Publication of the statistical bulletin ‘Children in Care in Northern Ireland 2020-21’

Date published: 24 August 2022

The Department of Health has today published the ‘Children in Care in Northern Ireland 2020/21 Statistical Bulletin’.

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This bulletin presents information on children and young people who had been looked after continuously for at least 12 months at 30 September 2021. It details information on their placement and placement changes, health assessments and disability, Special Educational Needs, school attendance and GCSE educational achievements of these young people.

Some children in care will excel educationally, however in general, children in care in Northern Ireland continue to underperform compared to the general school population. Although there are many issues that can influence a child’s schooling, it is worth noting that a substantially higher proportion of children in care have special educational needs which may affect the educational attainment gap between them and the general school population.

  • At 30 September 2021, 2,794 children and young people had been in care continuously for 12 months or longer;
  • Of these, one sixth (15%) had experienced a placement change during the previous 12 months, which is the lowest in recent years;
  • Having a statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN) continues to be more prevalent among the children in care of school age (25%) compared with the general school population (6%);
  • Some 17% of school aged children and young people had full attendance through the 2020/21 school year, while 13% missed 25 or more school days;

Two-thirds (66%) of young people in care who were in Year 12 attained five or more GCSE at grades A* to G. Although not directly comparable, 97% of the general school leaver population (Year 12 – Year 14) attained five or more GCSE at grades A* to G. The equivalent figures for those achieving GCSE at grades A* to C were 45% and 92% respectively.

Notes to editors: 

  1. ​​​​​​This publication is available on line at:


  1. About the data:

The source of the data contained in this release is the Department of Health OC2 statistical return, collected from Health and Social Care Trusts as well as the Department of Education School Census information.


  1. This statistical bulletin was produced by Community Information Branch, DoH.

Further information is available from:

Community Information Branch
Department of Health
Room 11, Annexe 2,
Castle Buildings,
Stormont Belfast BT4 3SP

Tel:                              (028) 90 522580
Fax:                             (028) 90 523288


4.      Media queries should be directed to DoH Press Office on 028 9052 0567. Out of office hours, contact the duty press officer via pager number 07699745440 and your call will be returned.

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