Guidance for parents and carers

Useful information for carers and parents of children in care and children who have achieved permanence.

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 has resources on their website. In particular, their London Fostering Achievement work is of interest. 

Carer Support Sessions

Carers play an invaluable role in supporting our young people to achieve the best possible outcomes at school.

The education landscape is changing as are the demands on young people. The more equipped you are as a carer, the more your young person or people will get out of their school experience.

We are introducing a termly workshop session for carers to help you to get the best of your foster child or children. The aim of each session is to provide carers with essential information and support about how to maximise the academic success and educational experience of each young person.

Each term’s workshop will have a specific focus, giving you key information about an aspect of education followed by some hands-on input around an aspect of teaching and learning that will help you to help your foster child or children to at least achieve their potential.

The sessions will provide bespoke and focused support for carers of children within both primary and secondary settings.

Summer Term 2020

Table showing details of summer term carer support sessions
VenueDateTimeCPD Online Code
Landmark House, 4 Egerton Road, Ipswich, IP1 5PF Monday 8 June 2020 12:30pm - 02:30pm

SVS/SUM20/1

West Suffolk House, Western Way, Bury St Edmunds, IP33 3YU Wednesday 10 June 2020 12:30pm - 02:30pm

SVS/SUM20/2

Riverside, 4 Canning Road, Lowestoft, NR33 0EQ Thursday 11 June 2020 12:30pm - 02:30pm

SVS/SUM20/3

Please use CPD Online to book on to your preferred session. Select either the Social Care (CYP) 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. 

The email address to contact us on is suffolkvirtualschool@suffolk.gov.uk or our office number is 01473 260818 

The Essential Guide: How to help your foster child to achieve great things at GCSE

We know how vital a role carers play in helping our children to achieve at school. We have written a booklet for carers to support them to support their child or children to achieve the best outcomes possible during and at the end of secondary school.

You can download The Essential Guide: How to help your foster child to achieve great things at GCSE here (PDF, 1.9MB).

It contains lots of practical advice and guidance about your role in the PEP process, revision and homework, parents evenings and reports, as well as up to date information about the education landscape in light of several key changes to GCSEs.

We have also separated the sections out for easy access to the information and guidance you may be looking for:

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 heidi.austin@suffolk.gov.uk.

Suffolk Libraries

Did you know that all children in care aged 0 to 18 years old are eligible for a free Suffolk Libraries card with no overdue charges for late items? 

Find out more information about library cards and welcome packs for children in care.

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 coordinating 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. 

School Admissions

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 is currently £2,300 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.

Previously looked after children

Since September 2018, the Virtual School is able to offer advice and information regarding the education of children living in Suffolk who were previously in care and are now subject to an adoption, special guardianship or child arrangement order. Not having parental responsibility for these children, the Virtual School would not be entitled to monitor these pupils and the duties do not extend to taking on case work or actions.  However, we aim to empower all our parents with the advice, information and expertise that we have gathered whilst supporting our children in care to ensure that all the children in our remit can fulfil their potential in school.

PAC-UK have published guidance on the Pupil Premium Plus for looked after and previously looked after children. You can view the PAC-UK guidance here.

Unofficial exclusions

You should not be asked to collect your child from school during the school day for any reason other than them being unwell. The exception to this is a formal exclusion which requires written notification. Also, you should not be asked to keep your child at home unless they are unwell or excluded. On some very rare occasions a part-time offer of education might be appropriate and can be agreed as a part of a managed transition to full time provision. This should always be time limited and all parties must be in agreement with it.  If you are asked to collect your child or keep them at home for any reason other than illness, and there hasn’t been a formal exclusion or agreement to a reduced timetable, this is an unofficial exclusion.

An exclusion from school has to be carried out formally and in accordance with the Department of Education guidance.

If you have any concerns about this you can email the Unofficial Exclusion Alert unofficialexclusions@suffolk.gov.uk for support, guidance and action from the relevant professionals.

 

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