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5.4.1 Education of Children Looked After

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter applies to all Children Looked After. It should be read in conjunction with the following government guidance documents:

Promoting the Education of Looked After Children (2014)

Special educational needs and disability code of practice: 0 to 25 years - Statutory guidance for organisations who work with and support children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (2015)

Keeping Children Safe in Education

Guidance on Designated Teacher for Looked After Children

Mental Health and Behaviour in Schools (DfE, 2016)

RELATED CHAPTERS

PERMISSIONS

For a summary of the permissions and forms that must be completed in relation to this Chapter, please see the Permissions List.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated throughout in December 2014, in line with the Children and Families Act 2014. Additional information was added in new Section 1, Duty to Promote the Educational Achievement of Children Looked After on the requirement for local authorities to appoint an officer to promote the educational achievement of Children Looked After – sometimes referred to as a ‘Virtual School Head’. The chapter should be read in full.


Contents

  1. Duty to Promote the Educational Achievement of Children Looked After
  2. Principles
  3. The Personal Education Plan (PEP)
  4. The Role of the Social Worker
  5. Role of Foster Carers
  6. When a Child First Becomes Looked After
  7. When a Child Moves to a New Authority
  8. When a Child Needs or Joins a New School
  9. When a Child has no School Place
  10. Celebrating a Child’s Achievements
  11. Reviewing and Updating PEPs
  12. When a Child is Absent from School
  13. School Exclusions
  14. School Transport
  15. Training for those Involve in the Care and Education of Children Looked After
  16. Information Sharing


1. Duty to Promote the Educational Achievement of Children Looked After

Under section 22 (3A) of the Children Act 1989, local authorities have a duty to promote the educational achievement of Looked After children. Section 99 of the Children and Families Act 2014 imposes a requirement for an officer to be appointed to discharge this duty – sometimes referred to as a ‘Virtual School Head’.

Governing bodies of schools and colleges must appoint a Designated Teacher to promote the educational achievement of children who are Looked After and to ensure that this person has appropriate training.

Governing bodies should ensure that appropriate staff have the information they need in relation to a child’s Looked After legal status (whether they are looked after under voluntary arrangements with consent of parents or on an interim or full Care Order), and contact arrangements with birth parents or those with Parental Responsibility. They should also have information about the child’s care arrangements and the levels of authority delegated to the carer. The designated safeguarding lead, through the Designated Teacher for Children Looked After, should have details of the child’s social worker and the name of the Virtual School Head.


2. Principles

Children Looked After have a history of poor educational achievement. They are more likely to be non-school attenders and more likely to be excluded.

As a consequence, staff in schools and in Children’s Social Care tend to have low expectations of Children who are Looked After. Often their poor levels of achievement and behaviour are excused on the grounds of their pre-care and in care experiences.

However, research over the past few years has identified that the reasons for this low achievement are actually more to do with discrimination and institutional failure.

Children and young people with high numbers of placement moves are particularly vulnerable, since these moves often involve changes in schools, and entail periods out of school altogether. There is a strong correlation between poor school performance and multiple moves, and children and young people need extra support to help compensate for this disadvantage. 

Children and young people in the first six months of being looked after also record poor performances. Again, disruption of schooling plays a significant part in this. For some children and young people, school problems such as exclusion may have been a contributory factor in their admission to care. They may have already missed important areas of the curriculum. It must be a top priority to resolve this situation.

Children and young people in residential care have the highest risk of poor educational achievement because they tend to fall into these two most disadvantaged groups.

Moreover, these children and young people are missing out on much more than just an education. For Children Looked After, school can be a vital link to the outside world, where they are just like other children and young people, where they have stable friendships and familiar adults. Children and young people who miss school also miss out on health care, careers advice, health promotion advice and social education.

Full participation in all school activities is essential for Children Looked After in order to help them overcome their disadvantage. It is a guiding principle that our children should take up all school trips and extra school activities that are offered to them.

Some children and young people, however, experience considerable difficulties at school. They can suffer discrimination and bullying because they are looked after. Approximately one-quarter of Children Looked After are disabled, and many have special educational needs. They can suffer discrimination and bullying because they are looked after.

