Jung-Sook Lee, senior lecturer in the school of social sciences at the University of New South Wales, reflects on findings contained in ACWA’s ‘Educational Engagement of Children and Young People in Out-of-Home Care in NSW’ report:
Children and young people in out-of-home-care (OOHC) are one of the most vulnerable groups. Various studies report that they are falling behind academically and many of them are excluded from education. Given the importance of education in future employment and other life chances, it is not surprising that their lack of education leads to life-long disadvantages.
ACWA’s report draws attention to this important issue and emphasises the role of governments, schools, NGOs, and everyone who is involved in these children and young people’s lives. This report provides some evidence on the extent of the problem in NSW.
The statistics provided in this report are heartbreaking. The rate of exclusion from school is very high in that “1 in 5 school aged children and young people in care are absent from school at any given time” (p. 2). It also reports that “7% of students in care were not enrolled in a school” (p. 6). Although reasons were not investigated, this is a serious concern to be addressed.
This report also highlights the importance of monitoring and tracking progress. Even though all children should have an Individual Education Plans (IEP) within 30 days of entering care, only “66% had current and complete Individual Education Plans” (p. 7). Accordingly, the report calls for an urgent action “to ensure their educational progress is monitored and they achieve their full academic potential” (p. 3).
As suggested in this report, there is a need for proper data collection and more research about the education of children and young people in OOHC in Australia. Lack of available information makes it difficult to properly assess the current state and identify areas for further improvements. Recommendations provided in this report are important and timely. It is my hope that some of these suggestions could be picked up and implemented.
Jung-Sook Lee is a senior lecturer in Social Work at the School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, UNSW. Her research focuses on wellbeing of vulnerable children and their families.
ACWA has embarked upon the ‘Let Them Learn’ advocacy initiative aimed at bringing about system wide change to ensure that children and young people in care have access to appropriate education that will prepare them for life.