The Scottish Government has published (15 June 2021) the national Education Outcomes for Looked After Children for 2019-20 statistics report. ‘Looked after’ is the term which is used in legislation in Scotland to mandate care and protection of children.

This report includes data on the attainment and destinations of school leavers and the education outcomes and post-school destinations of 943 care experienced young people between August 2019 and July 2020 and who were school leavers in the 2019-20. These young people make up 2% of the total school leaver 2019-20 cohort.

Whilst this report shows that the education outcomes for care experienced children have improved, there are still large gaps in attainment compared to the total population of pupils in Scotland. It also noted that looked after leavers who were in foster care or with friends or relatives had higher attainment than other placement types

38% of ‘looked after’ school leavers gained one or more qualifications at SCQF level 5 (up from 35% in 2018-19) and 75% of ‘looked after’ school leavers went on to a positive destination (for example college, training or employment) after leaving school (up from 71% in 2018-19). 

However when you compare these figures to all pupils (86% achieved one or more qualifications at SCQF level 5 and 92% went on to a positive destination) the disparities between looked after children and their peers is pronounced. This is especially the case when you look at higher level qualifications as 64% of all leavers have at least one qualification at level 6 or better, compared with only 14% of looked after school leavers. 

When you analyse the 'positive destination' breakdown there is also a clear disparity with only 7% of looked after young people going on to Higher Education compared to 43% of all pupils. Although the Further Education figures are markedly better (43% looked after, 24% all pupils). 

As we all know COVID 19 has impacted on every part of life. And attainment arguably has been one of the hardest hit areas. The availability of particular opportunities to 2019-20 school leavers may have been directly affected by the pandemic as start dates for certain apprenticeships and college courses were delayed. Similarly, the cancellation of National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams in 2020 may have had an impact on the overall attainment of many 2019-20 school leavers as grades were awarded based on teacher estimates.

Many care experienced children and young people face additional personal and financial barriers which can impact on these figures, or mean that they go on to study or train at a different time in their life compared to the total population of pupils in Scotland.

What is clear is that there is much still to be done to ensure that care leavers educational outcomes are indistinguishable from their peers. More information on how Staf supports this agenda can be found here

Read Education Outcomes For Looked After Children 2019/20