Carers have a crucial part to play in ensuring children and young people get the education they deserve by providing them with the help, support and encouragement that a good parent would provide.


3. The Personal Education Plan (PEP)

The Personal Education Plan (PEP) allows the social worker, residential staff/carer Virtual School and Designated Teacher at the child's school or, where the child has no school place, the Virtual School and in conjunction with the child, to set out what needs to happen to meet the educational needs of the child.

The Personal Education Plan should be initiated as part of the Care Plan before the child becomes Looked After (or within 10 working days in the case of an emergency placement), and be available for the first Looked After Review meeting.

All Children Looked After of compulsory school age must have a PEP, whether or not currently in education. It provides essential information to ensure that appropriate support is in place to enable the child to achieve the targets set. It is also a record of the child's leisure interests and educational achievement.

The Designated Teacher leads on how the PEP is developed and used in school to make sure the child’s progress towards education targets is monitored, with the Virtual School Head having a quality assurance role.

All of those involved in the PEP process at all stages should involve the child (according to understanding and ability) and, where appropriate, the child’s parent and/or relevant family member.

The PEP is an evolving record, and arrangements for the flow of information to develop, review and update the PEP should be in place to ensure the VSH, Designated Teacher, carer and, where appropriate, child and parent have a copy of the latest version of the document. Virtual School Heads should make arrangements for PEPs to be reviewed each school term.

The PEP should set clear objectives and targets for the child, covering the following:

  • Chronology of education and training history which provides a record of the child's educational experience and progress in terms of National Curriculum levels of attainment, including information about educational institutions attended and the reasons for leaving, attendance and conduct record, academic and other achievements, any special educational needs, an indication of the extent to which the child's education has been disrupted before entering care or accommodation;
  • Existing arrangements for education and training, including details of any special educational provision and any other provision to meet the child's educational or training needs and promote educational achievement;
  • Any planned changes to existing arrangements and provision to minimise disruption;
  • The child's leisure interests;
  • Role of the appropriate person and any other person who cares for the child in promoting the child's educational achievements and leisure interests;
  • The effective use of the Pupil Premium and application for bursary should be discussed as part of PEP Meetings;
  • Details of who will take the plan forward, with timescales for action and review.

The PEP should:

  • Identify developmental (including any related to attachment) and educational needs (short and longer term) in relation to skills, knowledge, subject areas and experiences;
  • Include SMART short-term targets, including progress monitoring of each of the areas identified against development and educational needs;
  • Include SMART longer-term plans for educational targets and aspirations. These should, according to age and understanding, typically focus on public examinations, further and higher education, managing money and savings, work experience and career plans and aspirations;
  • Identify actions, with time scales, for specific individuals intended to support the achievement of agreed targets and use of any additional resources (e.g. the pupil premium) specifically designated to support the attainment of Children Looked After;
  • Highlight access to effective intervention strategies and how this will make/has made a difference to achievement levels.

The PEP must include the contact details of the Virtual School Head for the authority that looks after the child.


4. The Role of the Social Worker

The social worker has the lead responsibility in ensuring that the education of Children Looked After (CLA)  is prioritised in order to maximise their future life chances. 

Issues and practicalities regarding education require active consideration and planning prior to any child/young person becoming looked after, or changing their care placement.

Social workers need to familiarise themselves with the Council's policy on the education of CLA. They need to be aware of their role in ensuring that specific tasks are carried out, either on behalf of, or in conjunction with natural parents.

The social worker must inform both the designated teacher for Children Looked After in school and the Virtual School prior to a change in care status or placement of Children Looked After. This initial contact will enable parties to make introductions, exchange preliminary information and arrange to meet in person to complete or amend the Personal Education Plan (see Personal Education Plans Procedure).

It is essential that changes of care status or placements are promptly entered into Children’s Social Care computer systems in order that all databases on the education of Children Looked After can be updated for management information purposes.

In order for the social worker to successfully champion the cause of Children Looked After they may be required to act as advocate on a wide range of issues.

