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3.5.1 Education of Looked After Children (including Personal Education Plans)

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

Promoting the education of looked after children: statutory guidance for local authorities (July 2014)

The role and responsibilities of the designated teacher for looked after children: statutory guidance for school governing bodies, (2009) 

Supporting Looked After Learners: a practical guide for school governors (2006) 

School Admissions Code: statutory guidance for admission authorities, governing bodies, local authorities, schools adjudicators and admission appeals panels (2014) 

Exclusion from maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units in England: a guide for those with legal responsibilities in relation to exclusion, (2012)

Alternative Provision: statutory guidance for local authorities (January 2013)

The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 2: care planning, placement and case review (revised 2015) 

Special educational needs and disability code of practice 0-25, 2015 (SEND Code of Practice)

Keeping Children Safe in Education (2015)

Mental health and behaviour in schools: departmental advice (DfE 2016)

Please note that all quotations are from, "Promoting the education of looked after children," statutory guidance for local authorities, July 2014.

RELEVANT FORMS (available in the Documents Library)

  1. LAC change of school form
  2. Preparation for PEPs forms
  3. Proforma PEP Agenda
  4. Proforma Request for individual teacher information in preparation for PEPs

AMENDMENT

In October 2016, a link was added in the Scope box to ‘Mental Behaviour in Schools: departmental advice’ (DfE, 2016).


Contents

  1. Duty to Promote the Educational Achievement of Looked After Children
  2. The Personal Education Plan (PEP)
  3. Pupil Premium Plus
  4. When a Child Becomes Newly Looked After
  5. Avoidance of Disruption in Education
  6. Sourcing new education provision
  7. Attendance at School
  8. Exclusion from School
  9. When a Looked After Young Woman becomes Pregnant


1. Duty to Promote the Educational Achievement of Looked After Children

The Children and Families Act 2014 amends section 22 of the Children Act 1989 to require every local authority in England to appoint an officer employed by the authority, or another authority, to make sure that its duty to promote the educational achievement of its looked after children is properly discharged. This person is most usually referred to as the Virtual School Head (VSH).

Directors of Children’s Services and Lead Members for Children’s Services should ensure that:

  • Closing the attainment and progress gap between looked after children and their peers and creating a culture of high aspirations for them is a top priority;
  • 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 that they 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 children and is able to respond effectively to such issues.

The VSH 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 children, including those placed out-of-authority.

As part of their duties, the VSH will quality assure Personal Education Plans on a quarterly basis. They will also report on LAC education to the appointed Cabinet Member and to the Corporate Parenting Board.

Governing bodies of schools and colleges must appoint a Designated Teacher to promote the educational achievement of children who are Looked After and to ensure that this person has appropriate training.

Governing bodies should ensure that appropriate staff have the information they need in relation to a child’s Looked After legal status and contact arrangements with those with Parental Responsibility. They should also have information about the child’s care arrangements and the levels of authority delegated to the carer. Both the Designated Teacher and the safeguarding lead should have details of the child’s social worker, Independent Reviewing Officer, the Hillingdon Virtual School Practitioner and the name of the Virtual School Head.


2. The Personal Education Plan (PEP)

The Personal Education Plan (PEP) is the central platform for the education of Looked After Children and is an integral part of each child’s Care Plan. The PEP 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 Child Review.

All Looked After Children, from pre-school to age 18, must have a Personal Education Plan, whether or not currently in education, as it provides, an evolving record of what needs to happen for looked after children to enable them to make expected progress and fulfil their potential. The PEP should reflect the importance of a personalised approach to learning that meets the identified educational needs of the child, raises aspirations and builds life chances.

The social worker has a statutory duty to initiate the PEP, ensure that it contains a summary of the child’s current attainment and progress and gives details of who will take the plan forward, with specific timescales for action and review.

