Education of children in care

Looked after children have the same right to expect the outcomes wanted for every child in that they should be healthy, remain safe, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution to society and achieve economic well-being. Local authorities have a commitment to aiding every child within their care to achieve the highest educational standards he or she possibly can. As corporate parents this includes supporting their aspirations to achieve in further and higher education.

The educational achievement for looked after children remains lower that their peers and as a result the Children Act 1989 (as amended by the Children Act 2004) places a duty on local authorities to promote the educational requirements of looked after children. Local authorities have a duty to promote the educational achievement of looked after children , including those placed out-of-authority. The local authority retains its legal responsibilities for looked after children  placed out of authority. For example, local authority should monitor and identify additional support to promote the educational progress of their looked after children placed out of authority. Local authorities may also request help from one another and from health bodies in other local areas to fulfill their function in respect of the children for whom they are responsible. The detailed arrangements in place for discharging the duty will depend on local structures and Children and Young people’s Plans.

Discharging the duty on a day-to day basis means that the local authority should do at least what any good parent would do to promote their child’s educational aspirations and support their achievements.

This means:

  • making clear to looked after children how the local authority will support their educational life chances
  • taking account of the child’s views
  • identifying the child’s educational needs regardless of the child’s age and ensuring these are reflected in the care and placement plans
  • ensuring all children of compulsory school age have a comprehensive and effective Personal Education Plan (PEP)
  • ensuring that, in partnership with relevant educational professionals, there is a robust assessment of the child’s learning styles
  • under 5s to have a pre-school PEP to promote  their development, well-being and considers suitable educational opportunities
  • ensuring a relevant representative as specified in the PEP and placement plan (could be a foster carer) attends parents’ evenings and other relevant meetings, such as the annual review of a statement of special educational needs.
  • mediating on behalf of the child if problems occur at school
  • ensuring that social workers, carers and where appropriate, parents actively promote opportunities for looked after children including out of school hours learning activities, from their early years.

In General

Local authorities must ensure

  •  Virtual School Heads (VSHs) are in place and that they have the resources, time, training and support they need to discharge the duty effectively.
  • VSHs have robust procedures in place to monitor the attendance and educational progress of the children their authority looks after
  • Children in Care Council (CiCC) regularly addresses the educational experiences raised by looked after children and is able to respond effectively to such issues
  • Schools judged by Ofsted to be ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ should be prioritised for looked after children in need of a new school. Unless there are exceptional evidence-based reasons, looked after children should never be placed in a school judged by Ofsted to be ‘inadequate’

Carers should provide looked after children and young people with the stability and support they need. In the context of education, training and support for this group, local authorities should ensure that:

  • carers understand that supporting looked after children to attend school regularly and succeed in education is one of their primary tasks
  • Carers and , where appropriate, parents are fully involved in educational planning
  • carers are consulted to establish what their needs are in supporting the educational success of the children and young people for whom they care
  • carers, along with the child’s parents, have a clear understanding of
    the local authority’s educational aspirations for the child and of the child’s own aspirations

Appropriate education/ School Admissions

When a child enters the care system of school age, the local authority should do everything possible to minimise disruption in the child’s education. Children in Key Stage 4 (year 10 and 11) everything possible should be done to maintain the child in the existing school and only in exceptional circumstances should the child move school.  Subject to age and understanding, the child’s views and wishes should be taken into account.

Where it is not possible to maintain an existing educational placement the care placement should be made at the same time as a new educational placement unless the child is at serious risk and requires immediate protection. The care placement must be able to support the educational needs and aspirations of the child. If a placement is made in an emergency then a new educational placement should be made within 20 school days.

Looked after children have been given the highest priority within school admission arrangements. The admission requirements for looked after children are set out in the School Admissions Code. This Code applies to maintained schools and academies, including free schools . The local authority, as a corporate parent, does not tolerate drift and delay where children the authority looks after are without an education placement that is appropriate to their assessed needs. This includes using their powers of direction in a timely way rather than delay issuing a direction as a result of protracted negotiation

Further and Higher Education

The following highlights the support and guidance available to young people if they decide to move into higher education.