It is the social worker's ultimate responsibility to deal with educational issues. Exclusions, Education, Health and Care Plans, school transitions, exam choices, careers, further education, parents evenings may all require attention and monitoring from time to time. Whilst the social worker must lead on these issues the Virtual School is available to provide advice and guidance and lead as required on a range of issues, including school transfer, admissions and exclusions.


5. Role of Foster Carers

Prior to the commencement of a new care placement the Social Worker must liaise with the Virtual School to initiate a Personal Education Plan (PEP). PEP's should only be completed at a face to face meeting which involves all interested parties (see Personal Education Plans Procedure) and foster carers should be fully involved in this process.

In the early days of a new placement foster carers should be proactive in introducing themselves to the new school and in particular the Designated Teacher for Children Looked After who is responsible for the welfare and progress of all Children Looked After on the school roll.

Small details and practicalities are vital to ensure a successful start and maintenance of any school placement. Foster carers must ensure that they are immediately aware of the school and pupils timetable, including significant dates in the school year and specific school rules about codes of dress, conduct, discipline and punctuality.

Foster carers must ensure that children/young people have the correct school uniform and the range of equipment needed for the various activities and lessons throughout the school week. They must also take responsibility for ensuring that it is available to be taken into school on the correct day.

Carers should strive to develop and maintain good links with school and initiate regular contact with teachers in order that progress can be monitored and specific targets can be worked towards. This close contact gives a very positive message to children and young people about the priority and importance of their progress in school.

The foster carer should ring school to inform them of any legitimate absence before 10.00 am on the first day of absence. Where absence is a cause for concern the foster carer should ring school each day to check on attendance and devise a strategy with school to deal with the situation, in liaison with the Virtual School.

Foster carers should take an active interest in school life and the educational progress of children in their care. This should include attending school functions and meetings, festivals and open days. It is expected that foster carers should always attend parents/options evenings unless prior agreement has been made for parents or the Social Worker to attend. It is also important that the child has input into decisions as to adults attending meetings. The general expectation is that as primary carer, the foster carer will have the most involvement with school on a day to day basis and is therefore in the best position to attend.

The opportunities which schools provide through out of school hours activities, trips and recreational events are all especially important to the personal and social development of Children Looked After. Being involved in extra- curricular school life helps children and young people feel "included" and can help compensate for the disruption in their lives. Foster carers should ensure that the children in their care are not disadvantaged by their special circumstances and must strive with the assistance of the Social Worker to ensure that transport issues, lack of available funds do not become barriers to participation in extra-curricular activities. Foster carers should be made aware of the support to them in promoting leisure time activities and their entitlement to "Passport to Leisure" scheme in Calderdale.

Homework arrangements play an important role in educational progress. Foster carers should be proactive in ensuring that homework is completed on time, reading time is available nightly and that Looked After Children are being set challenging yet achievable goals at home which reflect work in class. It is important that foster carers are aware of the academic strengths and weaknesses of the children in their care as well as having basic knowledge of areas of learning that are being covered in each term. All schools now have user friendly materials which outline subject areas for parents and make suggestions about how work in school can be reinforced at home.

Within the Virtual School, all Children Looked After have an allocated Key Stage Coordinator who is able to offer support and advice to carers (tel: 01422 394137).Carers should ensure that a quiet, comfortable space is available for children to undertake their homework and that they have the support, information, literature and resources necessary for course work or project work that is set.

Educational attainment can be a passport to success for Children Looked After. Foster carers play a key role in ensuring this but require help and support in fulfilling their responsibilities as outlined above. It is crucial that all professionals from Children and Young People's Services recognise carers pivotal role and value the important contributions they can make to the educational successes of all Children Looked After.


6. When a Child First Becomes Looked After

6.1 Notification

As soon as a child becomes looked after (if not before), the child's social worker must notify the education service where the child is placed.

If the child is known to have an Education, Health and Care Plan or to be under assessment, the social worker should ensure the relevant SEN adviser is informed.

The Virtual School in liaison with the child's social worker must also inform the Designated Teacher at the child's school within 48 hours of the child becoming looked after and a Personal Education Plan meeting arranged by the Virtual School. Regular liaison should then be maintained.

