1. Responsibilities of the Placing Authority
  2. Responsibilities of the Home
  3. Exclusion/Refusal to Attend School
  4. Safeguarding in Schools
  5. Arrangements for Education

    Further Information

1. Responsibilities of the Placing Authority

1.1 Corporate Responsibility for Promoting Educational Achievement

Obtaining a good education can be the key to vastly improving a child’s chances in life. Children in care can be particularly disadvantaged educationally. They will often have had their education disrupted as a result of changes of placements and circumstances, and may not have had the opportunity to develop to their full potential. Some children may have little sense of their abilities and may need encouragement to develop greater self-esteem.

The Placing Authority has a corporate responsibility for promoting the educational achievement of all Looked After Children under section 22 (3A) and 23ZZA of the Children Act 1989 (as amended by section 4 of the Children and Social Work Act 2017). This includes seeking a school or other education setting that is best suited to the child’s needs. The local authority’s  responsibilities as corporate parent apply wherever the child is placed.  For children who are not looked-after, parents/carers (or others with parental responsibility) are responsible for selecting the child's education placement.

Promoting the education of children with a social worker and children in kinship care arrangements: virtual school head role extension describes how local authorities are expected to comply with their duties to promote the education of looked-after children.

When commissioning a placement in a children's home the placing authority must establish how the Home will support the child's educational needs.

If a Looked After Child from a different local authority area is placed in the Home, the Virtual School Head of that local authority remains responsible for promoting the child’s educational achievement.

If the child is an unaccompanied migrant child, looked after by a local authority, they are entitled to the same local authority support as any other Looked After Child: to have a safe and stable placement; to receive the care that they need to thrive; and the support they need to fulfil their educational and other outcomes.

Some unaccompanied children who have recently arrived in the country may never have had access to education before. Appropriate education for unaccompanied children may include a period of time in a setting where their full educational needs can be assessed and integrated into their Personal Education Plan (PEP). They may need time to be prepared for and then become used to formal education, and their initial educational outcomes may include cultural orientation and life skills appropriate to their age. The Home will have a key role in this.

Delegation of Authority in regard to education should be recorded in the child's Placement Plan.

1.2 The Role of the Virtual School Head (VSH)

The VSH’s key role is to ensure there are effective systems to:

  • Make sure all relevant professionals are aware of the status of the child and their entitlement to support;
  • Maintain a roll of the authority’s school-age Looked After Children, together with information about the placements, attendance and educational progress;
  • Inform headteachers and Designated Teachers in schools if they have a child on roll who is 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;
  • Avoid drift or delay in providing suitable educational provision, including special educational provision, and unplanned termination of educational arrangements, through proactive multi-agency co-operation. Where this requires negotiation with other authorities this should be completed in a timely manner and with the best interest of the child as paramount;
  • Ensure the educational achievement of Children Looked After 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 Children through the authority's corporate parenting structures.

1.3 Personal Education Plans

The placing authority must ensure that all children have a school place and a Personal Education Plan (PEP) which promotes their educational achievement. The PEP must be drawn up before the child becomes Looked After (or within 10 working days in the case of an emergency placement), and be available for the first statutory review meeting and all subsequent LAC Reviews.

If it is a subsequent placement, the child should already have a PEP, if this is not the case, the Home's manager should obtain one from the social worker.

PEP’s should:

  • 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 Education Health and Care Plan (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.

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.

1.4 Pupil Premium Plus (PP+) Funding

Looked After and Previously Looked After Children are eligible for Pupil Premium Plus (PP+) funding. This is additional funding provided to help improve the attainment of Looked After Children and close the attainment gap between these children 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+ 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 PP+ for Looked After Children is managed by the Virtual School Head (VSH). However the PP+ for Previously Looked After Children is managed by the school.

1.5 Avoiding 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.

2. Responsibilities of the Home

This section provides guidance on the role and responsibilities of the Home's manager and staff.

2.1 Supporting Education

Children living in the Home should be attending school or other educational provision, be learning and making good progress. Staff should be ambitious for children and support them to attend and to do well in their education. 