 What is it?Who is it for?What can I use it for?Where can I find out more?
16 to 19
A bursary of £1,200 a year, paid directly by your school, college or training provider.Children in care and care leavers who are entering further education. It can help[ pay for costs like equipment you might need for your course; lunch; and transport to and from your school or college.Speak to your student services or your tutor.

You should also download "The 16 to 19 Bursary Fund: your questions answered"
here: 16-19 bursary fund
HE BursaryA one-off payment of £2,000 which can either be paid in a lump sum or in installments of various amounts by your local authority.All care leavers undertaking a recognised course of higher education before their 25th birthday.To pay for the potential costs of going to university.
The bursary is completely seperate from any other financial help you apply for i.e. grants and loans.
Speak to your local authority if you think you are eligible.
The Who Care's Trust?
HE Handbook for care leavers
An online Guide about higher education (HE), covering a range of issues from applying to grants to accommodation.For young people in care who are thinking of continuing or returning to study at a university (or college to study a higher education course).To see exactly what universities and colleges across England and Scotland offer care-experienced students.The handbook is available to download at: Handbook for care leavers
The Who Care's Trust?
Town Bank
A one-stop-shop for guidance on banking and finance for children and young people.all looked after children and young people.To help you manage your finances.Visit the bank here:
Trust Town Bank

School Exclusions

Local authorities and schools must have regard to the Department for Education statutory guidance “Exclusions from maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units in England”.  In line with that, headteachers should, as far as possible, avoid excluding any looked-after child. VSHs should ensure that carers and social workers know where to seek advice about their role and responsibilities.

In the case where a looked after child is excluded, anyone who is seen as a parent has the right to make representations and appeal. This includes the local authority where they have a care order in respect of the child and any person with whom the child lives.

No looked after child should be excluded from a school/Pupil Referral Unit without discussion with the local authority to ensure that there is suitable alternative provision available elsewhere. In the event of a child being permanently excluded from school the local authority has a duty to provide full time alternative education from the sixth day following the exclusion. In the case of a looked after child it is recommended that such provision should be in place from the first day following the exclusion.

Personal Education Plan (PEP)

When a child becomes looked after his/her social worker must ensure thatthe child’s needs and the services to meet these are documented in the Care Plan. The Integrated Children’s System provides a framework for assessment, planning, intervention and review and brings together the processes that may be needed in a local authority’s work with a child.

The Care Plan – of which the PEP is an integral part – is made before the child becomes looked after or in the case of an emergency placement within 10 working days.

The PEP is a record of what needs to happen for looked after children to enable them to fulfil their potential and reflects any existing education plans, such as a statement of special educational needs, Individual Education Plan (IEP) or Provision Mapping. The PEP should reflect the importance of a personalised approach to learning which secures good basic skills, stretches aspirations and builds life chances.

The PEP is the joint responsibility of the local authority and the school.

Special Educational Needs (SEN)

Looked after children are nine times more likely to have a statement of special educational needs than the general pupil population. The majority of looked after children will have identified special educational needs, and it is important that all children with SEN receive the educational provision which meets their needs. However for looked after children, many of whom will have had difficult and unstable home and school lives before coming into care, it is imperative that their needs are quickly and efficiently assessed and provided for so that the effects of any instability on their education is reduced to a minimum.

Where it is agreed that the child’s needs exceed those normally addressed in mainstream education provision an application for statutory assessment under the Education Act 1996 for a Statement of Special Educational Needs may be made. The authority which carries out that assessment is determined by section 321(3) of the Education Act 1996. This means that the SEN assessment should be carried out by the authority where the child lives. This may not be the same authority to which the child “belongs”.

Out – of- authority placements

The duty applies to all the authority’s looked after children, wherever they are placed. Children living in a different authority area – especially those who are placed a long way from home – may be especially vulnerable. The authority should therefore take particular care to ensure that this guidance is followed for all its looked after children who are placed out-of-authority.