6.2 The First Personal Education Plan

The first PEP should be in place as part of a Care Plan within 10 days of a child becoming Looked After.

The Virtual School in Liaison with the child's social worker should arrange a meeting to draw up the first PEP which should include the Designated Teacher at the school (where the child has a school place), the residential staff/carer and any other relevant professionals; and should involve the child and parents as far as is appropriate and possible.

Where the child is excluded from school, the Head Teacher should be invited.

Where the child has no school place, the Virtual School will lead and assist in the search for a school place. The SEN adviser should also be asked to assist as appropriate. 

The first PEP should:

  • Identify the educational and social factors that may have caused or may cause in the future a detrimental effect on the child’s educational achievement;
  • Identify the support required to reduce the impact of these factors;
  • Identify the child’s immediate and priority needs and targets, (e.g. to maintain the current school place, make transport arrangements, find a new school, obtain short-term interim education);
  • Incorporate any Individual Education Plan or other school-based plan;
  • Identify a named person for the day to day management of the PEP and establish lines of communication between the staff/carer, school/education staff,social worker and Virtual School - the basis of a working partnership;
  • Establish boundaries of confidentiality;
  • Agree arrangements for the next PEP review meeting and how and when the next (full) PEP is going to be drawn up.

The completed PEP should be distributed to the child, parents, staff/carers and all others invited to the meeting by the Virtual School. A copy will be uploaded on to the CSC CASS system.

NB The provision of education for pupils with Education Heath or Care Plans can only be changed if the child's plan has been amended at an annual review.


7. When a Child Moves to a New Authority

If a child is placed in the area of a different local authority but continues to attend the same school as before, the procedure outlined in Section 6.2, The First Personal Education Plan applies.

If the child is to be placed in the area of a different local authority and will need a new school, efforts to obtain a school place should (unless it is an emergency placement) begin well BEFORE s/he moves to a new placement. The Virtual School will lead and liaise with  the relevant Education Officer and, if appropriate, the SEN adviser to search for a school place. 

Whenever possible a child should not be moved to a new placement until s/he also has a school place.

Where the child does not have a school place - see Section 9, When a Child has No School Place.

Pupils With Education, Health and Care Plans

Where a child has  an Education, Health and Care Plan (previously a statement of special educational needs), the Plan must be transferred – see Children and Young People Aged 0-25 with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Procedure.


8. When a Child Needs or Joins a New School

The choice of school requires skilled working between relevant people. It should be based on a discussion between the Virtual School, the child’s social worker, their carers and, if appropriate, birth parents. The VSH should normally be consulted to avoid choosing a school that is unlikely to meet the child’s needs. Children Looked After have been given the highest priority within school admission arrangements. VSHs, working with education settings, should implement pupil premium arrangements for children who are Looked After

Schools judged by Ofsted to be ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ should be prioritised for Children Looked After in need of a new school. Unless there are exceptional evidence-based reasons, children who are looked after should never be placed in a school judged by Ofsted to be ‘inadequate’.

The child’s wishes and feelings should be taken into account and the suitability of the education setting tested by arranging an informal visit with the child.

Changes of school should be minimised to avoid disruption to the child's education and should not take place in the middle of a school year or in years 10 and 11, unless this is unavoidable 

School details will need to be amended on the electronic record.

8.1 Notification

At least one member of staff in the school - the Designated Teacher or the Head Teacher - must be informed by the social worker within 48 hours that the child is Looked After and be provided with a copy of the child's current PEP. Other members of staff who need to know should be identified at the PEP meeting, taking into account the child’s wishes concerning confidentiality.

8.2 Pupils with Education, Health and Care Plans

A change of school at any time needs the agreement of the relevant local education service maintaining the Education, Health and Care Plan. This needs to be planned for as early as possible as it can cause long delays.

The child’s social worker should ensure that he/she is aware of the current position with regard to the Plan, including any additional support provided and by whom.

8.3 The First PEP in a new school

A meeting should be held at the new school as soon as practicable.

