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6.4.3 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:

Looked After Children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) (2009) this guidance explains the respective roles of the home Authority and the Authority where the child lives when these are different.

Promoting the Educational Achievement of Looked After Children (July 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)

Guidance on Looked After Children with Special Educational Needs

Pupil premium: virtual school heads’ responsibilities

Mental health and behaviour in schools: Departmental advice for school staff (March 2016)

Keeping Children Safe in Education

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.

AMENDMENT

The chapter was revised throughout in February 2017 and should be re-read.


Contents

  1. Duty to Promote the Education of Children Looked After
  2. The Personal Education Plan (PEP)
  3. Avoidance of Disruption in Education
  4. When a Child First becomes Looked After
  5. The First Personal Education Plan
  6. When a Child Moves to a New Local Authority 
  7. Pupils with Statements of Special Educational Needs / Education and Health Care Plans (EHCP)
  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 PEP's
  12. When a Child is Absent from School 
  13. School Exclusions 
  14. When a Young Woman becomes Pregnant
  15. School Transport 
  16. Children and Young People with Medical Conditions
  17. Training for those Involved in the Care and Education of Children Looked After
  18. 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 Children Looked After. 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 Children Looked After, Directors of Children’s Services and Lead Members for Children’s Services should ensure that:

  • Closing the attainment and progress gap between Children Looked After and their peers and creating a culture of high aspirations for them is a top priority;
  • Children Looked After 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 Children Looked After 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 Children Looked After, 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 Children Looked After 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 social workers, Designated Teachers and schools, carers and 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 PEPs that focus on educational outcomes and that all Children Looked After, 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 Children Looked After through the authority’s corporate parenting structures.

Social workers, Virtual School Heads and Independent Reviewing Officers (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 Children Looked After, 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.


2. The Personal Education Plan (PEP)

All looked after children must have a care plan, of which the PEP is an integral part. All of those involved in the process of developing the PEP should use it to support the personalised learning of the child. The PEP (pre-school to age 18) is an evolving record of what needs to happen for looked after children to enable them to make expected progress and fulfil their potential. The PEP should reflect the importance of a personalised approach to learning that meets the identified educational needs of the child, raises aspirations and builds life chances. It is a record of the child’s leisure interests as well as educational achievement.

The quality of the PEP is the joint responsibility of the local authority that looks after the child and the school. Social workers, carers, Virtual School Heads (VSHs), Designated Teachers and, as appropriate, other relevant professionals will need to work closely together. 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 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.

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 establishments 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;
  • Identify development (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;
  • 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;
  • The Pupil Premium for looked after children is £1900 per year for year groups R-11 in mainstream schools. This payment is made direct to schools in 3 stages and is linked to the PEP. Effective use of Pupil Premium refers to the targeted use of funds specific to the young person linked to measurable outcomes with timescales;
  • The Early Years Pupil Premium is £302 per year and is paid directly to pre-school settings for pupils aged three and four. The use of Early Years pupil premium is linked directly to the PEP;
  • Each agency involved with the young person is responsible for completion of different sections of the PEP prior to the PEP meeting. Guidance for this is available on the Virtual school web-site. PEPs are reviewed termly;
  • The Post 16 bursary is £1,200 per year and payable when going to study a recognised post 16 course;
  • The bursary is £2,000 and payable when going to study a recognised Higher Education (HE) course.


3. Avoidance of Disruption in Education

The Virtual School Heads (VSHs) must approve of any change of school 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 appropriate based on the status of the looked after child;
  • The educational provision will promote educational achievement and is consistent with the PEP;
  • The Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) has been involved in the decision making process;
  • The Designated Teacher at the child's school has been consulted.


4. When a Child First becomes Looked After

4.1 Notification

If a child /student is already attending a school/educational setting or starting in a new one.

Within 48 hours of a child being taken into care, the child's social worker must notify the designated teacher of the school that the child is attending. A date for a Personal Education plan meeting should be arranged.

