A drive to improve the school results of young people in care has dramatically cut the numbers excluded from classes, it has emerged.

Teenagers in the care of the local authority are still more likely to be expelled from school than their peers - but figures are down from ten per cent to three per cent since 1997.

The figures graphically illustrate the success of Bradford's Equal Chances project, launched as a pilot scheme two years ago.

The Government has now extended the scheme nationwide.

Councillor Mike Young, chairman of the social services committee, shared a platform with health minister John Hutton MP at the London launch and described how Bradford has succeeded in driving up standards amongst 'looked after' children - in a bid to give them the same start in life as their peers.

Under the Equal Chances project social workers have been instructed to take a special interest in the education of youngsters in care - not just ensuring they get to school, but taking an active, 'parental' interest in their achievements.

Bradford was one of two districts across the country chosen to pilot the scheme.

In Bradford, there are 450 young people in care of school age at any one time - but movement in and out of care means social workers have to supervise around 900 in a typical year. Exclusions among this group have dropped from 43 to 9.

"I am extremely proud of Brad-ford's achievements and the equal chances we have striven to give all the children and young people in our care," said Coun Young.

"The scheme has provided them with extra assistance they need to reach their full potential and rise above the disadvantages many of them have had to cope with."

Every year there is a special awards scheme in Bradford for children in care. And a named worker at each residential home keeps a special eye on the youngsters' schooling, in the same way a real parent would do.

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