In Hillingdon, whilst not negating the social worker’s statutory duties, the Virtual School Practitioners will proactively assist the social worker in carrying out these duties; they will chair, record, track, monitor and ensure PEPs are timely and effective.

An exception to this is the initial PEP when a child first comes into care which must be initiated, recorded and disseminated by the social worker within the first 10 days of the child coming into care. They will notify the Virtual School before or no later than the first day that a child becomes looked after, and record the initial PEP on the e-PEP system within 5 days of the meeting. When preparing for an initial PEP of a child who has a school place, the social worker should follow the procedure which follows, except that preparation will need to be done in less than two weeks in order to meet timescales.

After the initial PEP, a PEP Review is held each term (3 times per year) for each Looked After Child.

In preparation for each PEP meeting, an agenda (see proforma) should be sent to all likely participants at least two weeks beforehand, and request for teacher information forms (see proforma) should be sent to the Designated Teacher at the same time in order to acquire the information and data required for the meeting. In addition, the child’s social worker, unless they specifically delegate this duty to either the carer/residential home key worker and the designated teacher, should assist the child in preparing for the PEP by either filling in appropriate questions from the “Child’s Views” section of e-PEP or a paper form (see proforma).

If a decision has been taken to hold the PEP simultaneously with the Annual Review of the EHC Plan or Statement of SEN, the specific information for the PEP must still be gathered. PEPs should never be held simultaneously with LAC Reviews; they should be held beforehand so that the written record is available for the IRO to read before the LAC Review.

Each PEP Review must contain the following which is then recorded in the e-PEP system:

  • A review of the targets and action plan of the previous PEP;
  • The child’s voice. All Looked After Children should be encouraged to participate in their PEP. Where this is not possible, perhaps because of the child’s age, members of the team around the child, the carer, teacher and/or social worker, must ensure their views are recorded beforehand and represented at the meeting;
  • The child’s aspirations and long term wishes for the future;
  • Attendance and punctuality to school;
  • Prior, current, predicted and target attainment. As each school may record assessment as they see fit, the school’s assessment framework must be either recorded in the PEP or in a document attached to the PEP as a reference point. The current age-related attainment of the child should then be recorded in the e-PEP system as either Significantly Above, Above, Meeting, Below or Significantly Below;
  • The progress being made by the child. This should specify the rate of progress the child is making from their attainment at the end of the previous school year and record whether the child is making progress Significantly Above, Above, Meeting, Below or Significantly Below their peers;
  • Feedback from each teacher or member of staff who teaches or supports the child, giving specific details of how they are learning, their strengths and weaknesses and what can be done to support and accelerate progress;
  • If the child has an Education, Health and Care Plan or Statement of Special Educational Need, the extent to which the child’s needs, as outlined in the Plan or Statement, are being met should be discussed, keeping in mind that any changes relating to the content of the Plan or Statement may only be made at the Annual Review;
  • Support and intervention strategies, both being provided or needed by the child in school and out of school. These should include not just support for their academic progress but also for any factors that may be hindering their learning, such as personal, social, emotional or behavioural difficulties;
  • Extra-curricular activities and enrichment activities already provided or which will be commissioned by school, social care, care placement, virtual school;
  • Planning and arrangements for transition to the next key stage;
  • Use of the Pupil Premium Grant or 16-19 Bursary;
  • Targets to be achieved by the next PEP Review, the end of the year or key stage;
  • A SMART action plan, including progress monitoring, of each of the areas identified against development and educational needs;
  • Arrangements for the flow of information, dates of forthcoming events such as parents’/carers’ evenings, options evenings, other school events etc.

The PEP must be recorded on the e-PEP system within 10 working days of the meeting. Notification of this should be shared with those who have access to e-PEP and a copy of the record shared with those who do not.


3. Pupil Premium Plus

The Department for Education allocates a sum of money per child aged 4 to 15 for the number of children looked after for a at least one day as recorded in LAC Data Return SSDA903 of the previous year. This is called the Pupil Premium Plus.

