Reporting Year 2020

Outcomes for children in need, including children looked after by local authorities in England

Published
Last updated
See all updates (1)
  1. Small number of corrections/updates made to headlines, special educational needs and children who have been in need in the last 6 years commentary

This statistical release provides a range of outcome measures at national and level authority level for children in need (CIN), including children looked after (CLA) by local authorities in England. 

The outcome measures cover:

  • special education needs
  • educational attainment (at key stage 4)
  • destinations from school
  • absence from school
  • permanent exclusions and suspensions from school
  • free school meal eligibility
  • type of school attended

Key stage 4 data is also published at national level for previously looked after children (Official Statistics).

This is a new statistical release which incorporates changes to the annual Outcomes for children looked after by LAs statistical release and outcomes within the Characteristics of children in need statistical release, proposed by the department in September 2020. Improving these statistics was a commitment made at the end of the CIN review. As part of the review of the National Statistics, an ad-hoc release was published (Outcomes of children in need including looked after children) and the department asked users to submit feedback on the proposals (Children in need and looked after children statistics: proposed changes).

The changes aim to improve the consistency of definitions and the range of children reported on. For example, the annual statistics previously did not report outcomes on the whole CIN group and only reported on children looked after for at least twelve months at 31 March, whereas this release includes the outcomes of all CIN, including breakdowns for those on child protection plans and those looked after for less than 12 months at 31 March.


Headline facts and figures - 2020

The latest figures relate to the reporting year ending 31 March 2020 for children in social care:

  • Pupils in the social care groups were much more likely to have a special educational need (SEN) than the overall pupil population. For all children in need (CIN) at 31 March, almost half had a special educational need compared to 15% of the overall pupil population.
  • Half of all CIN at 31 March 2020 were eligible for free school meals. This compares to 17% for all pupils.
  • Children in the social care groups perform less well than their peers across all key stage 4 measures. The higher prevalence of SEN amongst looked after children (CLA) and children in need in part explains the difference in attainment compared to all pupils.
  • The persistent absence rate for CLA continuously for at least twelve months at 31 March was 12.5% in the Autumn 2019 term, which was lower than the rate for all pupils (13.4%). However, as with overall absence, this rate was higher for the other key social care groups.
  • One in 10 pupils in 2019/20 have been a child in need in the last 6 years.

Explore data and files

All data used in this release is available as open data for download


Open data

Browse and download individual open data files from this release in our data catalogue


Guidance

Learn more about the data files used in this release using our online guidance


Create your own tables

You can view featured tables that we have built for you, or create your own tables from the open data using our table tool


Social care groups

Summary

The social care groups cover children in need (CIN), children on a child protection plan (CPP) and children looked after (CLA) by local authorities in England.  Where appropriate, an ‘all pupils comparison’ from the relevant national statistics is included for each outcome. 

Detailed information on the social care groups and the all pupils comparisons is provided in the methodology document.

Abbreviations of social care group names used throughout this release 

  • CIN - children in need.
  • CINO - children in need, excluding children on a child protection plan and children looked after. This includes children on child in need plans as well as other types of plan or arrangements.
  • CPPO - children on a child protection plan, excluding children looked after.
  • CLA - children looked after (excludes children who are in respite care in their most recent episode during the reporting year).

Social care groups included in the commentary (referred to as key social care groups):

  • CIN at 31 March
  • CINO at 31 March
  • CPPO at 31 March
  • CLA 12 months at 31 March - CLA continuously for at least twelve months at 31 March.
  • CLA less than 12 months at 31 March - CLA continuously for less than twelve months at 31 March

Social care groups included in both national and local authority level data:

  • CINO at 31 March
  • CPPO at 31 March (where numbers are large enough).
  • CLA 12 months at 31 March

Social care groups included in national level data only:

  • All pupils comparison - from the national publications.
  • CIN at 31 March
  • CLA less than 12 months at 31 March
  • CIN at any point - ‘any point’ means at any point during the reporting year (including at 31 March).
  • CINO at any point
  • CPPO at any point
  • CLA at any point
  • Ever CIN - last 6 years - children in need, at any point in the last 6 reporting years (including at 31 March).

Other groups

At key stage 4 there are additional groups in the national level data on previously looked after arrangements (PLAA). These are Official Statistics on arrangements for previously looked after children.

  • PLAA - Adoption - previously looked after children who left care through an adoption.
  • PLAA - SGO - previously looked after children who left care through a special guardianship order (SGO).
  • PLAA - CAO - previously looked after children who left care through a child arrangements order (CAO).
  • PLAA - Total - previously looked after children who left care through an adoption, SGO or CAO.

Special educational needs

Pupils in all of the key social care groups were much more likely to have a special educational need (SEN) than the overall pupil population. They were at least 2.7 times more likely to have an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan than all pupils and more than 1.8 times as likely to have SEN support. For all CIN at 31 March, 48.3% had a special educational need compared to 15.3% for the overall pupil population. 

