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5.4.1 Duty to Promote the Educational Attainment of Looked After and Previously Looked After Children

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

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

Guidance on Looked After Children with Special Educational Needs placed out-of-authority this guidance explains the respective roles of the home Authority and the Authority where the child lives when these are different.

Promoting the Education of Looked After Children and Previously Looked After Children

Keeping Children Safe in Education (All staff in a school or college should read Part One of the guidance)

Sexting: how to respond to an incident

Data protection: a toolkit for schools
This guidance draws attention to the link between data protection and child protection (although data protection is broader than just child protection) and notes that personal data can relate to pupils, staff, parents and potentially others. It makes clear that GDPR does not prevent, or limit, the sharing of information for the purposes of keeping children safe.

Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges

Supporting Pupils at School with Medical Conditions: Statutory Guidance for Governing Bodies of Maintained Schools and Proprietors of Academies in England

Designated Teacher for Looked After and Previously Looked After Children

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

Exclusion from Maintained Schools, Academies and Pupil Referral Units in England: A Guide for those with Legal Responsibilities in Relation to Exclusion

Mental Health and Behaviour in Schools - Guidance

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

This chapter was updated in December 2019 to incorporate changes introduced by the Children and Social Work Act 2017. A new section was added with regard to Unaccompanied Migrant Children, and the role of the Virtual School Head in relation to Previously Looked After children is emphasised.


Contents

1. Duty to Promote the Educational Achievement of Looked After and Previously Looked After Children
  1.1 Promoting the Education of Looked After Children
  1.2 Promoting the Educational Achievement of Previously Looked After Children
  1.3 Role of the Local Authority, Virtual School Head (VSH), and School


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

Under the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) schools and colleges that are public bodies have a general duty to have regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation, to advance equality of opportunity between different groups and to foster good relations between different groups. The duty applies to all protected characteristics and means that whenever significant decisions are being made or policies developed, thought must be given to the equality implications such as, for example, the elimination of sexual violence and sexual harassment. Looked After Children may be classed as having protected characteristics as a result of disability, age, religious beliefs, sexual orientation and/or race.

1.1 Promoting the Education of Looked After Children

Under Section 22 (3A) and 23ZZA of the Children Act 1989 (as amended by Section 4 of the Children and Social Work Act 2017), local authorities have a specific duty to promote the educational achievement of Looked After, Eligible and Previously 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').

Previously Looked After Children are those children who are no longer looked after in England and Wales because they are:

The subject of an adoption, special guardianship or child arrangements order which includes arrangements relating to with whom the child is to live, or when the child is to live with any person, or has been adopted from 'state care' outside England and Wales.

(A child is in 'state care' outside England and Wales if they are in the care of, or accommodated by, a public authority, a religious organisation or any other organisation the sole or main purpose of which is to benefit society).

Unaccompanied Migrant Children

Unaccompanied migrant children looked after by a local authority are entitled to the same local authority support as any other Looked After Child: to have a safe and stable placement; to receive the care that they need to thrive; and the support they need to fulfil their educational and other outcomes. Some unaccompanied children who have recently arrived in the country may never have had access to education before.

Appropriate education for unaccompanied children may include a period of time in a setting where their full educational needs can be assessed and integrated into the Personal Education Plan (PEP). They may need time to be prepared for and then become used to formal education, and their initial educational outcomes may include cultural orientation and life skills appropriate to their age. Virtual School Heads, Independent Reviewing Officers, school admission officers and Special Educational Needs departments should work together to ensure that appropriate education provision for the child is arranged at the same time as a placement.

The local authority should ensure robust procedures are in place to monitor educational progress. This includes securing a culture of commitment to promoting the highest possible educational outcomes for unaccompanied children or child victims of modern slavery. Achieving and implementing the above should be monitored by a senior manager, such as the VSH, who is responsible for making sure their local authority promotes the educational achievement of its Looked After and Previously Looked After Children.

