Children in care at greater risk academically

Children in care are less likely to achieve nationally agreed literacy and numeracy standards when compared with all students in Australia, according to a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

'Children in care' are children and young people with children's court ordered care arrangements, where parental responsibility has been transferred to a state or territory government.

The report, Educational outcomes for children in care: linking 2013 child protection and NAPLAN data, linked data from the Child Protection National Minimum Data Set and the National Assessment Program―Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) to explore the academic performance of children in care, and included over 3,500 children in care (aged between 7 and 17) from 6 states and territories (NSW, Vic, WA, Tas, ACT and NT).

'To date, there has been very limited national information available on the educational outcomes of children in care, so this report covers new ground,' said AIHW spokesperson Justine Boland.

NAPLAN assesses students on reading, writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation, and numeracy skills, measured against agreed national minimum standards (NMS) for Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. Children whose scores fall below these benchmarks are likely to have difficulty making satisfactory progress at school.

Across the 5 assessment domains and 4 year levels, 44-83% of children in care achieved the NMS, while 17-56% did not. The proportions of children who achieved the NMS were lower among older children, with 74-82% of students achieving the NMS for Year 3, and 44-69% for Year 9.

When compared to all children in Australia, children in care were 13 to 39 percentage points lower across literacy and numeracy domains, a gap which increased from 13-20 percentage points for Year 3 students to 24-39 percentage points for Year 9 students.

'When interpreting these results, it's important to note that the academic achievement of children in care is likely to be affected by complex personal histories and multiple forms disadvantage, including poverty, maltreatment, family dysfunction and instability in care and schooling,' Ms Boland said.

'Because of this, children often already have low academic performance when first entering care.'

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 21 October 2015

Further information:  Ms Justine Boland, AIHW, tel. 02 6249 5124; mob. 0412 957 936