A new or updated PEP should be in place within the first 20 days of a child joining a new school. The first PEP in a new school should:

  • Identify the child’s immediate and priority needs (e.g. English as an additional language, literacy support, behaviour management);
  • Establish contact between residential staff/carer, school staff, Virtual School and social worker - the basis of a working partnership;
  • Identify a named person for the day to day management of the PEP and agree who contacts whom about what;
  • Establish boundaries of confidentiality;
  • Share important information - perhaps including the Placement Information Record;
  • Ensure records are forwarded from the previous school and/or carer.
Agree arrangements for the next PEP review and how and when the next full PEP is going to be drawn up. (The completed PEP should be distributed to those invited to the meeting and uploaded on to CASS by the Virtual School Administrator.


9. When a Child has no School Place

Finding a school place is primarily the social worker's responsibility but in Calderdale the Virtual School lead on advising social care

9.1 PEPs

Children without a school place should still have an up-to-date PEP. It should address the child's immediate educational needs and the longer-term planning.

9.2 Children Placed within the local authority area

Where the child does not have a school place because one cannot be found, or because mainstream school is not appropriate to his or her needs, the Virtual School in liaison with the child’s social worker should notify and seek assistance from the education service (and the SEN adviser, in appropriate cases). The local education service should identify a school place within 20 working days at the latest; and should be asked to provide alternative education if a school place cannot be found immediately or is not appropriate.

9.3 Children Placed in a different local authority area

Where the child does not have a school place because one cannot be found, or the child has been placed at very short notice, the child’s social worker in liaison with the Virtual School will notify the education service in the area where the child is placed and lead on the identification of a school  for the child as soon as possible. The assistance of the local education service (and the local SEN adviser if appropriate) should also be sought. Unless Section 9.4, Pupils with Education, Health and Care Plans applies, the education service local to the placement should identify a school place within 20 working days at the latest; and should be asked to provide alternative education if a school place cannot be found immediately or is not appropriate.

9.4 Pupils with Education, Health and Care Plans

Applications for school places for pupils with an Education, Health and Care Plan should be made through the special needs section of the local education service maintaining the plan, not directly. This needs to be planned for as early as possible as it can cause long delays. 

See Children and Young People Aged 0-25 with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Procedure.


10. Celebrating a Child’s Achievements

Children’s educational (and other) achievements should be acknowledged at one or more of the following times: at Looked After Reviews; in the PEP, at school-based meetings; in school reports; and after exams.

Recording a Child’s Achievements

A Child Looked After’s educational attainments at Key Stages 1-3, GCSE, A Level and GNVQ should be recorded, including on the electronic record and in the PEP.


11. Reviewing and Updating PEPs

The Virtual School will ensure that there are termly reviews of the PEP targets.

Second and subsequent PEPs should correspond with the Looked After Review cycle and PEP decisions and recommendations must be available to the child's Independent Reviewing Officer at the Looked After Review.

11.1 PEP Decisions

The participants should agree what action they will each undertake to achieve the improvements in the child’s education that they have identified through the consultation/preparation process.

11.2 PEP Recommendations

Proposals that would lead to significant changes in arrangements (e.g. a change of school, a request for an Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment) and/or to increases in expenditure (private tuition, a jointly-funded placement) should be made in the form of recommendations to the Looked After Review.

The child’s social worker should work with the child’s school between Looked After Reviews (involving the VSH if necessary) to ensure that up-to-date PEP information is fed into those reviews, and ensure that all relevant information about the child’s educational progress and support needs is up-to-date and evidenced before the Looked After Review.

IROs should ensure that the PEP’s effectiveness is scrutinised in sufficient detail as part of the Looked After Review and at other times if necessary. Where a child has Special Educational Needs, the IRO should ensure that the PEP review is linked with any review of those needs.

The IRO should raise any unresolved concerns about a child’s PEP or education provision with social workers and the VSH.


12. When a Child is Absent from School

The residential staff/carer must notify the school and the child’s social worker immediately if the child does not attend school for any reason.

