Schools could be paid more than £1,000 in extra funding for each child in care that they teach, according to a report being considered by the government.
The plan is one of the key recommendations published last week in a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Looked After Children and Care Leavers, which said that too many children in care are being failed by the education system.
Figures from the Department of Education show that in 2011 only 12.8 per cent of children in care for at least a year achieved five A* to C GCSEs including English and maths, compared to 57.9 per cent for other school children.
Yet looked-after young people had the same aspirations for a home and working life as any other child.
The payment would be known as Pupil Premium Plus and be similar in structure to the existing Pupil Premium education funding that schools receive for children on free school meals.
Each child and young person would also get a Personal Education Plan up to the age of 25, which is reviewed termly.
The report recommends more training and educational opportunities be made available to care home staff and foster carers so they can pass on the importance and benefits of gaining a good education. Furthermore, looked-after children should receive better access to mental health services to establish any impact that these might be having on their education.
Edward Timpson, the chairman of the APPG, said: “Education can be a lifeline for looked-after children. The Pupil Premium Plus would be a well-targeted way to get extra resources directly to the children and really make a difference. It’s a practical acknowledgement of the deeper-rooted problems children in care have in education and a demonstration of our commitment to help them fulfil their potential.”
According to the Who Cares? Trust, a charity for children in care, looked-after youngsters are more likely to move schools frequently and are about 10 times more likely than their peers to have special needs.
They often suffer behavioural and emotional problems due to a history of abuse and neglect and are eight times more likely to be excluded.
Mr Timpson said the bonus would be worth about double the Pupil Premium, which increases this year to £600 per pupil on free school meals.
The extra money would be spent by the “virtual head teachers” appointed by many local authorities to oversee children in care.
Prime minister David Cameron has endorsed the report’s recommendations.
He said: “Along with stability, ensuring children in care have a strong education is crucial in improving their life chance. I have asked the secretary of state for education to consider its recommendations carefully.”
Michael Gove, the education secretary, said: “This report hits the nail on the head. It is a national scandal that many looked-after children continue to do far worse at school than their peers.
“Education can’t be an afterthought anywhere in the care system. We are putting in place better financial support and advice for looked-after children to go to college and university.
“We will look closely at this report to see where we should go further and build these into our wider reform programme to transform the care system.”
You can download the full report at www.thewhocarestrust.org.uk/data/files/Education_Matters_in_Care_September_2012.pdf