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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 August 2006, 00:42 GMT 01:42 UK
'I was shipped back and forth'
Aradia Pavey
Aradia lived in 35 different placements during her time in care
Children in care are written off by the education system, with nearly eight out of 10 gaining no qualifications, children's charity Barnardo's says.

Only once did anyone care enough about Aradia Pavey to attend a school open evening to find out about her progress.

Now 16, she is one of about 80,000 children who at any one time are looked after by the state.

Children's charity Barnardo's says too many of these spend a childhood being ferried between placements and schools.

It says the vast majority have no qualifications and bleak employment prospects after a lonely school experience with little support.

Aradia, from London, was placed in care at the age of three and has no qualifications.

Shipped back and forth

She believes this lack of educational achievement is largely down to her disrupted upbringing and constant placement moves.

Much of her childhood was spent being moved back and forth, living in 35 different care placements, including foster families and care homes.

"My education broke down completely because of the number of moves I'd had," she said. "At times when the authorities decided to move me, it wasn't to placements within the same area but to placements based in completely different towns.

"I was basically shipped back and forth amongst three different towns in England and never had the chance to settle.

"If social services decide to move someone in my situation then it should at least be to a placement in the same area."

I don't remember anyone ever coming to egg me on at sports day or anything like that

Aradia says she remembers being praised and rewarded for her work in the first care home she lived in, but after that has no memories of receiving any such encouragement from either carers or teachers.

"Whenever I moved schools I received no extra help with catching up," she said.

"To be honest I didn't have a huge amount of back-up with my education all round - only once do I remember a foster carer of mine coming to a parents' evening, and I don't remember anyone ever coming to egg me on at sports day or anything like that."

Barnardo's wants teachers to be more aware of children in care and their specific needs.

Aradia says that, in general, she found teachers were reluctant to discipline her out of sympathy for her background.

As a teenager she enjoyed this freedom but in hindsight it did her no favours and she was excluded from school for large amounts of time - including three-quarters of her last two years.

In the end I ended up not returning to school at all

When she was 14 she was living in an area where she hoped to stay at the school. But just before she was due to start her GCSEs she was moved to a placement in another town.

"I'd already been to about four schools and was nervous at the idea of having to start at a new school in the new area," she said.

"But after moving to the new placement, I still ended up being shifted on to a load more placements. Because of this constant movement the authorities didn't seem to be able to find a suitable education plan for me, and in the end I ended up not returning to school at all."

A year later, at the age of 15, Aradia decided to return to education and enrolled in a local college.

However, just before she was due to finish her course the authorities decided to move her again so she was unable to complete her studies.

Championing rights

Aradia ended up being supported by Barnardo's Kusadiki project, which helps disadvantaged 10 to 15-year-olds.

She wants a career in childcare and her own experiences have motivated her to champion the rights of other cared-for children.

Staff at Kusadiki have helped her look for college courses and consider other forms of education and she is now hoping to do courses in childcare, early years and residential social work.

But there is no doubt that her educational experience has put her at a distinct disadvantage.

"I'm disappointed I didn't end up getting any GCSEs," she said. "Now whatever I want to do with my career or education I'm going to have to start at the very bottom."

She added: "Being in care has its advantages and disadvantages. It makes you grow up quickly. Fortunately I had good role models at Kusadiki who have taught me so much."

Project manager Sarah Foster said: "What has impressed and amazed me most about Aradia is her resilience, tenacity and determined belief in her self-worth."

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