SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter applies to all Looked After children 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.
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.
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
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.
IMPORTANT NOTE: in line with guidance “Keeping children safe in education” the term “must” in this chapter is for when the person in question is legally required to do something and the term “should” is used when the advice set out should be followed unless there is good reason not to.
This chapter was substantially updated in March 2019 to reflect amendments made by the Children and Social Work Act 2017.
These changes relate to the status of ‘previously looked after children’ i.e. a previously looked-after child is one who is no longer looked after in England and Wales because s/he is 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. The chapter includes a new Section 15, Mental Health and a new Section 8, Safeguarding the Looked After Child at School.In addition the chapter reflects the statutory guidance Keeping children safe in education (KCSIE) 2018, as it relates to Looked After Children and guidance regarding Data protection and safeguarding as set out in Data protection: a toolkit for schools (Open Beta: Version1.0) (August 2018).
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.
Under section 22 (3A) 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 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:
Governing bodies of schools and colleges must appoint a designated teacher to promote the educational achievement of children who are Looked After and previously 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 and previously Looked After children, Directors of Children's Services and Lead Members for Children's Services should ensure that:
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 and previously Looked After children, including those placed out-of-authority.
VSHs should ensure the educational attainment and progress of children Looked After and previously 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:
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 Looked After 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.
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:
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.
The Personal Education Plan (PEP) allows the social worker, residential staff/carer and Designated Teacher at the child's school or, where the child has no school place, the education service, 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 and all subsequeny reviews.
All looked after children in an early years provision (such as a nursey or pre-school playgroup), or who are of compulsory school age (to 18) must have a PEP, whether or not they currently attend a school/Unit. 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.
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 VSH, 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 designated teacher would normally have overall responsibility for leading the process of target setting for looked-after children in school, should monitor and track how their attainment progresses, and ensure that identified actions are put in place. The designated teacher will help the school and the local authority that looks after the child to decide what arrangements work best in the development and review of the PEP.
In addition the PEP should have:
So that there can be an informed discussion at the statutory review of the care plan about the child’s progress in school, the designated teacher is responsible for ensuring that:
The school and the local authority which looks after the child have a shared responsibility for helping looked-after children to achieve and enjoy. The content, implementation and review of the PEP enable both the school and local authority to discuss how they can help achieve this. The PEP review should be done through a meeting involving the social worker, the young person, carers and others, such as the VSH.
The PEP must include the contact details of the Virtual School Head for the authority that looks after the child.
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.
As soon as a child becomes looked after (if not before), the child's social worker must notify the education service where the child is placed.
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 SEN adviser is informed.
The child's social worker must also inform the Designated Teacher at the child's school within 48 hours of the child becoming looked after and a Personal Education Plan meeting arranged. Regular liaison should then be maintained.
All Looked-after and previously looked after children are eligible for PP+ funding. This is additional funding provided to help improve the attainment of looked-after and previously looked-after children and close the attainment gap between this group and their peers. It is not a personal budget for individual children. The extra funding provided by the PP+ reflects the significant additional barriers faced by looked-after and previously looked-after children. The designated teacher has an important role in ensuring the specific needs of looked-after and previously looked-after children are understood by the school’s staff and reflected in how the school uses PP+ to support these children.
The PP+ for looked after children is managed by the VSH. However the PP+ for previously looked after children is managed by the school.
The PP+ is a key component in ensuring resources are available to support the child’s Personal Education Plan and the plan should clarify what the support is and how it will be delivered.
The first PEP should be in place as part of a Care Plan within 10 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 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 is excluded from school, the Head Teacher should be invited.
Where the child has no school place, the relevant education officer should be invited and asked to assist in the search for a school place. The SEN adviser should also be asked to assist as appropriate.
The first PEP should:
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.
N.B. The provision of education for pupils with statements of SEN can only be changed if the child's statement has been amended at an annual review.
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 4.3, 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 relevant Education Officer and, if appropriate, the SEN 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 7, When a Child has No School Place.
Where a child has an education, health and care plan (previously a statement of special educational needs), the Plan must be transferred – see the Children and Young People Aged 0-25 with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Procedure.
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 and previously looked after children.
Schools judged by Ofsted to be 'good' or 'outstanding' should be prioritised for Looked After and Previously 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.
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 previously 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.
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 should ensure that he/she is aware of the current position with regard to the Plan, including any additional support provided and by whom.
A meeting should be held at the new school as soon as practicable.
A new or updated PEP should be in place within the first 20 days of a child joining a new school. Subsequent PEP's should correspond with the Looked After Review cycle.
The first PEP in a new school should:
The completed PEP should be distributed to those invited to the meeting and the child's Independent Reviewing Officer.
Finding a school place is primarily the social worker's responsibility but may be delegated to or shared with others.
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.
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 education service (and the SEN adviser, 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.
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 education service in the area where the child is placed and request that a school be identified for the child as soon as possible. The assistance of the local education service (and the local SEN adviser if appropriate) should also be sought. Unless Section 7.4, Pupils with Education, Health and Care Plans 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.
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 Children and Young People Aged 0-25 with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Procedure.
All staff in the school should be aware of the systems in the school that support safeguarding. These systems should be explained to them as part of induction and there should be regular update training for all staff. This should include:
All staff must report any concerns regarding Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
Following induction, all staff should have read the child protection policy and have an awareness of safeguarding issues and be clear about how to report concerns and who they should report to. Staff should be aware that behaviours linked to issues such as drug taking, alcohol abuse, deliberately missing education and sexting put children in danger.
