'Too many vulnerable children are falling through the gaps' as school exclusion rate for Cambridgeshire is revealed
Children in care are six times more likely to be excluded from school in Cambridgeshire, new figures reveal.
The Children's Commissioner for England has warned too many vulnerable children are "falling through the gaps", and could be open to criminal or sexual exploitation.
Department for Education figures show 10.7 per cent of children in the care of Cambridgeshire County Council were excluded at least once in the 2016-17 academic year, the latest period with available data.
In comparison, the exclusion rate for the school population as a whole in Cambridgeshire was just 1.9 per cent.
Looked after children include those living in foster care or in children's homes.
Across England, 11.8 per cent of children looked after by local authorities found themselves excluded at least once in the same school year, up from 9.8 per cent five years ago.
The rate for the general population in 2016-17 was just 2.3per cent.
Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, said: “Looked after children are some of the most vulnerable children, who should be getting the best education to give them the best chances in life.
"The fact that a growing number are being excluded is deeply worrying, not only because they will be missing out on receiving a good education, but also because they are more likely to be at risk of criminal or sexual exploitation.
"Talk to any child in prison, in trouble with the police, or caught up in gangs, and they will tell you that falling out of school was a trigger point."
In Cambridgeshire, exclusions of children in care have fallen since 2015-16, when they were at 12.3 per cent.
But the rate has increased compared to five years ago, when it was 9.3 per cent.
Exclusions of looked after children vary hugely across the country, with a high of 26.1 per cent in Wokingham, in Berkshire.
The Department for Education said it is undertaking a review of exclusions, to better understand how schools are using them and why some pupils are excluded more than others.
It added that school admissions policies give looked after children first priority to their preferred school.
The Local Government Association said it hoped the review would lead to councils being given greater powers to monitor schools that use exclusions to remove vulnerable pupils from mainstream education.
Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the LGA's children and young people board, said the Government and Ofsted should put more emphasis on inclusivity rather than academic results.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds MP said: "We cannot ignore the stark reality of the poorer outcomes for children who face chaotic lives or have experienced trauma or adversity.
“Society shares responsibility for improving outcomes for vulnerable children.
"That is why we’ve provided practical advice to schools and social workers to adapt the way they support them, including having a consistent and trusted member of staff to talk to.