that foster care protects the education of children in care, with other key factors being the number of school absences, the timing and number of care placements or school moves, and the type of school attended.