SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter applies to all Looked After 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.
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.
This chapter was updated in June 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. A link was added to the National Curriculum Assessments at Key Stage 2.
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).
- Duty to Promote the Educational Achievement of Looked After and Previously Looked After Children
- The Personal Education Plan (PEP)
- Avoidance of Disruption in Education
- When a Child First becomes Looked After
- When a Child Moves to a New Local Authority
- When a Child Needs or Joins a New School
- When a Child has No School Place
- Safeguarding the Looked After Child at School
- Celebrating a Child's Achievements
- When a Child is Absent from School
- School Exclusions
- When a Young Woman becomes Pregnant
- School Transport
- Children and Young People with Medical Conditions
- Mental Health
- Training for those Involved in the Care and Education of Looked After and Previously Looked After Children
- Information Sharing
|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.|
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.
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:
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).
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 Children 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 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 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 Children 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:
- 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 and Previously 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 and Previously 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;
- Ensure the educational achievement of children Looked After and Previously Looked After Children 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 and Previously Looked After Children 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 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.
Promoting the Educational Achievement of Previously Looked After Children
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 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.
2. The Personal Education Plan (PEP)
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 subsequent LAC Reviews.
All looked after children must have a care plan, of which the PEP is an integral part. The PEP (pre-school age to 18) should be initiated as part of the care plan. 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.
- Identify developmental and educational needs in relation to skills, knowledge, subject areas and experiences;
- Set short and long-term educational attainment targets agreed in partnership with the child and the carer where appropriate;
- Include a record of planned actions, including milestones on homework, extra tuition and study support, that the school and others will take to promote the educational achievement of the child, based on an assessment of their educational needs;
- Include information on how the child’s progress is to be rigorously monitored;
- Record details of specific interventions and targeted support that will be used to make sure personal education targets are met, especially at the end of Key Stage 2 in relation to English and mathematics, and at Key Stage 4 in achieving success in public examinations;
- Say what will happen, or is already happening, to put in place any additional support which may be required - e.g. possible action to support special educational needs involving the SENCO, educational psychologist, or local authority education services (information contained within a EHC plan does not have to be duplicated in the PEP, a reference is sufficient as long as the plans work together to meet overall needs);
- Set out information on what will happen or is already happening to identify and support any mental health needs relevant to the child’s education;
- Set out how a child’s aspiration and self-confidence is being nurtured, especially in consideration of longer-term goals towards further and higher education, work experience and career plans. Discussions about longer-term goals should start early and ideally well before Year 9 (age 13-14) at school. High aspirations are crucial to successful planning for the future. They should focus on young person’s strengths and capabilities and the outcomes they want to achieve;
- Include the child’s views on how they see they have progressed and what support they consider to be most effective;
- Be a record of the child’s academic achievements and participation in the wider activities of the school and other out of school learning activities (e.g. sporting, personal development);
- Provide information which helps all who are supporting the child’s educational achievement to understand what works for them, helping to substitute for the role that parents might otherwise provide; and
- Have clear accountability in terms of who within the school is responsible for making the actions identified in the plan happen.
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:
- An up to date and accurate chronology of education and training history which provides a record of the child's educational experience and progress in terms of National Curriculum Assessments, including information about educational institutions 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;
- A clear statement clarifying existing arrangements for education and training, including details of any special educational provision and any other provision to meet the child's educational or training needs and promote educational achievement;
- A description of any planned changes to existing arrangements and provision to minimise disruption;
- A description of the child's leisure interests;
- A description of the role of the appropriate person and any other person who cares for the child in promoting the child's educational achievements and leisure interests;
- A description of how the Pupil Premium is assisting the child’s progress and applications for bursaries should be discussed as part of PEP Meetings;
- Details of who will take the plan forward, with timescales for action and review are an essential aspect of all PEP planning.
Monitoring and reviewing the PEP in school
- Designated teachers should work closely with other staff in school to make sure the child’s progress is rigorously monitored and evaluated. They should be able to:
- Judge whether the teaching and learning and intervention strategies being used are working to support achievement and wellbeing; and
- Know whether the young person is likely to meet the attainment targets in their PEP.
- If the young person is not on track to meet targets, the designated teacher should be instrumental in agreeing the best way forward with them in order to make progress and ensure that this is reflected in the PEP.
- A child’s care plan is reviewed regularly by the authority that looks after them, the first being within 20 working days of being Accommodated. The IRO will ask about the child’s educational progress as part of the overall care plan review and should have access to the most up-to-date PEP. (See Looked After Reviews Procedure).
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:
- They review the PEP before the statutory review of the care plan, it is up-to-date and contains any new information since the last PEP review, including whether agreed provision is being delivered;
- The PEP is clear about what has or has not been taken forward, noting what resources may be required to further support the child and from where these may be sourced; and
- They pass the updated PEP to the child’s social worker and VSH ahead of the statutory review of the care plan.
