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5.4.1 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 Children Looked After. This requires local authorities as Corporate Parents, to demonstrate the strongest commitment to helping the children they look after to achieve the highest educational standards they possibly can. 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, the Virtual School, 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 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 Knowsley’s Children Looked After, including those placed out-of-authority.

The key characteristics which local authorities are expected to implement are:

  • To promote the early development and educational attainment, achievement and progress of Children Looked After;
  • To carry out effective and timely joint planning around education and care issues, including not making a care placement without due attention being given to the impact upon and the maintenance of the child or young person’s education;
  • To identify the child’s educational needs, regardless of age, through ensuring that all Children Looked After have an up to date and effective Personal Education Plan (PEP) which is an integral part of the Care Plan, that there is robust assessment of the child or young person’s learning style, and that education professionals are fully included in the care planning and statutory review processes;
  • To work collaboratively with educational settings to ensure that Children Looked After are given the highest priority in admissions criteria; to take every practicable step to avoid the exclusion of Children Looked After; to provide every appropriate educational opportunity and support to improve the educational attainment of Children Looked After;
  • That Elected Members, the Lead Member for Children’s Services and the Director of Children’s Services should act as corporate parents relentlessly focusing on narrowing the gap in educational achievement between Children Looked After and their peers.