Of all the key social care groups, CLA 12 months at 31 March had the highest proportion of children with a special educational need, at 55.7% compared to 38.4% for CPPO at 31 March. The rate of pupils with special educational needs across the key social care groups has generally remained stable for the four years covered in this data. 

It is important to consider these differences when viewing the educational outcomes data for children belonging to all the social care groups.

Primary type of special education need

For all of the key social care groups, among pupils with SEN support, the most common type of primary need (over a third for each social care group) was social, emotional and mental health, followed by moderate learning difficulty and speech, language and communications needs. The latter is the most common type of need among all pupils.

Social, emotional and mental health was also the most common type of need among pupils with an EHC plan for CPPO and for all looked after children at 31 March. Autism spectrum disorder was the most common type of need for CIN and CINO at 31 March and for the overall pupil population. For looked after children these two types of primary need accounted for 60% of pupils with a statement or EHC plan.

Key stage 4 attainment

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the summer exam series was cancelled in 2020. Pupils scheduled to sit GCSE exams in 2020 were awarded either a centre assessment grade (based on what the school or college believed the student would most likely have achieved had exams gone ahead) or their calculated grade using a model developed by Ofqual - whichever was the higher of the two.

The GCSE grades awarded to pupils in 2020 will remain with them as they stay on in further and higher education or enter employment after leaving school. However, the cancellation of summer 2020 GCSE exams and the new method of awarding grades has led to a set of pupil  attainment statistics that are unlike previous years. 

Each of the pupil level attainment statistics have increased - more than would be expected in a typical year - between the 2018/19 and 2019/20 academic years. This reflects the change to the way GCSE grades were awarded rather than improvements in pupil performance. As a result the 2019/20 attainment data should not be directly compared to data from previous years for the purpose of measuring changes in student performance.

For more information see the key stage 4 performance statistics release for academic year 2019/20.

Summary

Children in the key social care groups perform less well than their peers across all key stage 4 measures. However, looked after children and children in need reaching the end of key stage 4 are much more likely to have an SEN than all children. This accounts for part of the difference between all pupils and looked after children and children in need.

Attainment 8

Attainment 8 measures the average achievement of pupils in up to 8 qualifications. This includes: English language; English literature (if only one GCSE in English is taken then it is double weighted); maths (double weighted); three further qualifications that count in the English Baccalaureate (EBacc); and three further qualifications that can be GCSE qualifications (including EBacc subjects) or any other non-GCSE qualifications on the DfE approved list.

The average Attainment 8 score has increased for all pupils and across all of the key social care groups in 2020. This increase is a result of the greater number of pupils with higher grades from this year’s GCSE awarding process. 

As in previous years, the average Attainment 8 scores in 2020 for all of the key social care groups were less than half that compared to the overall pupil population.

Within the key social care groups, CPPO at 31 March had the highest average score of 21.8 and CLA for less than 12 months performed least well with an average of 16.7.

Attainment in English and maths (grades 5 or above)

This measure looks at the percentage of pupils achieving grade 5 or above in both English and maths GCSEs. To meet the English requirement in this measure, a pupil would have to achieve a grade 5 or above in either English literature or English language. There is no requirement to sit both. 

The percentage of pupils achieving grade 5 or above in both English and maths GCSEs has increased across all of the key social care groups in 2020, reflecting the higher graded results received this year. 

The attainment of pupils across most of the key social care groups (apart from children looked after for less than 12 months) was broadly similar.

The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) entry

The EBacc shows how many pupils are entering GCSEs (or AS level qualifications) in core academic subjects at KS4. The EBacc consists of English, maths, science, a language, and history or geography. To count in the EBacc, qualifications must be on the English Baccalaureate list of qualifications. This measure is less likely to have been affected by the cancellation of exams as schools will have taken most of their entry decisions ahead of the COVID-19 disruption.

The percentage of pupils entering the English Baccalaureate has increased slightly for most key social care groups whilst decreasing slightly for all pupils. However, the changes are small at less than 1 percentage point between 2019 and 2020. 

EBacc average point score (EBacc APS)

The EBacc APS measures pupils’ point scores across the five pillars of the EBacc - English, maths, science, a language, and history or geography – with a zero for any missing pillars. 

The EBacc average point score has increased across the key social care groups and all pupils and stands at 1.7 for pupils in most of the key social care groups. 

Destinations

Key stage 4 destination measures follow pupils who were at the end of key stage 4 study (GCSE and equivalent qualifications) in 2017/18, and reports their destinations in the following academic year (2018/19). They show the percentage of pupils going to an education, apprenticeship or employment destination. To be counted in a destination, young people have to have sustained participation for a 6 month period in the destination year. Full details are provided in the methodology document that accompanies this release.

Note that the percentages for the social care groups are much less than the all pupils figures published in the Key stage 4 destination measures: 2018/19 statistical release. However, it should be noted that the figures in this outcomes release include additional institutions, so they are not directly comparable. For example, other institutions include: independent schools, independent special schools and secure units.