Children should be in full-time education whilst they are of compulsory school age, unless their Personal Education Plan states otherwise. The Home must aim to support full time attendance at school unless the child’s relevant plan indicates this is not in their best interests.

The registered manager must ensure that each child has access to appropriate equipment, facilities and resources to support the child's learning, and that staff:

  • Help each child to achieve the child’s education and training targets, as recorded in the child's relevant plans;
  • Support each child's learning and development, including helping the child to develop independent study skills and, where appropriate, helping the child to complete independent study;
  • Understand the barriers to learning that each child may face and take appropriate action to help the child to overcome any such barriers;
  • Help each child to understand the importance and value of education, learning, training and employment;
  • Promote opportunities for each child to learn informally;
  • Maintain regular contact with each child's education and training provider, including engaging with the provider and the placing authority to support the child's education and training and to maximise the child's achievement;
  • Raise any need for further assessment or specialist provision in relation to a child with the child's education or training provider and the child's placing authority;
  • Help a child who is excluded from school, or who is of compulsory school age but not attending school, to access educational and training support throughout the period of exclusion or non-attendance and to return to school as soon as possible;
  • Help each child who is above compulsory school age to participate in further education, training or employment and to prepare for future care, education or employment;
  • Help each child to attend education or training in accordance with the expectations in the child’s relevant plans.

2.2 Participating in Education or Training

The necessary support must be given to children to enable them to access their education or training. Support may include, for example, putting in place practical arrangements such as transporting the child to school, support by staff to learn how to use public transport confidently and safely, or the use of technology to connect with online learning.

Where children are not participating in education because they have been excluded or are not on a school roll for some other reason, the registered person and staff must work closely with the placing authority so that the child is supported and enabled to resume full-time education as soon as possible. In the interim, the child should be supported to sustain or regain their confidence in education and be engaged in suitable structured activities. If no education place is identified by the placing authority, the registered person must challenge them to meet the child’s needs.

Key/Link Workers should ensure that children have adequate opportunities and support to complete homework and take part in extracurricular activities.

Children should be encouraged to join a library and have opportunities to access a range of educational support material, including books and specialist educational software.

Key/Link Workers, in the absence of parents, should attend all school events that would usually be attended by parents such as open days, school plays etc.

All young people are required to continue in education or training until their 18th birthday. Young people can choose how to participate. This can be through full time education, an apprenticeship or traineeship, or by combining full-time employment with part-time education or training. Whilst the duty is on the young person themselves, it is important that staff encourage the young person to continue their education or training and support them to develop the skills necessary to succeed in the option they choose. They can also direct them to the financial support that is available through the 16-19 bursary fund and to their local authority young people's services who can advise about the options available. For further information on the 16-19 Bursary Fund, see: Overview of 16 to 19 Bursary Fund.

Local authorities have a number of responsibilities in relation to education and training for 16-19 year olds, including ensuring that sufficient provision is available to meet their needs and supporting them to participate. They are also responsible for identifying young people covered by the duty to participate who are not in education or training. The Home should work with the local authority to make sure the young people are getting the support they need to participate. For further information, see Participation of Young People: Education, Employment and Training.

2.3 'Measureable Progress'

Progress in education can be measured and evidenced in various ways, including but not limited to: success in academic, vocational and other awards and qualifications; other formal attainment tests that are part of national assessment arrangements; and teachers’ ongoing assessments. Measurements of progress should include qualitative information such as how well the child is being prepared for their next stage of education, training or employment, and quantitative data where available. Other metrics can also be taken into account such as rewards and recognition of achievements, improvements in attendance and, where appropriate, reduction in behavioural incidents including exclusion. The child's personal circumstances, individual needs and educational history are relevant in considering what might constitute progress; but should not limit aspirations for them.

2.4 Understanding Barriers to Learning

For some children who have experienced severe trauma, have mental health difficulties or have been excluded or out of education for significant periods, it may be necessary to address and work through their past experiences and present needs before they can positively participate in learning activities and formal education. Staff will play a key role in supporting these children in line with their Personal Education Plan or EHC plan and recommendations from education and health professionals.