All children should feel and be safe in the school they attend. Looked after children are a vulnerable group. The aim of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of all children in education should be:
NOTE: Information does not refer simply to written or electronically stored records. It also refers to other kinds of information such as biometric data (for example, use of finger prints to receive school dinners or to enter buildings).
GDPR does not prevent, or limit, the sharing of information for the purposes of keeping children safe. Lawful and secure information sharing between schools, Children’s Social Care, and other local agencies, is essential for keeping children safe and ensuring they get the support they need.
When Designated Safeguarding Leads in schools are considering whether, or not, to share safeguarding information (especially with other agencies) it is considered best practice for them to record who they are sharing that information with and for what reason. If they have taken a decision not to seek consent from the data subject and/or parent/carer that should also be recorded within the safeguarding file.
All relevant information can be shared without consent if to gain consent would place a child at risk. Fears about sharing information must not be allowed to stand in the way of promoting the welfare and protecting the safety of children. As with all data sharing, appropriate organisational and technical safeguards should still be in place.
It is essential that social workers, carers and school staff, particularly the designated safeguarding lead, have absolute clarity with regard to who is and is not allowed to have access to any looked after child.
Any suspicion regarding any adult seeking contact with the child, either in person or through social media, during school hours should be reported to the designated lead immediately.
Any member of staff who has concerns about anyone working within the school (staff, volunteers) or undertaking work on or near school premises (contractors, advisors, catering and so forth) must inform a senior member of staff immediately.
The child’s social worker must then be informed and child protection procedures then followed. Staff will also need to be aware of issues such as forced marriage and FGM that may have led to some children becoming looked after.
For further information please go to: Part 5 of KCSIE - Child on Child Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment.
All staff should be aware that safeguarding issues can manifest themselves via peer on peer abuse. This can include (but is not limited to) bullying (including cyberbullying); sexual violence and sexual harassment; physical abuse such as hitting, kicking, shaking, biting, hair pulling, or otherwise causing physical harm; sexting and initiating/hazing type violence and rituals. Staff should be clear as to the school or college’s policy and procedures with regards to peer on peer abuse.
Looked after and previously looked after children can be particularly vulnerable to individual or group bullying either in person or through social media where they can be subject to verbal and physical violence and/or sexual violence and harassment.
Girls are at significantly greater risk of sexual harassment and assault than boys. Schools and colleges should ensure that their response to sexual violence and sexual harassment between children of the same identified gender is equally robust as it is for sexual violence and sexual harassment between children of different identified genders.
Schools must have procedures in place to protect all children, but particularly vulnerable groups of children such as looked after children, from unwanted and damaging interactions with their peers. It is important, as well, to be aware that looked after and previously looked after children may be the perpetrators of abuse. In this case the
school or college will have a difficult balancing act to consider. On the one hand to safeguard the victim (and the wider student body) and on the other hand providing the alleged perpetrator with an education, safeguarding support as appropriate and implementing any disciplinary sanctions.
There is a whole range of risk taking behaviours that looked after and previously looked after children could be involved in ranging from gang based activities to drug and alcohol abuse and/or radicalisation.
A child going missing from education is a potential indicator of abuse or neglect and such children are at risk of being victims of harm, exploitation or radicalisation.
School and college staff should follow their procedures for unauthorised absence and for dealing with children that go missing from education, particularly on repeat occasions, to help identify the risk of abuse and neglect, including sexual or criminal exploitation, and to help prevent the risks of going missing in future. It is essential that all staff are alert to signs to look out for and the individual triggers to be aware of when considering the risks of potential safeguarding concerns such as travelling to conflict zones, female genital mutilation and forced marriage.
Further information about children at risk of missing education can be found in the Children Missing Education Guidance.Where necessary, the Children Missing from Care Procedure must be followed - see the Wirral Safeguarding Children Board Procedures.
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.
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.
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 should liaise with the school, the child, residential staff/carers and any other relevant person to address:
Where necessary, the Children Missing from Care Procedure must be followed - see the Wirral Safeguarding Children Board Procedures.
Where a school has concerns about a Looked After and Previously 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:
Where a looked after child is excluded from school, the child's social worker must inform the child's independent reviewing officer.
Looked After and Previously Looked After Children have disproportionately high rates of exclusion and are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of exclusions. Headteachers should, as far as possible, avoid excluding Looked After and Previously Looked After Children. Exclusion from school should be a last resort for Looked After or Previously Looked After Children, 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 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 their return and how best this can be supported.
When a child is permanently excluded but is remaining in the same foster or residential placement, the social worker will liaise urgently with the local education service in which the child is living to find 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.
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 and arrange for her to receive support from the education authority for the area in which she lives and/or the school she attends.
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.
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 (2015): Statutory Guidance for Governing Bodies of Maintained Schools and Proprietors of Academies in England (DfE).
Looked-after and previously looked-after children are more likely to experience the challenge of social, emotional and mental health issues than their peers. For example, they may struggle with executive functioning skills, forming trusting relationships, social skills, managing strong feelings (e.g. shame, sadness, anxiety and anger), sensory processing difficulties, foetal alcohol syndrome and coping with transitions and change. This can impact on their behaviour and education.
Designated teachers are not expected to be mental health experts; however, they have an important role in ensuring they and other school staff can identify signs of potential issues and understand where the school can draw on specialist services, such as CAMHS and educational psychologists. In addition, many schools have an officer responsible for making links with mental health services, with whom designated teachers can work closely. Where such an officer is available, designated teachers should work with them, and the VSH to ensure that they, and other school staff, have the skills to:
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 and Previously Looked After children. 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 Looked After and Previously Looked After Children.
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: