The number of children in care attending government schools has steadily declined since 2010, according to the Office of the Guardian’s latest education report.
Based on data provided by the Department for Education, our report, Children and Young People in State Care in South Australian Government Schools 2010 – 2020, found that in 2020 just over 56% of all students in care were enrolled in government schools.
What this data doesn’t provide is an insight into why this number has been declining for the last 10 years – could it be the remaining children in care attend non-government schools or are below school-age, or maybe a small number are non-identifiable for other reasons? This lack of data highlights the importance of reporting on data from the Catholic and Independent school sectors (data which is not currently collected). Without this, we do not have a full picture of the participation of children and young people in care, in education.
In our eighth education report of its kind – which provides a summary of the trends relating to children and young people in care who are attending government schools in South Australia – no NAPLAN data was supplied for 2020 due to COVID-19 causing the testing to be cancelled.
Here are the key findings from our 2020 report –
- 56.4% of all students in care were enrolled in government schools. The enrolment rate of children in care in government schools has steadily declined since 2010, with a decrease from 58.6% in 2019.
- In 2020, 35.9% of children and young people in care in government schools identified as Aboriginal, compared to Aboriginal students comprising 6.7% of all government school students.
- There are lower rates of school absence for Aboriginal students in care compared to the overall population of Aboriginal students attending government schools.
- A greater proportion of all children and young people in care have learning disabilities compared to the overall government school student population, notably with respect to complex social/emotional/behaviour needs.
- The proportion of children and young people in care with an intellectual disability, and those with complex social/emotional/behavioural needs, are both six times higher than the overall government school student population.
- Children and young people in care enrolled in government schools are four times more likely to be suspended and seven times more likely to be excluded than the broader government school student cohort.
While the data reflects the numbers of children who were subject to Suspension, Exclusion and ‘Take Home’ orders within the reporting period, there is no data about the number of children who attend school for reduced (and sometimes significantly reduced) hours.
We believe that more work is required to better understand the circumstances of students in care attending government schools and how these children and young people experience and are supported to attend and thrive in government schools. Particular consideration should be given to –
- existing and proposed supports available for those in care who have a disability and/or complex social/emotional/behaviour needs
- accurate monitoring of hours of attendance at school, so that part-day absences and reduced-hours arrangements are reported and reduced, as they are likely to have a significant impact on their learning outcomes
- the unique needs of Aboriginal and culturally diverse children and young people in care including those who do not speak English as a first language.