In any case where the child has been absent from school for more than 10 days, the Virtual School and the social worker should liaise with the school, the child, residential staff/carers and any other relevant person to address:

  • The reasons for the absence;
  • How to ensure the child returns to education as soon as possible;
  • Whether and how the child can be helped to catch up on what s/he has missed.
Where necessary the Children and Families who go Missing Procedures must be followed – see West Yorkshire Local Safeguarding Children Boards Consortium Procedures Manual


13. School Exclusions

Where a school has concerns about the behaviour of a Child Looked After, the VSH should be informed and, where necessary, involved at the earliest opportunity. This is to enable the VSH, working with others, to:

  • Consider what additional assessment and support (such as additional help for the classroom teacher, one-to-one therapeutic work or a suitable alternative placement) needs to be put in place to address the causes of the child’s behaviour and prevent the need for exclusion;
  • Make any additional arrangements to support the child’s on-going education in the event of an exclusion.

Where a Child Looked After is excluded from school, the child's social worker must inform the child's Independent Reviewing Officer.

13.1 Fixed term exclusions

Headteachers should, as far as possible, avoid excluding any looked-after child. Exclusion from school should be a last resort for children who are looked after, therefore it is important to work with the school and carers to intervene as soon as a child's behaviour becomes a cause for concern.

Where a child is excluded from school for a fixed period, the school will provide work for the child for the first five days of the exclusion. The social worker must liaise with the residential staff/carers about suitable arrangements for supervising the child doing the schoolwork during the day and ensuring the child does not go out during school hours. With effect from the sixth day the school should provide a place for the child to be educated.

The school will communicate the reasons for the exclusion to the Virtual School, residential staff/carer and the social worker. Whoever is the most appropriate one to do so will discuss this with the child. The social worker should inform the parents, if appropriate.

The social worker, in consultation with the child and parents, must seek advice as to whether to appeal against the decision to exclude the child.

If the child is in primary school and receives a fixed term exclusion or is in secondary school and is excluded for more than five days, the social worker should ensure a reintegration meeting is held within the five days to discuss his/her return and how best this can be supported.

13.2 Permanent exclusions

When a child is permanently excluded but is remaining in the same foster or residential placement, the Virtual School will liaise with the social worker and the local education service in which the child is living to find an alternative school placement. Again, for the first five days of the exclusion the school will provide work and the child should not be out unaccompanied in public during school hours. From the sixth day the local authority will arrange for a place for the child to be educated.

In the case of permanent exclusion a meeting of a committee of governors will be held within fifteen days to review the decision. If the committee decides to uphold the decision to permanently exclude, an appeal can be made within fifteen school days. The appeals form can be completed by a foster carer or anyone who has Parental Responsibility for the child.


14. School Transport

In order to maintain continuity of school, those with responsibility for school transport should be approached by the Virtual School to provide assistance with transport. A decision will be made taking into account the child's age and the distance from the child's address to the nearest suitable school.


15. Training for those Involve in the Care and Education of Children Looked After

The VSH should ensure that there are appropriate arrangements in place to meet the training needs of those responsible for promoting the educational achievement of Children Looked After. This includes carers, social workers, Designated Teachers and IROs.

Such training, among other things, should include information about school admission arrangements; Special Educational Needs; attendance and exclusions; homework; choosing GCSE options; managing any challenging behaviour in relation to education settings; promoting positive educational and recreational activities and supporting children to be aspirational for their future education; training and employment, and the importance of listening to and taking account of the child’s wishes and feelings about education and the PEP process.

The VSH should ensure that school governing bodies understand the importance of specific professional development for, as a minimum, their senior leaders and Designated Teachers in supporting the achievement of Children Looked After.


16. Information Sharing

VSHs should have access to a secure email account that enables them to exchange information securely with other VSHs in whose area they have placed children.

Arrangements for sharing reliable data must be in place, particularly in relation to the tracking and monitoring of attainment data and notifications of where children, including those placed out-of-authority, are being educated, and must set out:

  • Who has access to what information and how the security of data will be ensured;
  • How children and parents are informed of, and allowed to challenge, information that is kept about them;
  • How carers contribute to and receive information;
  • Mechanisms for sharing information between relevant local authority departments and schools;
  • How relevant information about individual children is passed promptly between authorities, departments and schools when young people move. Relevant information includes the PEP, which as part of the Child’s educational record should be transferred with them to the new school.

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