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5.4.3 Education of Looked After Children

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

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

Note that different provisions apply to children who acquire Looked After status as a result of a remand to local authority accommodation or Youth Detention Accommodation. In relation to those children, please see Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure, Care Planning for Young People on Remand.

RELATED GUIDANCE

Mental Health Behaviour in Schools Guidance (DfE 2016)

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in July 2017 to reflect local practice. This chapter should be re-read in full.


Contents

  1. Duty to Promote the Educational Achievement of Looked After Children
  2. The Personal Education Plan (PEP)
  3. Avoidance of Disruption in Education
  4. When a Child First Becomes Looked After
  5. Reviewing and Updating PEP’s
  6. When a Child Moves to a New Local Authority 
  7. When a Child Needs or Joins a New School 
  8. When a Child has No School Place 
  9. Celebrating a Child's Achievements
  10. When a Child is Absent from School 
  11. School Exclusions 
  12. When a Young Woman Becomes Pregnant
  13. School Transport 
  14. Children and Young People with Medical Conditions
  15. Training for those Involved in the Care and Education of Looked After Children
  16. Information Sharing


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

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’ (‘VSH’).

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.

An up-to-date list of Designated Teachers should be maintained to assist with communications and assist other authorities that have placed children within the authority.

As leaders responsible for ensuring that the local authority discharges its duty to promote the educational achievement of their Looked After Children, Directors of Children’s Services and Lead Members for Children’s Services should ensure that:

  • Closing the attainment and progress gap between Looked After Children and their peers and creating a culture of high aspirations for them is a top priority;
  • Looked After children have access to a suitable range of high quality education placement options and that commissioning services for them takes account of the duty to promote their educational achievement;
  • VSHs are in place and 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;
  • The authority’s Children in Care Council (CiCC) regularly addresses the educational experiences raised by Looked After Children and is able to respond effectively to such issues.

The Virtual School Head should be the lead responsible officer for ensuring that arrangements are in place to improve the educational experiences and outcomes of the authority’s Looked After Children, including those placed out-of-authority.

VSHs should ensure the educational attainment and progress of children Looked After by the local authority are monitored and evaluated as if those children attended a single school.

The VSH should ensure that there are effective systems in place to:

  • Maintain an up-to-date roll of its Looked After Children who are in school or college settings and gather information about their education placement, attendance and educational progress;
  • Inform headteachers and Designated Teachers in schools if they have a child on roll who is Looked After by the VSH’s local authority;
  • Ensure that LAC Education Caseworkers, social workers, Designated Teachers and schools, carers and Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs) understand their role and responsibilities in initiating, developing, reviewing and updating the child’s PEP and how they help meet the needs identified in that PEP;
  • Ensure up-to-date, effective and high quality termly PEPs that focus on educational outcomes and that all Looked After Children, wherever they are placed, have such a PEP;
  • Ensure the educational achievement of children Looked After by the authority is seen as a priority by everyone who has responsibilities for promoting their welfare;
  • Report regularly on the attainment of Looked After Children through the authority’s corporate parenting structures.

Social workers, the Virtual School team and IROs, school admission officers and Special Educational Needs departments should work together to ensure that - except in an emergency - appropriate education provision for a child is arranged at the same time as a care placement.

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 Looked After Children, should have details of the child’s social worker and the name of the Virtual School Head.

The Virtual School Head should promote a culture that takes account of the child’s views according to age and understanding in identifying and meeting their educational needs.

See Documents Library, Education, School Trips and Holidays.


2. The Personal Education Plan (PEP)

The Personal Education Plan (PEP) allows the LAC Education Caseworker, social worker, residential staff/carer and Designated Teacher at the child's school or, where the child has no school place, the Virtual School team, 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 Looked After Children 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 and / or carer.

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 Virtual School team, 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 expected outcomes, 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 (e.g. Designated Teacher, keyworker, Teaching Assistant etc.) 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;
  • The Pupil Premium Plus requires a more focused approach to academic achievement and narrowing the gap for Looked After Children;
  • 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, 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 looked after children;
  • 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.

See Documents Library, Education, School Trips and Holidays.


