Guidance for schools

Information for designated teachers and other school professionals to help them develop the best provision for children in care.

Information for heads and governors

Schools have a key role to play in improving the educational outcomes of children in care. There is no denying that quality teaching has the greatest impact on outcomes but children in care need more than this. They need understanding, high aspirations, staff that go the extra mile and organisations that work in partnership.

Guidance from the Department of Education:

Who are our children in care?

A child is in care by a local authority if they have been provided with accommodation for a continuous period of more than 24 hours, in the circumstances set out in sections 20 and 21 of the Children Act 1989, or is placed in the care of a local authority by virtue of an order made under part IV of the Act. Further definitions can be found in The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations (PDF, 1.7MB), but if you have any doubts about the status of a student in your school then contact the Virtual School.

The majority of children in care enter care through no fault of their own. They are likely to have experienced some form of abuse, neglect or trauma prior to entering care.

Most children in care live in foster care provided by the local authority or with a member of their extended family under a legal order. A smaller proportion live in children’s homes, or attend residential schools due to their complex needs.

Children in care tend to have higher levels of Special Educational Needs but often this is due to their Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs and not necessarily due to their cognitive abilities.

It is important to remember that an unaccompanied minor/unaccompanied asylum seeking child (UASC) is entitled to the same support as a child born in this country.

School admissions

Children in care have been given the highest priority within school admission arrangements. The admission requirements for children in care are set out in the School Admissions Code (PDF, 681KB) which applies to maintained schools and academies, including free schools.

Put simply, a child in care must be given a place in the school chosen irrespective of the current numbers on roll or in a class. The local authority that looks after a child can instruct a school in any local authority to admit a child in care. This includes using their powers of direction in a timely way to avoid delay.

Where a local authority considers that an academy will best meet the needs of any child, it can ask the academy to admit that child but has no power to direct it to do so. The local authority and the academy will usually come to an agreement, but if the academy refuses to admit the child, the local authority can ask the Secretary of State to intervene. See the academy admission request form for children in care.

The designated teacher (DT) for children in care

All schools must have a designated teacher, who is ideally a member of the senior leadership team.  The designated teacher is responsible for championing the educational needs of children in care in their school and ensuring they have good quality PEPs. They should be the main author and champion of the PEP within the school.

The designated teacher should maintain high expectations of children in care and have the time to understand their needs.

The statutory guidance relating to designated teachers provides an excellent summary of designated teacher good practice, and the Designated Teacher App provides further guidance and support.

The Virtual School offers professional development to designated teachers as well as the opportunity to network and exchange knowledge, understanding and good practice with other DTs.  Please see Designated Teacher Training Dates tab for further information.

School governors

Headteachers who prioritise the education and welfare of children in care ensure that the governing body is able to fulfil its duty to appoint a sufficiently senior and experienced designated teacher to promote the educational outcomes of children in care. The designated teacher must:

  • be a qualified teacher
  • be in a position to lead school staff
  • undertake appropriate training to fulfil the role
  • work closely with the virtual school

Governing bodies that prioritise the education and welfare of children in care identify a governor to take particular interest in the work of the school in relation to children in care, and meet regularly with the designated teacher. The chair of governors supports this ‘designated governor for children in care’ by ensuring they have access to training to fulfil their function and advise the governing body as a whole. Please contact the Virtual School to discuss training for governors.

Headteachers should ensure confidentiality about the personal details of children in care on the school roll while facilitating termly reports from the designated teacher to the governing body and a positive working relationship between the designated teacher and the designated governor for children in care.

Designated Teacher Training Events

The training events provide you with an opportunity to develop links with the Virtual School and with other Designated Teachers as we work together to increase the progress Suffolk’s children in care make in school. Even if you currently have no children in care at your school it is important that you stay up to date with processes and expectations should a child join you.

In addition, Ofsted is looking quite closely at the relationship schools have with the Virtual School and information gained at network meetings has proven very useful to many schools during inspections. Education outcomes for children in care are a priority for Ofsted in the Eastern Region and inspectors have told us that they will be looking closely at how a school prioritises work with children in care when making inspection judgements.

Training for Designated Teachers

 Summer Term 

For 2019-2020, we have identified a focus for each term’s DT network meeting. (for the autumn this was our new ePEP and for the spring, trauma informed approaches). This term’s focus will be inclusion with input from colleagues in Specialist Education Services. The session is also a forum for professional discussion and sharing of effective practice, developing quality Personal Education Plans (PEPs) and quality of provision for children in care (CiC).

