A welcome initiative today with the launch of a Green Paper to tackle the scandal of poor educational achievement of children in the Looked-After system. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6031689.stm
The article does create a sense of deja vu, however - in 2005 the Government launched its Every Child Matters programme, which included a focus on children in care.
I spent 7 years working in children's residential homes in the 1990's (not in Darlington). Most practice was good, and members of staff had a real commitment to the children and young people in their charge. It was rare, however, for young people to emerge with any qualifications at all. In part, this was because of the nature of clients who were placed in children's homes - many had been thrown out by their parents owing to conflict at home, and generally most had already missed large amounts of schooling prior to being acommodated. Helping these children come to terms with the rejection they had suffered, stabilise their lives as well as promoting regular school attendance, proved a very difficult task.
Real change will only come when there is substantial investment in services to support families and prevent break-ups. Some children will always have to be looked after by the state owing to parental incapacity or harm. There are many more children in care even today, however, who really shouldn't be there.