For children and young people in care, the benefits of education go far beyond grades—it’s an opportunity to meet friends, learn new things and find a sense of stability. The Guardian’s report, Children and Young People in State Care in South Australian Government Schools 2008-2018 looks at how well the system serves their needs and identifies a number of ongoing trends.
In 2018, 60.9 per cent of all students in care were enrolled in South Australian Department for Education (DE) schools, up from 57 per cent in 2017. The remainder may be enrolled in non-government schools, below school age or not enrolled for other reasons.
In the same period, 34.7 per cent of children and young people in care in DE schools identified as Aboriginal, which compared to 6.4 per cent of all students in the DE population.
Absence and attendance
Children and young people in care enrolled in DE schools show a higher rate of absence at 13 per cent, compared to 9.5 per cent for the general school population. Absence rates are higher for students in secondary school than for those in primary school.
The report also finds Aboriginal children in care are more likely to be attending school than Aboriginal children not in care.
Suspension and exclusion
According to the report, suspension and exclusion rates are consistently higher for children and young people in care than the broader cohort. The DE defines suspension as times when the student does not attend school for one to five days and exclusion as when the student does not attend for four to ten weeks, or the rest of the term or semester for students over 16.
Students in care in DE schools are suspended at a rate four times higher than DE students not in care and the report identifies violence and the main reason for suspension.
Learning and intellectual disability
The proportion of children and young people with an identified disability continues to be significantly higher for those in care than the broader school population.
In 2018, 30.3 per cent of students in care in DE schools were classified as having a disability, compared to the state average of 9.8 per cent.
Data consistently indicates children and young people in care in DE schools achieve poorer outcomes in NAPLAN in relation to meeting the National Minimum Standard.
Participation rates in NAPLAN testing are low for students in care in DE schools. While many have valid reasons for not participating, this makes tracking the experience of young people in care difficult. For example, only around half of eligible Year 9 students participated in NAPLAN testing in 2018.