Table showing details of summer term designated teacher sessions
VenueDateTimeCPD Online Code

Landmark House, 4 Egerton Road, Ipswich, IP1 5PF

8 June 2020 9:15am to 11:45am SVS/SUM20/4
West Suffolk House, Western Way, Bury St Edmunds, IP33 3YU 10 June 2020 9:15am to 11:45am SVS/SUM20/5
Riverside, 4 Canning Road, Lowestoft, NR33 0EQ 11 June 2020 9:15am to 11:45am SVS/SUM20/6

 Please use CPD Online to book on to your preferred session. Select either the Schools Choice or Multi Agency link before you log in to the system and use the event code to find the course you wish to attend. If there are any issues booking via CPD Online, please contact the Virtual School directly to let us know which meeting you wish to attend. For out of county schools please contact the Virtual School directly to let us know which meeting you wish to attend. 

The email address to contact us on is or our office number is 01473 260818 

Other Training Opportunities 

The Psychology and Therapeutic Service are able to offer a variety of attachment training options to schools and settings in Suffolk. Booking is available via CPD online.

Supporting fostered and adopted children in school as well as those who are the subject of a Special Guardianship Order - Training course on 13 March 2020, Lowestoft

Supporting fostered and adopted children in school as well as those who are the subject of a Special Guardianship Order -  Training course on 16 March 2020, Ipswich.

More information on the Psychology and Therapeutic Services in Suffolk is available here.

TISUK Trauma and Mental Health Informed Practitioner Training

Find out more information about the TISUK Trauma and Mental Health Informed Practitioner training (PDF, 677KB).

Information and resources for designated teachers

The designated teacher

The Virtual School is passionate about and committed to developing the role of the designated teacher in school.  This section of our webpage aims to provide useful resources to support designated teachers carry out their duties.

The role of the designated teacher

All school governing bodies are required to ensure that an appropriately qualified and experienced member of staff (the designated teacher) undertakes the responsibilities within the school to promote the educational achievement of children in care.  They must also ensure that they undertake training to carry out this duty.  Please find a link to the statutory guidance: The designated teacher for looked after and previously looked after children. 

Useful resources for designated teachers

The following resources have been developed by the Suffolk Virtual School to support the designated teacher to monitor provision and planning for children in care:

Exemplars for the Welfare Call ePEP:

Education, careers and pathway guidance for children in care, previously looked after children and care leavers:

The separation of the PEP process for Suffolk CiC:

Other useful resources

Self-evaluation and school inspection

The outcomes of children in care remains a priority for Ofsted in the Eastern Region and the Senior HMI has asked for, and been sent, a copy of the new Suffolk PEP template. The Senior HMI will issue it to inspection teams going in to Suffolk Schools so they know what to expect when they ask to see a sample of PEPs during inspections and/or meet with the designated teacher.

The Suffolk Virtual School has produced a self-evaluation framework to help schools prepare for inspection and for any meeting with an inspector about children in care.

Download the:

The Virtual School is regularly contacted by inspectors during school inspections and asked for an opinion on the school’s work with children in care.  

Please send us your completed self-evaluation as it will help us support you before or during inspection to Inspectors will look for evidence of a positive relationship between the school and the Virtual School and sharing your self-evaluation with us is a way to demonstrate this.

Successful classroom strategies for Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers

The Suffolk Virtual School has compiled a list of strategies for supporting pupils who are Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (Word doc, 14KB).

Sexual Behaviours Traffic Light Tool

Brook Young People publish the sexual behaviours traffic light tool to help professionals objectively assess the risk presented by what may appear to be inappropriate sexual behaviour. Please read the traffic light tool guidance (PDF, 104KB) before consulting the tool appropriate for a child's age.

Recognising and responding to need

 The Learn the Child set of case studies (PDF, 979KB) aims to support professionals to recognise and respond to the needs of vulnerable children and children in care.

The designated teacher app - Nimbl

The Suffolk Virtual School's guidance for designated teachers is available digitally through Pearson Publishing’s ‘nimbl’ platform. It is free to all of Suffolk’s maintained schools, academies and free schools.

Login details are available from the Suffolk Virtual School, email

How to use the app

To use the guidance on a computer and view it online, log in to nimbl using your school’s nimbl institution code, username and password.

Download the app

To use the app with your Android or Apple smartphone or tablet, go to the relevant app store (Google Play or the App Store) and search for ‘nimbl’. Download the free nimbl app and use your school’s login to use it.


MyLibrary is a collection of resources to support learning which runs on the nimbl app.  Designated teacher and pupil login information will be provided directly to schools with eligible pupils in KS2, KS3 and KS4 by Pearson Publishing.

Pearson Publishing

If you encounter any problems with access, please contact Pearson Publishing on 01223 350555 or Please do not contact Pearson Publishing for login details as these will only be provided through the Suffolk Virtual School.

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