This grant allocation must be managed by the Virtual School Head in the authority that looks after those children to be used for the benefit of the child's educational needs as described in their PEP. Allocation decisions will be based on discussion with the child's education setting, usually the Designated Teacher, about how the child will benefit from the funding. The local authority is not allowed to carry forward any unspent funding into the next financial year.


4. When a Child Becomes Newly Looked After

When a child who already has a school place becomes Looked After, the child’s social worker must notify both the school that the child attends and the Hillingdon VSH within 24 hours.

Once a child has become looked after, the social worker must hold the initial PEP within 10 days of the child having become looked after and the PEP must be written up on the e-PEP system, together with all other information required, before the first LAC Review. Once the PEP has been recorded, they must notify the child’s Virtual School Practitioner that this is so, and give a copy to the carer or residential home manager.

When the social worker carries out the initial PEP, they must record all required information in Sections A and B of the e-PEP system in partnership with the child’s school.


5. Avoidance of Disruption in Education

When finding a care placement for the child, every effort must be made to avoid the child having to move school. This is especially true in Year 6 and essential in Years 10 and 11, Key Stage 4.

Where a child is in Key Stage 4 (years 10 and 11) everything possible should be done to maintain the child in her/his existing school and a move should only be made in exceptional circumstances. Where it is impossible for the child to remain in his/her existing educational placement the care placement should not, except in an emergency, be made unless the education provision is made at the same time. (Care Planning Regulations).

When it is a necessity for a child to be moved care and education placement in Year 9, 10 or 11, it must be planned for such placements to last until the end of Year 11 (GCSEs). Considering the Care Planning Regulations and the Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities, July 2014, all care planning must have regard to this and, where a placement is costly, sufficient funds should be available to maintain the child until the end of Year 11.

If a change in educational placement is thought necessary for a Hillingdon Looked After Child in Year 6 or Years 10 or 11, the Hillingdon VSH must be consulted. This is done by completing the LAC Education Placement Change Form (see proforma). Their views should be given appropriate weight as part of decisions on placement moves.


6. Sourcing New Education Provision

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.

The looked after child’s placement plan should make explicit who has delegated authority on choice of a school: the carer, residential home manager or the social worker. The Virtual School Practitioner does not have such responsibility but will advise at each step of the way.

If it is not possible to maintain the child’s existing educational placement, the child’s new education placement should be arranged in consultation with the VSH at the same time as the care placement. Unless in an emergency, no child should be placed in a care placement without an education placement ready for them to access.

Where a child newly taken into care is without education provision, such provision must be sourced within 20 working days.

All education placements must be appropriate to the needs of the child. This means:

  • They should be full-time places (23 to 25 hours per week);
  • They should offer a broad and balanced curriculum;
  • They should only be in schools judged by Ofsted to be “Good” or “Outstanding”. No Hillingdon Looked After Child should be placed in an “Inadequate” school. If a school which “Requires Improvement” is chosen, the VSH must be consulted and the reasons for this choice recorded as an attachment on e-PEP;
  • Any education provision selected should be visited by the social worker and/or carer before being named to ensure that it can meet the educational needs of the child and help them make the maximum progress;
  • The child’s wishes and feeling should be taken into account and recorded;
  • Distance from the care placement and travel arrangements should be taken into consideration when sourcing an education placement.

Looked After Children have priority of admission to maintained schools and academies, including free schools as set out in the School Admissions Code. In brief:

  • Maintained schools, academies and free schools must admit a Looked After Child, even if they are full. Exceptions are faith schools which may reserve priority for children of that faith, and grammar schools which require the child to achieve a particular standard in a test for admittance;
  • Looked After Children are not placed on waiting lists;
  • Fair Access Protocols do not apply to them;
  • They are regarded as “excepted pupils” in relation to infant class size regulations;
  • The local authority may “direct” a maintained school to take a Looked After Child;
  • The local authority may “request” an academy or free school to take a Looked After Child; if they refuse the local authority may request the Secretary of State to make a direction;
  • The local authority may not tolerate “drift or delay” where children in their care are without an appropriate school place.

