The vital role of foster carers and residential care staff
The role of the carer is paramount in supporting the education of children in care. Carers should ensure that the child has appropriate access to learning and is encouraged to make best use of it and fulfil their potential. Though not always explicitly stated in the placement agreement this should include:
- working closely with the child’s school or other educational placement;
- taking an active interest in the child’s homework;
- encouraging a child to value learning;
- supporting a child’s attendance at school;
- advocating for the child’s individual needs.
The REES Centre, based at The University of Oxford, carry out research about the role of foster carers and the education of children in care.
The Fostering Network also have resources on their website. In particular, their London Fostering Achievement work is of interest.
The Suffolk Virtual School offers guidance to adults working with children at risk of attachment issues on its page of advice relating to emotional health and wellbeing.
Suffolk's Education Champions
Suffolk’s Education Champions are experienced carers with a strong interest and passion for the education of young people. We have a number of Education Champions across the county with varying interests and areas of expertise, including Primary, Secondary and SEN. The Education Champions are available to support Suffolk Carers and provide a friendly and flexible service to support Carers to support their young people.
The support they can offer includes: being a listening ear, a sounding board to try out new ideas, support with attending school meetings and general education advice and guidance.
They also have access to some additional education resources and are happy and willing to share their experience and knowledge, whilst fully understanding the day to day challenges.
Education Champions attend the support groups across the county and can be accessed directly at these or by contacting Heidi Austin, who oversees and supports the Education Champions, by emailing email@example.com.
The vital role of social workers
Social workers have a key role to play in supporting the education of children in care. In Suffolk the Personal Education Plan (PEP) is divided into two parts. The child's social worker is responsible for co-ordinating and facilitating the PEP meeting and the child's Designated Teacher is responsible for completing the online PEP document every term that the child is in care.
View more information on the social worker's role in the PEP process (PDF, 283KB).
There is a clear link between stability and educational outcomes so it is important to avoid schools moves unless absolutely necessary and it is always advisable to speak to your Virtual School Head first. They will help to identify the most appropriate school and ensure it is a good quality school with the right support for children in care.
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, 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 home local authority 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: Academy admission request form for children in care.
The Designated Teacher
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.
The designated teacher is often the main point of contact for children in care in schools and they will usually attend meetings and reviews. In some larger schools parts of the role may be delegated to a pastoral member of staff such as a head of year or a mentor.
The Personal Education Plan
The Personal Education Plan (PEP) is central to improving educational outcomes for children in care. When used effectively, it is a tool to gather views of school, home and from the child or young person in order to identify strengths and barriers and put in place a plan of action to help support the education of a child in care.
The Pupil Premium Grant (PPG) for Children in Care
The Pupil Premium for children in care must be managed by the Virtual School Head to improve the attainment and progress of children in care in accordance with the latest DfE Conditions of Grant, and any supplementary departmental advice issued, such as the document relating more specifically to the Virtual School Head’s responsibilities.
Though the grant totals £1,900 per child in care per year the amount of funding used by the Virtual School, or the school the child is on the roll of, will depend on their needs. That may mean that more or less of the total is spent on an individual child so that larger sums can be spent on a child with greater needs. The Virtual School Head will usually approve funding interventions and support based on evidence that they are likely to have a positive impact. The best source of evidence of what makes a difference can be found at the Education Endowment Foundation website.
Social workers and carers should influence the way in which Pupil Premium is spent through the personal education plan process. The PEP requires schools to tell the Virtual School how they plan to spend the funding they receive and this should be reviewed at PEP meetings.