3. Avoidance of Disruption in Education

The Nominated Officer must approve of any change of placement affecting a child in Key Stage 4, except in an emergency/where the placement is terminated because of an immediate risk of serious harm to the child or to protect others from serious injury.

In those circumstances, the Local Authority must make appropriate arrangements to promote the child's educational achievement as soon as reasonably practicable.

  • The child's wishes and feelings have been ascertained and given due consideration;
  • The wishes and feelings of the parent(s) have been ascertained where the child is accommodated (where possible) and where appropriate where the child is subject to a Care Order);
  • The educational provision will promote educational achievement and is consistent with the PEP;
  • The Independent Reviewing Officer has been consulted;
  • The Designated Teacher at the child's school has been consulted.

Other than in Key Stage 4, where placement changes should be kept to an absolute minimum, whenever the Local Authority proposes making any change to the child's placement that would have the effect of disrupting the arrangements made for education and training, they must ensure that other arrangements are made for education or training that meet the child's needs and are consistent with the PEP.

See Documents Library, Education, School Trips and Holidays.


4. When a Child First Becomes Looked After

4.1 Notification

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

If the child is known to have an Education, Health and Care Plan / Statement or being assessed, the LAC Education Caseworker/social worker should ensure the relevant SEND adviser is informed.

After receiving notification of a child becoming looked after (the C9003) a LAC Education Caseworker is allocated to that child. The child's LAC Education Caseworker must then inform the Designated Teacher at the child's school within 10 days of the child becoming looked after and a Personal Education Plan meeting arranged. The first PEP should be in place as part of a Care Plan and in negotiation with the Designated Teacher, depending on the child’s circumstances. Regular liaison should then be maintained.

4.2 The First Personal Education Plan

It is the responsibility of the LAC Education Caseworker to contact the Designated Teacher to arrange a meeting to draw up the first PEP alongside inviting 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 has no school place, the LAC Education Caseworker should immediately search for an appropriate school place if they are not already attending one. The SEND adviser should also be asked to assist as appropriate. 

The LAC Education Caseworker should manage the day to day management of the PEP and agree actions and establish lines of communication between the staff/carer, school/education staff and social worker - the basis of a working partnership.

The first PEP should:

  • Identify the child’s immediate and priority needs and targets, (e.g. to maintain current good levels of progress, make transport arrangements, find a new school, obtain short-term interim education);
  • Establish boundaries of confidentiality;
  • 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;
  • Incorporate any Individual Education Plan or other school-based plan;
  • Agree a date for the next term's PEP review meeting.

The completed PEP should be distributed to the child, parents, staff/carers and all others invited to the meeting. A copy should also be sent to the child's Independent Reviewing Officer, via the LAC IRO mailbox.

NB The provision of education for pupils with statements of SEND can only be changed if the child's statement has been amended at an annual review.

See Documents Library, Education, School Trips and Holidays.


5. Reviewing and Updating PEP's

The LAC Education Caseworker must ensure PEP review meetings should take place on time.

Where possible, the timing of the second and subsequent PEPs should correspond with the Looked After Child Review cycle so that PEP decisions and recommendations are available to the child's Independent Reviewing Officer at the Looked After Child Review.

5.1 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.

5.2 PEP Recommendations

Proposals that would lead to significant changes in arrangements (e.g. a change of school, a request for a statutory assessment of a child’s special educational needs) and/or to increases in expenditure (private tuition, a jointly-funded placement) should be agreed in the PEP and shared at the Looked After Child Review.


6. When a Child Moves to a New Local 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 4.2, The First Personal Education Plan applies.

If the child is 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 relevant Education Officer and, if appropriate, the SEND adviser, should be provided with a full educational history and asked to assist in the 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 8, 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.

When a Looked After Child needs a new school place the LAC Education Caseworker will make an application on their behalf and work closely with the educational establishment in accordance with paragraph 3.12 of the Schools Admission Codes which states with regards to In Year Fair Access that:

“This provision will not apply to a Looked After Child, a previously Looked After Child or a child with a statement of special educational needs naming the school in question, as these children must be admitted."

See Documents Library, Education, School Trips and Holidays.


7. 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 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. Looked After Children have been given the highest priority within school admission arrangements. VSHs, working with education settings, should implement pupil premium arrangements for looked after children.