The child’s social worker must also inform the Virtual school administrator that the child has been taken into care and the date of the PEP meeting.

First PEP meeting must take place as part of a care plan within 10 days of child being taken into care.

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 SENAT case officer is informed.

If child/student does not have a school place/educational provision.

Within 48 hours child being taken into care,notify Virtual School Administrator and arrange first PEP meeting date.

First PEP meeting must take place as part of a care plan within 10 days of child being taken into care.

Social worker to invite to PEP meeting: Virtual School Headteacher or Lead Consultant Virtual School, Additional Provision and Re-integration Manager for the Borough to assist in the search for a school place.

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 SENAT case officer is informed.

A full PEP must be available for the first CLA review and  then reviewed ‘termly’ thereafter (this is taken to mean three times per annum).


5. The First Personal Education Plan

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

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 carer/residential staff and any other relevant professionals; should involve the child where possible, 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 VSH, and relevant Schools Admissions or Additional Provision and Re-integration Manager for the Borough should be invited and asked to assist in the search for a school place. The SEN case holder 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;
  • Include a summary of the child’s current attainment and progress;
  • 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 school-based support 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 and social worker - the basis of a working partnership;
  • Establish boundaries of confidentiality;
  • Give details of who will take the plan forward and specifies timescales for action and review;
  • Agree a date for the next PEP review meeting and how and when the next (full) PEP is going to be drawn up.

The designated teacher at the educational provision leads on how the PEP is developed and used at that establishment to make sure progress towards education targets is monitored.

The completed PEP should be returned to the Virtual School within ten working days of the meeting. The completed PEP will be uploaded onto ICS for social worker and IRO. The Virtual School will send a copy of the PEP to parents /carers.

NB: The provision of education for pupils with statements of SEN/Education Health Care Plans can only be changed if this has been amended at an annual review. An annual review can be brought forward to accommodate this and should be carried out in consultation with the school’s SENCo.


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 5, 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 Head and, if appropriate, the case holder from the SENAT team, should be provided with a full educational history and asked to assist in the search for a school place. The new school placement should have received a Good or Outstanding judgement at the most recent OFSTED inspection.

Whenever possible a child should not be moved to a new placement until (s)he also has a school place. In the case of an emergency placement a suitable new education placement should be secured within 20 days.

Where the child does not have a school place - see Section 6, When a Child has No School Place.


7. Pupils With Statements of Special Educational Needs/Education and Health Care Plans (EHCP)

The local education service where the child lives (unless in residential accommodation) is responsible for the placement and provision of education to a pupil who has a statement of special educational needs or EHCP. The education service for the area to which the child is moving should therefore be requested to adopt the statement/EHCP, which will need to be amended. Liaison should continue with the home authority.

This needs to be planned as early as possible as it can cause long delays.


8. When a Child Needs or Joins a New School

The choice of school requires considerable liaison between relevant people. It should be based on a discussion between the child’s social worker, their carers and, if appropriate, birth parents. The Virtual School should normally be consulted to avoid choosing a school that is unlikely to meet the child’s needs. Delegated authority about choice of school should be addressed explicitly in the child’s permanence plan, which is part of their wider care plan.

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 6 or 10 and 11, unless this is unavoidable - see Section 2, Avoidance of Disruption in Education above.

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 Statements of Special Educational Needs/EHC Plan

A change of school at any time needs the agreement of the relevant local education service maintaining the statement/EHC plan. This needs to be planned for as early as possible as it can cause long delays. Consideration should be given to additional support provided and by whom.

8.3 The First PEP in a new school

A PEP meeting should be held at the new school within ten days of a child l being taken into care. Subsequent PEP’s should be completed termly and inform the Looked After Review Cycle.

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 and social worker - the basis of a working partnership; this includes contact details such as telephone numbers/ email addresses etc;
  • 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 and relevant information;
  • Ensure records are forwarded from the previous school and/or carer;
  • Agree a date for the next PEP review meeting and how and when the next full PEP is going to be drawn up (this needs to take account of the Looked After Review cycle because the PEP has to be ready before the Review meeting.

