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What works to improve the educational outcomes of Children in Need of help and protection

A literature review

The Government committed in its Manifesto to review support for Children in Need. As part of this work the Department for Education has published new data examining the characteristics, experiences and educational outcomes of Children in Need. They are also launched a call for evidence, to understand how practitioners currently support Children in Need.

Children in Need are a heterogeneous group experiencing a range of risk factors (e.g. neglect, abuse, illness, exposure to drug and alcohol abuse) which are associated with atypical development. When children are exposed to adverse and traumatic experiences, it can have a lasting impact on their ability to think, interact with others and learn. There are no simple solutions for meeting the needs of this vulnerable group. According to recent data, there were 405,000 Children in Need in England at 31 March 2018, a figure that has remained relatively stable over the last seven years. Within this cohort, more serious cases are issued with a Child Protection Plan and account for around 13% of all Children in Need. Between 2009/10 and 2016/17, the rate of children issued with Child Protection Plans increased by 24% (from 34.8 to 43.3 per 100,000) and the rate of Looked After Children increased by around 8% (from 57.4 to 62.0) (DfE, 2017). Regarding the educational outcomes of Children in Need, results indicate that this group of children have poorer educational outcomes than other children, from the early years and throughout school (DfE, 2018). It is estimated that 49% of all Children in Need have special educational needs, compared to 14% of all other children (DfE, 2018). At primary school level, analysis suggests Children in Need are half as likely as other children to reach the expected standard in reading, writing and maths at Key Stage 2 (DfE, 2018). In secondary school, negative Progress 8 scores show that overall Children in Need make less progress on average, than all other pupils (DfE, 2018). Children in Need experience more educational instability, including more moves between schools and a much higher rate of fixed term and permanent exclusion than other pupils (DfE, 2018). Crenna-Jennings (2018) also points to outcomes beyond education with evidence indicating that children in contact with children’s social care experience worse outcomes through life. Longitudinal findings from the UK birth cohort studies show that being a Looked After Child is associated with poorer economic outcomes in adulthood, as well as smoking, depressive symptoms, low social support, anxiety in women and addiction and criminal convictions in men (Teyhan et al., 2018).

As part of the Department for Education’s work on improving educational outcomes for Children in Need, the Early Intervention Foundation conducted a literature review on what works to support the educational outcomes of Children in Need. The key objective of this work was to summarise findings emerging from previous reviews of the literature on effective interventions to improve the educational outcomes of Children in Need. Whilst systematic methods were used to identify relevant literature, this review cannot claim to have identified all of the relevant literature.

For the purpose of this review, Children in Need were defined as children and young people supported by children’s social care including children on a Child in Need Plan, Child Protection Plans, Looked after Children, and disabled children.