Educational trajectories of children in care across the early education and primary school years: A national cohort study in England.

Eran P. Melkman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The goals of this article were to (a) examine the changes in educational achievements of children in care from preschool through the end of primary school; (b) identify subgroups exhibiting distinct educational trajectories; and (c) explore key predictive individual, care, and school characteristics. To this end, the study investigated a cohort of 1,834 children in England who had been in care in their final year of preschool. Data from the National Pupil Database and from the Children Looked After Database was used to examine national assessments of literacy and numeracy in preschool and School Years 2 and 6, as well as potential child (e.g., special educational needs), care (e.g., placement changes) and school predictors (e.g., school’s mean ability level). The findings indicated that as early as preschool, children in care lagged substantially behind their peers and their relative academic condition worsened over time. Latent growth analyses revealed four distinct subgroups of children. One was a relatively resilient subgroup of children with “stable high” achievements over time, but more than 8 out of 10 children belonged to one of the other subgroups and exhibited maladaptive educational trajectories. Risk factors for a poorer trajectory included having special educational needs and spending more time in care during primary school, whereas attending higher performing schools was found to be related to better performing trajectories. The findings underscore the crucial need for early assessment and intervention efforts to deal with the unique educational needs of children in care. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)Public Policy Relevance Statement—The current study demonstrates that children in care lag markedly behind their peers in academic achievements as early as kindergarten and that these deficits lead to maladaptive educational trajectories over the school years. Early assessment and intervention efforts are therefore of crucial importance when attempting to address the unique educational needs of children in care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)720-732
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Orthopsychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • child welfare
  • education
  • longitudinal
  • maltreatment
  • out-of-home care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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