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.
For further information see: Process for Personal Education Plan (PEP).
3. Avoidance of Disruption in Education
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.
- 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 the child is accommodated (where possible) and where appropriate where the child is subject to a Care Order);
- The educational provision will promote educational achievement and is consistent with the PEP;
- The Independent Reviewing Officer has been consulted;
- The Designated Teacher at the child's school has been consulted.
Other than in Key Stage 4, where the Local Authority proposes making any change to the child's placement that would have the effect of disrupting the arrangements made for education and training, they must ensure that other arrangements are made for education or training that meet the child's needs and are consistent with the PEP.
4. When a Child First becomes Looked After
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.
4.2 Pupil Premium Plus Funding
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.
4.3 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 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:
- 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;
- 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 SEN Support Plan or other school-based 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;
- 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 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 Education, Health and Care Plans can only be changed if the child's statement has been amended at an annual review.
5. 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 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.
Pupils With Education, Health and Care Plans
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.
6. When a Child Needs or Joins a New School
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 and Previously Looked After Children have have been given the highest priority within school admission arrangements. VSHs, working with education settings, should implement pupil premium arrangements for 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 or is 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.
6.2 Pupils with Education, Health and Care Plans
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 they are aware of the current position with regard to the Plan, including any additional support provided and by whom.
6.3 The First PEP in a new school
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:
- Identify the child's immediate and priority needs (e.g. English as an additional language, literacy support, behaviour management, mental health issues));
- Establish contact between residential staff/carer, 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 - perhaps including the Placement Information Record;
- Clarify how PP+ will be used to support the child;
- 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 or at the Review; but also term dates, parents' evenings, school target setting days, reviews of the SEN Support Plans, annual reviews of Education, Health and Care Plans etc.)
The completed PEP should be distributed to those invited to the meeting and the child's Independent Reviewing Officer.
7. When a Child has No School Place
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.
7.2 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 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.
7.3 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 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.
7.4 Pupils with Education, Health and Care Plans
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.
8. Safeguarding the Looked After Child at School
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:
- The child protection policy and procedures;
- The Data Protection Act and safeguarding;
- The child behaviour policy;
- The staff behaviour policy (code of conduct);
- The safeguarding response to children who go missing from education.
All staff must report any concerns regarding Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
8.1 Child protection policy and procedures
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:
- Protecting them from maltreatment;
- Preventing any impairment of their health or development;
- Ensuring they are growing up in circumstances consistent with safe and effective care;
- Being proactive in enabling them to experience positive outcomes.
8.2 Data protection and safeguarding
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.
8.3 Protecting Looked After Children from adults that may pose a risk to them and/or other children in the school
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 Safeguarding 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.
8.4 Protecting looked after children from peer on peer abuse
For further information, please see: 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.
8.5 Assisting Looked After Children to reduce risk taking behaviour
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 - Statutory guidance for local authorities.
Where necessary, the Children Missing from Care Procedure must be followed - see the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board Procedures Manual, Joint Protocol for Safeguarding Children Missing from Home or Care in Oxfordshire.
9. 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.
10. When a Child is Absent from School
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:
- 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.
If the child is missing from school and/or home please see Section 8, Safeguarding the Looked After Child at School.
11. School Exclusions
Where a school has concerns about a Looked After child's 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:
- Consider 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;
- Make any additional arrangements to support the child's on-going education in the event of an exclusion.
Where a looked after child is excluded from school, the child's social worker must inform the child's Independent Reviewing Officer.
11.1 Fixed term exclusions
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 his/her return and how best this can be supported.
11.2 Permanent exclusions
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.
12. 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 and arrange for her to receive support from the education authority for the area in which she lives and/or the school she attends.
13. 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.
14. 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. The Designated Medical Officer can support schools with these duties. For more information see Supporting Pupils at School with Medical Conditions (2014): Statutory Guidance for Governing Bodies of Maintained Schools and Proprietors of Academies in England (DfE).
15. Mental Health
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:
- Identify signs of potential mental health issues, and know how to access further assessment and support where necessary, making full use of the SENCO and local authority support team where applicable; and
- Understand the impact trauma, attachment disorder and other mental health issues can have on Looked After and Previously Looked After Children and their ability to engage in learning. It is also important that the Designated Teacher and other school staff are aware that these issues will continue to affect Previously Looked After Children, and that the school will need to continue to respond appropriately to their needs.
16. Training for those Involved in the Care and Education of Looked After and Previously Looked After Children
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.
17. 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 looked after child's educational record should be transferred with them to the new school.
For further information regarding sharing of information please see Section 8.2, Data protection and safeguarding.