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Previously Looked-After Children

Support and advice for previously looked-after children's parents, guardians and schools

Reasons for poor attendance and exclusion

What are some of the reasons for poor attendance and /or exclusion?

Attitudes to education in the birth home environment: some children looked after may not attend school due to habits picked up prior to entering the care system. The child's  parents’ own experience of school is likely to influence the example of school behaviour and academic learning that they model to their child. Children who are poor attendees may have grown up with inconsistent parental attitudes to education and often perceive their parents as not having achieved at school.

Rigid behaviour policies: zero tolerance behaviour policies and the like are not sufficiently flexible to respond to looked after and previously looked after children's challenging behaviour in the most effective way for those children, see our section on Wellbeing and Readiness to Learn

Previously disrupted school attendance: Looked After and previously looked after children have often had long standing school attendance issues and have often moved schools several times.  As a result of this, they may have gaps in their learning, and have fallen behind their peers before they become looked after. These learning gaps make coming to school onerous, since the child may find it difficult to participate in the set work, and are constantly reminded that they are not working at the same level as their peers.  This often leads to challenging behaviour when they do attend.

Peer pressure: the literature has shown that peer pressure, which can develop into bullying, is one of the reasons for poor school attendance amongst looked after and previously looked after children. This needs to be addressed early as peer pressure can lead to exclusion, disengagement and under achievement

Behavioural issues: one of the main reasons for exclusion is persistent disruptive behaviour and early intervention to prevent poor behaviours escalating to a crisis point is essential to tackle this issue.  See our sections on Emotion Coaching and Wellbeing and Readiness to Learn

Underlying social and personal issues: CLA dealing with the loss of a parent or underlying parental drug or alcohol problems may have poor attendance rates and present challenging behaviours.  See our section 10 things Children Looked After Want You To Know and Emotion Coaching

Personal factors: a lack of self-esteem and poor social skills, can lead to higher absenteeism rates. Personal factors can also include experiencing learning difficulties and Special Educational Needs

Contact with birth parents: A stable foster carer environment can lead to higher attendance rates amongst children looked after. However, where a child makes contact with their birth family, this has the potential to have a negative impact on school attendance, both in the short and long term.

Socio-economic circumstances: evidence suggests that overall the higher the rate of deprivation in a school, the higher the absenteeism rate. The literature also shows that children from deprived socio-economic backgrounds have less positive attitudes to school and learning than their peers in more affluent areas.

Age when a child enters the care system: research shows that children who enter care before the age of 12 outperform those who enter care at age 12 or above. A reason for this may be that those who became looked after when they were younger have tended to live in foster homes and therefore have more settled lives. As children looked after become older, there are potential issues in relation to placement stability.

Placement type and stability: the literature suggests that children looked after in foster care have better attendance rates than those children in residential care settings. For the latter group, attendance at school may be influenced by pressure from their peers who are also not attending school. Also, those children in long term or more stable placements tend to have better attendance rates than other groups of Children Looked After.

Taken from the website: