Previous research has highlighted the poor educational attainment of children in out-of-home care, until relatively recently seen as a potential failure of the care system itself. However, the relationship between care and education outcomes is complex. It is important to disentangle the impact of the care system from that of adverse circumstances leading to admission to care. In this study, educational outcomes for 68 children (aged 3–9 years) in foster-care due to concerns about abuse or neglect were compared to those for 166 children with current or past child welfare involvement living at home. Data from teacher assessments of communication and literacy, and a standardized measure of receptive vocabulary were analysed. Accounting for key differences between the two groups, there was little evidence that educational attainment of children in care was significantly worse than that of children living at home. The findings suggest that being in care is unlikely to be the direct cause of poor educational achievement amongst children in care relative to the wider population of children. The study has implications for the ways in which schools and other services, both across the UK and internationally, work with children in and on the margins of care.