Let Them Learn: Improving the Educational Outcomes of NSW Children in Care

The poor educational outcomes attained by children and young people in out-of-home care has long been a concern for the child and family welfare sector.

Education plays a fundamental role in helping children and young people growing up in care achieve a productive and rewarding life. However, for this particularly vulnerable group of students experiences of abuse and neglect, trauma, disrupted attachments, removal from family and placement changes can all impact negatively on their ability to learn. Research consistently indicates that far too many of these children and young people are missing out on the good quality education that is so critical to their future health, welfare and wellbeing.

Snapshot: Educational Engagement of Children and Young People in Out-of-Home Care in NSW

Results of independent research  conducted by ACWA to measure the depth of this problem in NSW paints a concerning picture of the level of educational disengagement experienced by children and young people living in out-of-home care.

Key findings revealed:

  • One in five school aged children and young people in care are absent from school at any given time.
  • One in three school aged children and young people in care did not have an Individual Education Plan.

The Project: Let Them Learn

ACWA has initiated a project to better support NSW children and young people in care to engage in education. Our aim is to bring about system wide change to the experience and outcomes of this cohort to ensure that they can access appropriate education that will prepare them for life.

In line with this focus and in consultation with our out-of-home care member agencies, ACWA has developed a Policy Statement of goals and objectives that are necessary to achieve the significant changes needed in current practice to address and promote educational inclusion and achievement of children and young people in care.

Education Roundtable: A Starting Point for Change

As a key starting point for change, ACWA hosted a Roundtable in October 2017 of high level decision makers, stakeholders and experts in both the education and child protection spaces, and from across government and non-government, to identify gaps or barriers in current practices and to help determine a way forward for NSW.

The program included presentations from leading international academic Professor Judy Sebba (University of Oxford), as well as Deputy NSW Ombudsman Steve Kinmond, NSW Children’s Guardian Janet Schorer, NSW Children’s Court President Judge Peter Johnstone, NSW Advocate for Children and Young People Andrew Johnson, PwC partner Zac Hatzantonis, FACS Deputy Secretary Deirdre Mulkerin, and NSW Department of Education Executive Director (Learning and Wellbeing) Robyn Bale and Child Protection Services Director Trish Ladogna, Child Protection Services, NSW Department of Education .

This summary report prepared by Roundtable sponsor PwC provides a valuable overview of the presentations and panel discussion from the day.

Quarterly Intersectorial Meeting

In the wake of this Roundtable ACWA has established a quarterly meeting of representatives from the NSW Department of Education, the Department of Family and Community Services, other departments directly involved in providing services for children and young people in out-of-home care, and non-government stakeholders. ACWA believes a collaborative intersectorial approach such as this will assist in addressing issues related to this area of policy in a coordinated and holistic way.

Education and OOHC Advisory Committee

ACWA has established this Committee to gather feedback from our member agencies who are working on the frontline about the difficulties and barriers this cohort of children and young people are experiencing when it comes to accessing appropriate education services. Their voices and experience remains crucial to our ongoing advocacy efforts.