Where children have special educational needs (SEN), staff need to understand the specialist support children may need to be able to engage positively and achieve in education. Staff must be aware of whether a child has an EHC plan and the information in it.

2.5 Working in Partnership with Others

The Home must have proactive relationships with appropriate schools and educational support services, and should have processes that enable staff to share their experience and understanding of the child’s educational needs and progress with other services.

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.

PEPs should be reviewed by the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) at Looked After Reviews.

It is however important that staff work co-operatively and that Home  staff liaise on a regular basis with teaching staff or with external schools and educational support services, to ensure that educational programmes are appropriately differentiated. Key/Link Workers will have regular contact with teachers and co-operate with reviews of key plans e.g. SEN Support Plans, ensuring that education and placement/care plans are consistent with or complement each other.

Staff should have an understanding of how schools function, including the processes for admission to schools, the role of designated teachers for looked-after children and the role of the Virtual School Head. If a looked-after child from a different local authority area is placed in the home, the Virtual School Head of that local authority remains responsible for promoting the child's educational achievement.

Staff need to have the knowledge and skills to understand each child's education and training targets and their next steps for learning. If a child's progress is not in line  with their agreed targets or next steps, staff should seek expert advice from education professionals, such as the Virtual School Head, SENCO, learning mentor or teacher. Staff must challenge the child’s education or training provider if the child does not receive sufficient support to progress as outlined in their relevant plans.

Staff should act as effective advocates for or on behalf of a child who may be experiencing difficulties with education or training matters including, but not limited to, attainment, admissions, attendance or behaviour, as a good parent would do.

Staff need to know, for every child, what level of decision making has been delegated to them in relation to the child’s education. These delegations should be recorded in the child’s Placement Plan and it is the joint responsibility of the registered person and the placing authority to agree this at the time of placement. The Education Act 1996 defines 'parent' as including a person who has care of the child in question. Therefore, for a looked-after child, their residential care worker may be deemed a parent for the purposes of education law. This means that they should be treated like a parent with respect to information provided by a school about the child's progress; should be invited to meetings about the child; and should be able to give consent to decisions regarding school activities and trips unless there are good reasons not to delegate these decisions to them. For further information, see Consents and Delegated Authority Procedure.

2.6 The Home Learning Environment

The ethos of the Home should support each child to learn, emphasising the value of independent study and reading for enjoyment. The Home must make available suitable facilities, equipment and resources for learning and ensure that the Home's routines do not form barriers to children wishing to use the Home’s resources to study. Staff must support children with home study by encouraging them to learn independent study skills and helping them to practice those skills.

Children should have access to a computer and the internet to support their education and learning, unless there are specific safeguarding reasons why this would be inappropriate. In such cases, the Home should consider whether and how it can support the child to access a computer and the internet safely.

Where a children's home is also an education provider, the home should have a process in place for liaising in regard to the support for the child and to ensure the child’s needs are met holistically. Where there is disagreement/conflict over the best interests of a child, the Home’s Registered Manager should seek to resolve this and include the child’s social worker where necessary.

3. Exclusion/Refusal to Attend School

On rare occasions young people may either be unable to attend school as a result of exclusion or may choose not to attend school, school refusal. Exclusions are either fixed term; i.e. for a specified number of days after which the young person will return to their school; or permanent; where it is not intended that the young person will return to that particular school.

Due to the close working relationships established between care staff and school based staff it is likely that staff from the Home will be aware of any difficulties the young person is experiencing or causing within the educational setting prior to exclusion being used by the school. At this stage staff from the Home will liaise closely with school staff in order to provide additional support to the young person during this period of difficulty. All action taken at this time will be recorded in the young person's individual records and the Personal Education Plan (PEP) will be amended to reflect the changed circumstances.

However, there may well be situations whereby the school has no option but to exclude the young person without prior warning, for example in response to an isolated incident of a very serious nature. Examples of this would include a serious assault on another pupil or member of staff or the taking of illegal substances into school.

