The educational experiences and attainment of looked‐after children and young people (LACYP) remains an issue of widespread international concern. Within the UK, children and young people in care achieve poorer educational outcomes compared to individuals not in care. Despite proliferation of research documenting the reasons for educational disadvantage amongst this population, there remains limited empirical consideration of the lived experiences of the educational system, as perceived by LACYP themselves. This paper draws upon qualitative research with 67 care‐experienced children and young people in Wales. The sample was aged 6–27 years, and comprised 27 females and 40 males. Participants had experienced a range of care placements. Findings focus on how educational policies and practices alienate LACYP from dominant discourses of educational achievement through assignment of the ‘supported’ subject position, where children and young people are permitted and even encouraged not to succeed academically due to their complex and disrupted home circumstances. However, such diminished expectations are rejected by LACYP, who want to be pushed and challenged in the realisation of their potential. The paper argues that more differentiated understandings of LACYP’s aspirations and capabilities need to be embedded into everyday practices, to ensure that effective educational support systems are developed.