Previous research has indicated that youth in care are at a disproportionally high risk of being suspended from school. Yet, research on this topic is scarce despite the detrimental effects such disciplinary actions can have on the educational development of this vulnerable group. Therefore, the goal of this study was to explore a longitudinal path model of factors associated with the risk of being suspended from secondary school among a national cohort of 3699 children placed in care in England. Using data from the National Pupil Database and the Children Looked after Database, children were tracked from School Year 2 through School Year 9 in order to test the direct and mediated effects of individual factors (i.e., gender, eligibility for free school meals, special educational needs, and belonging to an ethnic minority background), care factors (i.e., age of entry into care, reason for out-of-home placement, placement type and length of time in care) and educational factors (i.e., school type, achievements, absences and suspensions in Year 6 and school type in Year 9) on the risk of suspension in Year 9. Results indicated that approximately 1 in 5 children in care in England (19.4%) are suspended at least once during their secondary School Year 9; these proportions markedly exceed those previously found among their general population peers. Children found to be most at risk for out-of-school suspensions were (a) males; (b) late entrants into care; (c) children who had behavioral, emotional, or social difficulties; and (d) children with a history of suspensions. Surprisingly, being eligible for free school meals and having lower academic achievement was related to a decreased risk of being suspended. These findings are discussed in consideration of the interrelationships among variables and the mediating pathways found. Implications for schools and educators catering for youth in care are also discussed.
- Out-of-home care