These are children who are in the care of the local authority. Children come into care either through a court care order, where the court has satisfied itself that the child is at risk of ‘significant harm’ (section 31 of the Children Act 1989), or on a voluntary basis, when parents cannot cope for one of any number of reasons, such as extreme complex needs of the child or parental illness (section 20 of the Children Act 1989). Government statistics show that at any one time around 60 000 children are looked after in England, with the highest percentage being children subject to a care order. The local authority must have regard to their education and plan for minimum disruption to the child's life. Children are normally placed with foster parents or put in the care of relatives, although a small number, particularly those with challenging behaviour, are placed in care homes. Many children encounter several placements. Where possible, the care system aims to return children eventually to their families. The educational achievement of looked‐after children is behind government expectations for children of the same age, and a government public service target has been set to address this issue, along with the issue of placement instability.
Subjects: Law — Education.