Destination measures data for the key social care groups in 2017/18 followed a similar pattern to those finishing key stage 4 in 2016/17.

Sustained education remained the most common destination for the key social care groups after completing key stage 4. CLA 12 months at 31 March 2018 were more likely to be in sustained education and CPPO at 31 March were the least likely.

Absence

Overall absence (Autumn term 2019)

In recent years, autumn term absence rates have given reasonable indications of trends in the full year. However, absence in a single term can be more affected by the level of seasonal flu or other illnesses. Autumn data for social care groups is available for 2019/20 only and relates to absence in the Autumn 2019 term for children in social care during 2019/20. This data therefore relates to before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The overall 2019/20 autumn term absence rate for CLA 12 months or more was 5.5%, which was slightly higher than the rate for all pupils (5.0%).  However, the absence rate was much higher for pupils in other social care groups, with CPPO being three times as likely to be absent from school than all pupils. 

Persistent absence (Autumn term 2019)

A pupil is identified as a persistent absentee if they miss 10% or more of their possible sessions.

The persistent absence rate for CLA 12 months at 31 March was 12.5% in the Autumn 2019 term, which was lower than the rate for all pupils (13.4%).  However, as with overall absence, this rate was higher for the other key social care groups, with CPPO at 31 March more than three times as likely to be persistently absent from school compared with all pupils.

Permanent exclusions and suspensions

Permanent exclusions and suspensions data is collected two terms in arrears, which means the latest available data is for the 2018/19 academic year.

Permanent exclusions 

A permanent exclusion refers to a pupil who is permanently excluded from school and who will not come back to that school, unless the permanent exclusion is overturned. 

The permanent exclusion rate for CLA 12 months at 31 March 2019 was 0.11, which was similar to the rate for all pupils. In comparison the equivalent rate for CINO at 31 March was higher, at 0.75.

CPPO at 31 March 2019 had the highest permanent exclusion rate (1.08) of any social care group, although this rate rose slightly in 2018 and has now fallen to a similar level to 2017.

Suspensions

Children belonging to one of the key social care groups were over 4 times more likely to have had one or more suspension (formerly fixed period exclusions)   from school compared to all pupils in 2019.

CLA less than 12 months at 31 March were the most likely to be suspended (14.75%) and CINO at 31 March least likely (10.43%).

Free school meals

Entitlement to free school meals is determined by the receipt of income-related benefits, full details are provided in the department's Schools, pupils and their characteristics statistics publication.

Half of all CIN at 31 March 2020 were eligible for free school meals, which was similar to the rate for CINO at 31 March. However, over two thirds of CPPO at 31 March were eligible for free school meals. This compares to 17% of all pupils.  

Free school meal eligibility for the CIN social care groups increased for a second consecutive year in 2020, which is consistent with the rise seen for all pupils. Since 1 April 2018, transitional protections have been in place which will continue to be in place during the roll out of Universal Credit. This has meant that pupils eligible for free school meals on or after 1 April 2018 retain their free school meals eligibility even if their circumstances change. This has been the main driver in the increase in the proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals as pupils continue to become eligible but fewer pupils stop being eligible. 

Children who have been in need in the last 6 years

There were 860,130 pupils (in state-funded primary, state-funded secondary, special and pupil referral units) in 2020 that were known to have been in need in the last 6 years. This is equivalent to 1 in 10 pupils, or 3 in every classroom on average.

Over a third (37%) had a special education need, compared to 15% of all pupils.

Half were eligible for free school meals compared to 17% of all pupils.

Over a quarter of compulsory school age children who have been in need the last six years (26%) were persistently absent from school, compared to 13% of all pupils. 

One fifth achieved a grade 5 or above in GCSE English and maths, compared to half of all pupils, while their average attainment 8 score was 30.3 compared to 50.2 for all pupils. 

Help and support

Methodology

Find out how and why we collect, process and publish these statistics

National statistics

The United Kingdom Statistics Authority designated these statistics as National Statistics in accordance with the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 and signifying compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics.

Designation signifying their compliance with the authority's Code of Practice for Statistics which broadly means these statistics are:

  • managed impartially and objectively in the public interest
  • meet identified user needs
  • produced according to sound methods
  • well explained and readily accessible

Once designated as National Statistics it's a statutory requirement for statistics to follow and comply with the Code of Practice for Statistics to be observed.

Find out more about the standards we follow to produce these statistics through our Standards for official statistics published by DfE guidance.

Contact us

Ask questions and provide feedback

If you have a specific enquiry about Outcomes for children in need, including children looked after by local authorities in England statistics and data:

Children looked-after data team

Email
CLA.STATS@education.gov.uk

Telephone: Bree Waine
0191 535 8968

Press office

If you have a media enquiry:

Telephone
020 7783 8300

Public enquiries

If you have a general enquiry about the Department for Education (DfE) or education:

Telephone
037 0000 2288