When young people have been excluded from school or have refused to attend, staff from the Home will ask the school to provide study materials for the young person to complete during the period of their exclusion or refusal. Staff from the Home will assist and supervise the young person in completing this work during normal school hours.

It is important that any young person who is excluded, and also other young people in the Home do not view exclusion from school as an extended holiday. A criticism often levelled at residential care is that too frequently young people have no routine, they are frequently not at school, get up when they please, and at best, spend their days unoccupied and bored. Establishing a balanced approach for young people will achieve positive outcomes.

On those occasions where a young person is permanently excluded from school staff from the Home will work closely with the placing authority to identify an appropriate alternative educational placement. Whilst an alternative placement is being sought, the Home  will endeavour to provide a short term educational package.

All such programmes would be delivered under the supervision of a qualified teacher and would be appropriately differentiated.

4. Safeguarding in Schools

Looked After Children are a vulnerable group. Staff, in the school, should all be aware of the systems in place that will support safeguarding. The aim of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of all children in education should be:

  • Protecting them from maltreatment, including emotional, physical abuse and harm; bullying and cyberbullying; upskirting [1]; sexting [2] (also known as youth produced sexual imagery); sexual harassment, etc.
  • Preventing any impairment of their mental or physical 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.

[1] Upskirting is against the law. See also: GOV.UK, Upskirting: know your rights
[2] NSPCC, Sexting: advice for professionals

An Ofsted thematic review (Review of Sexual Abuse in Schools and Colleges (Ofsted)) identified substantial levels of sexual harassment for both girls (90%) and boys (nearly 50%)  – usually in unsupervised settings. Sexual harassment and sexual violence exist on a continuum and may overlap. Where the latter occurs, there could be a criminal offence committed.

The Ofsted Review also recognised a wide variety of behaviours that children and young people told (them) happened online including:

  • Receiving unsolicited explicit photographs or videos, for example ‘dick pics’;
  • Sending, or being pressured to send, nude and semi-nude photographs or videos (‘nudes’);
  • Being sent or shown solicited or unsolicited online explicit material, such as pornographic videos.

Keeping Children Safe in Education notes that with regard to sexual harassment, all staff working with children are advised to maintain an attitude of ‘it could happen here’ and must respond to all reports and concerns about sexual violence and/or sexual harassment, including online behaviour and incidents that have happened outside the school/college. This could include picking-up information from other pupils.

All staff in the Home should ensure they give children time and space to check with them that school is going satisfactorily – not necessarily relying on their school to make them aware. The Ofsted report reflected that schools were often unaware of the levels of sexual harassment.

Nevertheless, the Ofsted thematic Review also reflected that children said they did not bring events to the attention to staff for fear of losing control over events and the subsequent consequences. Staff should carefully consider this balance of judgement, but always be prepared to monitor and evaluate events with the child to prevent the likelihood of significant harm to them.

The Home’s staff should discuss serious issues further with the child’s social worker when concerned; it may be that there is a safeguarding issue (see Referring Safeguarding Concerns Procedure).

There should be staff (usually the Designated Teacher or the SEN coordinator) who will be able to share with you information about:

  • The school’s 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.

Staff should be made aware how to share and respond to any allegations and concerns about an adult’s behaviour, no matter how small, and who this should be reported to and that this should be done without delay.

Staff codes of conduct and safeguarding policies should explain what constitutes an allegation and what a low-level concern is and the importance of sharing concerns.

For supporting resources on low level concerns, see also: NSPCC, Responding to Low Level Concerns in Education.

They will also explain that staff must report any concerns regarding Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), modern slavery, trafficking or exploitation.

5. Arrangements for Education

To follow.

Further Information

Legislation, Statutory Guidance and Government Non-Statutory Guidance

Promoting the Education of Looked After Children and Previously Looked After Children (DfE)

Promoting the education of children with a social worker and children in kinship care arrangements: virtual school head role extension

Keeping Children Safe in Education (DfE)

Designated Teacher for Looked-after and Previously Looked-after Children (DfE)