In particular, the authority should ensure that the identified educational needs of any child placed in another authority area will be effectively met in the proposed placement before it is agreed. This will involve formal notification of, and discussion with, all relevant bodies, including in particular the local authority and Primary Care Trust where the child would be living.

Pupil Premium (Funding via local authority VSHs not school)

Looked after children are one of the groups of pupils that attract pupil premium funding. Local authorities receive a pupil premium grant allocation based on the number of children looked after for at least one day and aged 4 to 15 on 31st August as recorded in the latest looked after children data return . This is additional funding provided to help improve the attainment of looked after children and close the attainment gap between this group and their peers.  VSHs, working with education settings, should implement pupil premium arrangements for looked after children in accordance with the latest conditions of grant published by the Department for Education and any supplementary departmental advice it issues.

Local authorities have a statutory responsibility to make sure that they promote the educational achievement of the children they look after, regardless of where they are placed. Having a virtual school head (or equivalent role) is one of the key ways in which a local authority can demonstrate to inspectors that it is discharging that legal obligation.

The government is committed to improving life chances for all looked after children. Their educational attainment, while improving, is not doing so fast enough.  Virtual School Head (VSH) can have a positive impact on the educational progress of looked after children and so the children and families’ bill will require every local authority to have a virtual school head to champion the education of children in the authority’s care, as if they all attended the same school.

The VSH will act as a central source of advice for social workers, schools and carers. The provision also allows for the possibility of two or more local authorities appointing the same person. The VSH will take the lead in monitoring and improving the quality of PEPs.

      Pupil Premium

  • From 1 April 2014 ‘Pupil Premium Plus’ will see funding to support children and young people in care at school increase per pupil to £1,900.
  • Children and young people will be eligible as soon as they enter care, rather than the previous six month criteria requiring a child to be in care six months prior to 1 April to qualify for the full amount.
  • Local authorities continue to be responsible for distributing the Pupil Premium Plus payments for looked after children to schools and academies. However, in addition, VSHs are responsible for making sure there are effective arrangements in place for allocating Pupil Premium Plus funding to benefit children looked after by their authority.
  • The overall grant allocated to each local authority will be calculated on a per capita basis.  However, it does not have to be distributed on a per capita basis, given that children and young people in care have differing levels of need at different stages of being in care
  •  The grant must be monitored by the VSH and used to improve outcomes and “narrow the gap” as identified in the Personal Education Plan [PEP] in consultation with the designated teacher.
  • As a result, PEPs will need to be monitored even more closely by designated teachers, the Virtual School team, social workers team leaders and Independent Reviewing Officers.

Children adopted from care

In addition and through a separate process, children adopted from care will be entitled to £1900 passed directly to the school.

The Pupil Premium for 2014-2015 will include those pupils recorded on the January 2014 School Census who were looked after immediately before being adopted on or after 30 December 2005, or were placed on a Special Guardianship or Residence Order immediately after being looked after. A child should be recorded as such where the parent or guardian of the child has informed the school that the child has been adopted from care or has left care under a Special Guardianship or Residence Order.

 Supporting transitions from care

Local authorities should ensure that:

  • the PEP is maintained as part of the preparation and review of the pathway plan and builds on the young person’s educational progress;
  • each pathway plan review scrutinises the measures being taken to help the child prepare for when he or she ceases to be looked-after by considering:
    • the young person’s progress in education or training; and,
    • how he or she is able to access all the services needed to prepare for training, further or higher education or employment

The Children Act 1989 requires that a pathway plan is prepared for all eligible children. Eligible children are looked-after, aged 16 or 17 and have been looked after by a local authority for a period of 13 weeks, or periods amounting in total to 13 weeks, which began after they reached 14 and ended after they reached 16.

Promoting the Educational Achievements of Looked After Children

(Department for children, schools and families)





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