Children referred to social services twice as likely to fail GCSEs

By William Eichler | 22 August 2023

Children who have been referred to social care are twice as likely to fail an English or Maths GCSE than their classmates, a children’s charity has found.

Analysis of 1.6 million children’s results from a three-year period has revealed that 53% of teenagers who had been referred to social care did not achieve a grade 4 in both their English and Maths GCSEs, compared to only 24% of those without referrals.

Joe Lane, head of policy and research at Action for Children, said: ‘Our analysis shows that poor English and maths GCSE results fall hugely unequally on those who experience challenges outside the school gates. It highlights a worrying attainment gap that needs urgently addressing. Some of the children could have been referred to social care years before they took GCSEs, yet that disruption in their childhood has had a lasting impact on their education.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary at school leaders’ union NAHT, said: ‘This is an important piece of research that policy makers need to take notice of. A referral to social care is nearly always a sign that a child needs urgent and specialist support.

‘Sadly, too often that help isn’t forthcoming due to a lack of resources and capacity. We also hear from school leaders that in many places the thresholds for intervention are higher than they have ever been, making it harder for young people and their families to access to the support they need.’

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Education Children Social services