The completed PEP should be distributed by designated teacher to the Virtual School or quality assurance within ten working days of the meeting. The Virtual school will upload the completed PEP onto ICS for the social worker and IRO, The Virtual School will send out copies to the parents/carers.


9. When a Child has No School Place

In arranging a school placement the child’s social worker (working with the VSH and other local authority staff, where appropriate) should seek a school or other education setting that is best suited to the child’s needs.

9.1 PEP’s

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 child’s social worker should notify and seek assistance from the VSH (and the SENAT case holder, 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. This short term alternative provision will be arranged by the VSH in liaison with the Additional Provision and Re-Integration Manager for the Borough.

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 should notify the local VSH area who will liaise with the VSH where the child is placed and request that a school be identified for the child as soon as possible. Unless Section 9.4, Pupils with Statements of Special Educational Needs or Education and Health Care Plans (EHCP) 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 Statements of Special Educational Needs or Education and Health Care Plans (EHCP)

Applications for school places for pupils with a Statement of Special Educational Needs/EHCP should be made through the special needs section of the local authority maintaining the statement, not directly. It requires the agreement of the education authority for the statement to be amended. This needs to be planned for as early as possible as it can cause long delays.

Responsibility for updating the Statement/EHCP will rest with the receiving authority where the child’s school is in the state sector. Where the child’s is placed in a school outside the state sector, the education service in the placing authority will retain responsibility for updating the statement.


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 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.


11. Reviewing and Updating PEP’s

The child’s social worker must ensure PEP review meeting take place on time. The date for second (and subsequent PEP meetings) is set at the PEP meeting, except in exceptional circumstances.

Reviews should happen termly (and usually in line with school assessment and reporting cycles, or key transitions) and recommendations are to be available to the child's Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) at the Looked After Review.

IROs should ensure that the PEP’s effectiveness is scrutinised in sufficient detail as part of the statutory 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.

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 a statutory assessment of a child’s special educational needs) and/or to increases in expenditure (a jointly-funded placement) should be made in the form of recommendations to the Looked After Review.


12. When a Child is Absent from School 

The carer/residential staff 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 5 days, 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 Missing from Care Procedure must be followed - see the Swindon Safeguarding Children Board's Inter Agency Procedures.


13. School Exclusions

NB Where a looked after child is excluded from school, the child's social worker must inform the child's Independent Reviewing Manager and the Virtual School.

See DfE guidance on Exclusion from maintained schools, Academies and pupil referral units in England

13.1 Fixed term exclusions

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. Informing the Virtual School if there are difficulties being experienced allows all parties involved to plan an appropriate intervention, with the aim of avoiding exclusion as far as possible. It also allows consideration of what additional assessment may need to be put in place to address the causes of the behaviour.

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 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 there is a potential of an exclusion being permanent the Virtual School and the child’s school will work with the borough Additional Provision and Re-integration Manager to avoid such an exclusion. This may involve consideration of  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.

If the child is excluded then the school will provide work for the first five days and the child must not be out in public during school hours. From the sixth day the local authority will arrange for a place for the child to be educated. If the child is in Key Stage 3 or 4 arrangements are made for the child to access a tuition base whilst the new educational placement is arranged. Work should be provided by the school during this time.

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. 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 social worker must ensure that the young woman remains in education if at all possible. The Virtual School will need to be informed and they will liaise with school, and other relevant agencies, seeking advice from the designated nurse for looked after children. A support package is arranged V for the area in which she lives and/or the school she attends. 


15. 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.


16. 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. For more information see Supporting Pupils at School with Medical Conditions (2015): Statutory Guidance for Governing Bodies of Maintained Schools and Proprietors of Academies in England (DfE).


17. Training for those Involved 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.


18. 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 Looked After educational record should be transferred with them to the new school.

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