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’.

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 - see Section 3, Avoidance of Disruption in Education above.

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

7.1 Notification

The LAC Education Caseworker must contact at least one member of staff in the school - the Designated Teacher or the Head Teacher – to inform them that the child is Looked After and provide them 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.

7.2 Pupils with Statements of 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/LAC Education Caseworker should ensure that he/she is aware of the current position with regard to the Plan, including any additional support provided and by whom.

7.3 The First PEP in a new school

See Section 4.2, The First Personal Education Plan.

The completed PEP should be distributed to those invited to the meeting and the child's Independent Reviewing Officer.

See Documents Library, Education, School Trips and Holidays.


8. When a Child has No School Place

Finding a school place is primarily the LAC Education Caseworker's responsibility but may be shared with or delegated to others.

8.1 PEP’s

Looked After 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.

8.2 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 or is not in full-time education, the Virtual School team should notify and seek assistance within the Education and Improvement team if needed (and the SEND adviser, in appropriate cases). The Virtual School team should work with the education service to identify a school place and alternative education should be provided if a school place cannot be found immediately or is not appropriate.

8.3 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 LAC Education Caseworker should contact the school Virtual School team in the area where the child is placed and request that a school be identified for the child as soon as possible. Unless Section 8.4, Pupils with Education, Health and Care Plans applies, the education service local to the placement should identify a school place and should be asked to provide alternative education if a school place cannot be found immediately or is not appropriate.

8.4 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 statement, not directly. This needs to be planned for as early as possible as it can cause long delays.

See Documents Library, Education, School Trips and Holidays.


9. 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, after exams and celebrate at the annual Celebrating Success event.

Recording a Child’s Achievements

A Looked After Child'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.

See Documents Library, Education, School Trips and Holidays.


10. 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 social worker/LAC Education Caseworker 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 Missing from Care Procedure must be followed - see Pan-Dorset Multi-Agency Safeguarding Policies and Procedures Manual, Allegations Against Staff and Volunteers Procedure.

See Documents Library, Education, School Trips and Holidays.


11. School Exclusions

Where a school has concerns about a Looked After Child’s behaviour, 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 looked after child is excluded from school, the child's social worker must inform the child's Independent Reviewing Officer.

11.1 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 LAC Education Caseworker 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 residential staff/carer and the LAC Education Caseworker/social worker. Whoever is the most appropriate one to do so will discuss this with the child. The LAC Education Caseworker/social worker should inform the parents, if appropriate.

The LAC Education Caseworker, 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 LAC Education Caseworker should ensure a reintegration meeting is held within the five days to discuss his/her return and how best this can be supported.

See Documents Library, Education, School Trips and Holidays.

11.2 Permanent Exclusions

It is the role of the Virtual School Head and the LAC Caseworker Team to work closely with the school to avoid the permanent exclusion of any Looked After Child.

When a child is permanently excluded but is remaining in the same foster or residential placement, the LAC Education Caseworker will identify 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.

See Documents Library, Education, School Trips and Holidays.


12. When a Young Woman Becomes Pregnant

Becoming pregnant is not in itself a reason to stop attending school, nor to cease education.

Where a young woman becomes pregnant, the LAC Education Caseworker must ensure that the young woman remains in education if at all possible at the school she attends and/or provides alternative provision where necessary.


13. School Transport

In order to maintain continuity of school, those with responsibility for school transport should be approached 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.


14. Children and Young People with Medical Conditions

From 1 September 2014, governing bodies have a statutory duty to make arrangements to support pupils at school with medical conditions. The Designated Medical Officer can support schools with these duties. For more information see Supporting Pupils at School with Medical Conditions (2014): Statutory Guidance for Governing Bodies of Maintained Schools and Proprietors of Academies in England (DfE).


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

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 Looked After Children. This includes carers, LAC Education Caseworkers, social workers, Designated Teachers and IROs.

Such training, among other things, should include information about school admission arrangements; Special Educational Needs and Disabilities; 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 Looked After Children.

See Documents Library, Education, School Trips and Holidays.


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. These 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 looked after child’s educational record should be transferred with them to the new school.

See Documents Library, Education, School Trips and Holidays.

End