1.2 Promoting the Educational Achievement of Previously Looked After Children

Previously Looked After Children are those children who are no longer looked after in England and Wales because they are:

The subject of an adoption, special guardianship or child arrangements order which includes arrangements relating to with whom the child is to live, or when the child is to live with any person, or has been adopted from 'state care' outside England and Wales.

Local authorities have a duty under Section 23ZZA of the Children Act 1989 (inserted by section 4 of the Children and Social Work Act 2017) to promote the educational achievement of Previously Looked After Children in their area by providing information and advice to:

  • Any person who has Parental Responsibility for the child;
  • Providers of funded early years education, Designated Teachers for Looked After and Previously Looked After Children in maintained schools and academies; and
  • Any other person the authority considers appropriate for promoting the educational achievement of relevant children.

The duty applies to children who are in early years' provision (secured by the local authority under Section 7(1) of the Childcare Act 2006) and continues throughout the compulsory years of education where the child is in provision funded in part or in full by the state.

1.3 Role of the Local Authority, Virtual School Head (VSH), and School

Governing bodies of schools and colleges must appoint a Designated Teacher to promote the educational achievement of Looked After and Previously Looked After Children and 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 and Previously 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 and Previously Looked After Children and their peers and creating a culture of high aspirations for them is a top priority;
  • Looked After and Previously 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 and Previously 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 who are Looked After by the local authority is monitored and evaluated as if those children attended a single school.

For Looked After Children the VSH should ensure that there are effective systems in place to:

  • Ensure the status of the child and their entitlement to support is made clear to all the professionals supporting that child;
  • 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 Children 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 Looked After Children, wherever they are placed, have such a PEP;
  • Avoid drift or delay in providing suitable educational provision, including special educational provision, and unplanned termination of educational arrangements through proactive multi-agency co-operation. Where this requires negotiation with other authorities this should be completed in a timely manner and with the best interest of the child as paramount;
  • 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.

For Previously Looked After Children the VSH should ensure:

  • They promote their educational achievement through the provision of information and advice to their parents, educators and others who the VSH considers necessary;
  • That with the Director they establish the extent of their offer to parents or those with Parental Responsibility;
  • The child is eligible for support by asking the child's parents or, those who have Parental Responsibility, for evidence of their previously looked-after status (or where this is not possible, to use their discretion in conjunction with the school);
  • They respond to requests for advice and information – e.g. advice on school admissions in their area and sign-post them to other services that can offer support and advice;
  • They respond to requests for advice and information from providers of early education, Designated Teachers in maintained schools and academies, and providers of alternative provision in their area in respect of individual children supported by the local authority;
  • They develop / build on existing good working relationship with Designated Teachers for Previously Looked After Children in their area;
  • They improve awareness of the vulnerability and needs of Previously Looked After Children by providers of early education, Designated Teachers in maintained schools and academies, and providers of alternative provision in their area in respect of individual children supported by the local authority. This should include promoting good practice on identifying and meeting their needs, and guidance on effective use of the PP+.

However, it is important to note that the local authority and VSH are no longer the corporate parent for Previously Looked After Children and the VSH role in relation to these children reflects this. Any intervention in the education of a Previously Looked After Child must be with the agreement of the person(s) who have Parental Responsibility for the child. They, like all parents, are responsible for overseeing their child's progress in education.

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. The Designated Safeguarding Lead, through the Designated Teacher for Looked After Children and Previously Looked After Children, should have details of the child's social worker and the name of the Virtual School Head.

A Previously Looked After Child potentially remains vulnerable and all staff should have the skills, knowledge and understanding to keep Previously Looked After Children safe. When dealing with Looked After Children and Previously Looked After Children, it is important that all agencies work together and prompt action is taken on concerns to safeguard these children, who are a particularly vulnerable group.

The Virtual School Head is integral to ensuring that local authorities discharge their duty to provide suitable advice and information for the purpose of promoting the educational achievement of Previously Looked After Children. They can also undertake any activity they consider appropriate where that activity will promote the educational achievement of such children in their area. The VSH should promote a culture that takes account of the child's views according to age and understanding in identifying and meeting their educational needs.

End