Congratulations to the BBC’s Today programme for highlighting the issue of children that are in foster care. The discussion was spread across the whole programme this morning. It can be as hard being a child suddenly required to move their placement as it is coming into care for the first time, as listeners heard so eloquently this morning.
I am also concerned about the extent to which the fostering placement service should be a commercial enterprise, with carers seen as assets having a monetary value. There must be a question as to why these carers are not offered shares in such enterprises? More importantly, why are these enterprises not run as social enterprises and not profit-making ventures?
If the DfE has the gumption to take on the private sector and provide a free job-listing service for schools, why should it not ensure all foster placement activity is also in the public sector?
My only serious concern with the BBC programme, that followed an in-depth analysis of the adoption process on The World at One earlier this year, was that the Today programme didn’t mention the issue of school placements for children in care and especially what happens when children are moved school in the middle of a school term? Not all academies subscribe to a local in-year admissions process, and it can be challenging to ensure a quick placement for some of these children, especially in a different local authority area to the authority responsible for the placement.
With lots of children’s homes, and no doubt foster places as well, in areas with selective schools, how do we ensure that these children do not lose out in their education? Virtual schools do great work, but must battle against a system that isn’t in any way integrated to deal with this sort of problem even though the Pupil Premium acknowledges the additional financial needs faced by these young people in schools and colleges.
If either the Secretary of State or the Permanent Secretary at the DfE were listening to the Today programme this morning perhaps they would like to instruct officials and Ministers to review how the education of children in care can be further enhanced, especially over the issue of changing school mid-term.
Finally, there is the issue of what happens to children when they exit care? For those interested in the whole issue of children and the care and adoption services, I recommend a visit to The Rees Centre website at http://www.education.ox.ac.uk/rees-centre/ and some of the research that they have conducted over the past few years.