The Educational Outcomes of Children Referred to Children's Social Care

Tuesday 22 August 2023
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The latest report in our Revolving Door series reveals wide school attainment gaps for children with a social care referral

There is widespread political consensus on the importance of boosting school attainment.

However, a growing number of children are facing challenges at home that can hold them back and prevent them from achieving their potential in the classroom.

Read the report

To investigate these barriers, we partnered with specialist education consultants FFT Education Datalab to investigate the educational attainment of children that are referred to children’s social care in England at any point during their childhood.

What we found

  • Between 2019 and 2021, children with a social care referral were more than twice as likely to fail their English or Maths GCSEs than children without a social care referral.
  • Children who didn’t get support the first time they were referred to social care had significantly worse GCSE outcomes than those who got support the first time they were referred, and those that never got support at all.
  • 58% of children in our cohort with a social care referral were persistently absent at some point in their school career.
  • 31% of children with a referral were suspended from school at some point, and 3% were permanently excluded.


  1. The Government and Opposition commit to investing to roll out family help services across all local authorities in England beyond 2025, as was recommended by the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care.
  2. Schools and local authority social work teams should work together to pilot a new approach for working with families that interact with the social care system.
  3. The government should alleviate the pressure on families by uprating the child element of universal credit by £15 a week and lifting the two-child limit and benefit cap that punish larger and more vulnerable families