A new report, Starting out right: early education and looked after children, by researchers from the University of Oxford and the Family and Childcare Trust warns that children in care are falling well behind children in the general population before they even get to primary school and this gap widens throughout their schooling and beyond. It suggests that local authorities, who are already required by law to monitor and support the educational progress of looked after children at school, should be legally responsible for their early years education as well. It highlights huge gaps in the evidence, suggesting that better data monitoring on whether children in care are receiving free, high quality early education.
The report reveals that the take-up of free early education places for two, three and four year olds is at least 14 per cent lower among children in care than for children not in care. From what data they could collect, researchers describe the local authority provision for looked after children across England as ‘patchy’, saying the true figure for overall provision is probably worse than 14 per cent. The report highlights numerous studies showing that high quality early education vastly improves outcomes for disadvantaged children. Previous research by Oxford University found high quality early education could boost GCSE results by as much as five grades. Only 18 per cent of children in care go on to achieve five GCSEs at grade C or above compared with the national average of 64 per cent, according to the government data.