Letter: Young people disadvantaged

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The Independent Online
From Mr Peter J. Sandiford

Sir: It seems disturbingly likely that the "sweeping deregulation of grant maintained schools" ("Major orders blueprint for all schools to opt out", 4 September) will further disadvantage the education of young people looked after by local authorities. This is particularly true if, as the article suggests, plans are implemented to remove or modify the right of local education authorities to force grant maintained schools to take pupils who have been excluded from other schools.

Thanks to research such as Sonia Jackson's Education of Children in Care, we have known for years that becoming "looked after" brings a high risk of educational failure. Nevertheless, little has been achieved to remedy this. Recent findings from the Social Services Inspectorate and Ofsted in 1995, and from the Audit Commission's report, Seen and Not Heard (1994), suggest that in some local authorities nearly 40 per cent of children who are "looked after" are without education, and that this figure is increasing with the introduction of locally managed schools and grant maintained status.

Local education authorities and the Funding Agency for Schools are struggling to reintegrate young people into mainstream education, despite the fact that the Education Act 1993 (section 13) gives them power to direct a school to admit a particular pupil. If proposals for deregulation are adopted, educational opportunities for "looked after" young people will be eroded still further.

What value do we place on the young people entrusted to our care if we persist in marginalising what is one of the most vulnerable groups in our society?

Yours sincerely,

Peter J. Sandiford

Programme Development Manager

National Children's Bureau

London, EC1