Students who are in foster care achieve higher grades than vulnerable children who remain with troubled families, according to Oxford and Bristol university researchers.
The study of 640,000 teenagers in England were examined in 2013, and it was calculated that the difference in skill amounts to at least six GCSE grades at age 16. However, the results of students in both groups were not as good as pupils in the general population.
Within the study, around 14,000 of the students were deemed to be in need but were still living with their birth parents, supported by social workers. The results of these students were not as good as the total of just over 6,000 pupils who were in care. Furthermore, the research showed that the longer that vulnerable children remained in foster care, the better their grades were.
In interviews, foster children told the researchers that escaping abuse, hunger and intimidation - and gaining encouragement, discipline and the sense of being cared about, made the biggest difference.
Professor David Berridge of Bristol University said: "Young people told us that coming into care had benefitted them educationally. They said they could only do well at school once they felt safe and secure, that they mattered to someone and that their birth families were also being supported. If all this was in place then teachers could help them make progress."
Proffessor Judy Sebba, director of Oxford University's Rees Centre for Research in Fostering and Education, said the findings showed frequent changes of school also damaged educational attainment. "We believe such moves should be avoided, particularly in the two years leading up to GCSE exams," she said.
Psted by Tim Colman