When a Child Needs or Joins a New School


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

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.


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

DfE, Exclusion from maintained schools, Academies and pupil referral units in England – A guide for those with legal responsibilities in relation to exclusion (2012)

DfE and DHSC, 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)


This chapter has been reviewed and updated in June 2020.

This chapter was reviewed in December 2022.

The choice of school requires skilled working and planning between relevant teams and people. It should be based on a discussion between the child's social worker, their carers and, if appropriate, birth parents. However the Virtual School should be consulted to avoid choosing a school that is unlikely to meet the child's needs and to ensure a successful transition plan is put in place.

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 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 for the child. Visits should only take place following a confirmed plan and preferably after professionals and or carers have visited the school too. The new school must be informed that the pupil is Looked After and the designated teacher provided with a copy of the most recent PEP. A meeting should also be arranged with the new school to update the PEP. School records should be transferred from the 'old' school within 15 school days of a request being made.

Changes of school should be minimised to avoid disruption to the child's education and when they occur should be given careful consideration see Avoidance of Disruption in Education.

Children Looked After are given the highest priority within school admission arrangements. If the child is due to start reception the admission form must be returned to the local authority where the child resides no later than the 15th January in the calendar year they are due to start. If the child is in Year 6 the application for a secondary school place must be returned to the local authority where the child resides no later than the 31st of the October. The application form should be signed by whoever has Parental Responsibility and returned to the local authority the child resides within. Attempts should be made to include parents in the decision making process and a record of their wishes and feelings should be recorded on ICS. Children Looked After can only take priority in school admissions if the forms are submitted on time. Planning meetings should be held to discuss the identification of a suitable school well in advance of the submission deadline to ensure that all relevant parties are in agreement on the choice of school.

A mid-year school transfer for any Child Looked After should be considered carefully. If a child is placed out of borough, the application process for the local authority to which they are moving should be followed.

Any changes to education setting details should be recorded within the Education section of ICS.

For pupils with Education, Health and Care Plans a change of school at any time needs the agreement of the relevant Special Education Needs and Disabilities Service maintaining the Plan. This needs to be planned for as early as possible as liaison between authorities and teams may lead to long delays. In most cases changes of education provision for children with an EHCP should be planned through the EHCP annual review. If a change of school is not aligned to the annual review, an Interim Annual Review can be called.

A new or updated PEP should be in place within the first 20 days of a child joining a new school. For subsequent PEPs see Reviewing and Updating the Personal Education Plan (PEP).

The first PEP in a new school should:

  • Identify the child's immediate and priority needs (e.g. emotional support, English as an additional language, literacy support, behaviour management);
  • Establish contact between carers, school staff 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;
  • 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.

The completed PEP should be distributed to those invited to the meeting and a copy held on the child's file (ICS).


Transport Arrangements

Agreement on how the child will get to and from school must be reached before any school is identified. For pupils with Education, Health and Care Plans this may require the completion of transport request paperwork and can take a few weeks for arrangements to be put in place.