Whilst the person delegated authority for choice of school will make an application, the Virtual School Practitioner and VSH should be kept informed of any application and its progress. Where a school, to which application has been made, delays the admission of a Hillingdon Looked After Child, the Hillingdon VSH should be informed so that they may take action at a senior level to expedite the progress.

Time Scale

Once an application form has been submitted to the school, a written response is required within 5 school days from the day the school receives it as to whether the school is willing to admit or not. Once the application has been accepted, the looked after child should be given a start date which falls within the following 5 school days.

Whilst schools may wish to meet with the looked after child and their carer within this time period in order to make decisions as to curriculum offer, it is very clear from the School Admissions Code [para. 1.9 m)] that, a) schools may not "interview children or parents" and, b) such a meeting may not form part of the decision making process on whether to offer a place.

Where schools arrange such meetings and any assessments of the child's academic needs, this must be done within the 10 school days from the date of the application, at the end of which the child must be started in the school.

All maintained schools, academies and free schools have a duty to admit, even if the school is full, unless "serious prejudice" is proven. This is regardless of whether there are appropriate local alternatives with vacancies. 

For children with an Education, Health and Care Plan or Statement of Special Educational Need, the process is different.

When a child has a Plan or Statement of SEN, a specific school is named in that document. If new education provision is necessary, the social worker must liaise with the child's SEN Officer, in whichever local authority the child is living. The SEN Officer will support the social worker with identifying appropriate schools and will send the child's EHC Plan or Statement of SEN to the identified schools to ask if the school can meet the child's needs as detailed in the Plan or Statement. The school has 15 days in which to respond. If the response is negative, the SEN Officer will then send the Plan or Statement to other schools. This process may take several weeks. In such cases, it is usually not possible for the school to be directed as schools must be able to meet the needs of the child.


7. Attendance at School

Many looked after children have missed school before coming into care and are frequently behind their non-looked after peers in terms of attainment and progress. For this reason, looked after children are expected to have excellent attendance at school, unless they are very unwell. Excellent attendance is 96% or above.

Looked after children are expected to have 100% punctuality to school every day.

The Hillingdon Virtual School tracks the attendance of its children on a daily and monthly basis. It employs Welfare Call which contacts each child's school in order to ascertain a) if the child is in school and b) the reasons for any absences. On a monthly basis, it provides a full account of the child's attendance and punctuality.

School attendance is also a standing item on the PEP agenda and will be discussed as part of each initial PEP and PEP review meeting.

A child may only miss school if they are too unwell to attend. They may not be taken out of school for:

  • Medical appointments (which should be organised to take place outside of school time);
  • CAMHS appointments;
  • Contact;
  • Holidays.

When a child is too ill to attend school, the carer should contact the school on the first day of absence and on every other day the child is away from school. They must supply a written note for the school when the child returns.

If a child is suspected of truancy, the social worker must take immediate action to ensure that the child stops this behaviour. They should liaise with the school, the carer, the VS Practitioner and put strategies in place to prevent re-occurence. If the truancy persists, they should elicit the support of the Early Intervention Team in Hillingdon or the Education Welfare Service of the authority in which the child goes to school.


8. Exclusion from School

Quotations are from, Exclusion from maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units in England - a guide for those with legal responsibilities in relation to exclusion.

Only the head teacher of a school can exclude a pupil and this must be on disciplinary grounds.

  • Schools may only exclude looked after children as "an absolute last resort";
  • Before a LAC is excluded, schools must have tried a range of strategies and interventions in order to prevent it;
  • The decision to exclude a pupil must be lawful, reasonable and fair;
  • "Informal" or "unofficial" exclusions, such as sending pupils home "to cool off", are unlawful, regardless of whether they occur with the agreement of parents or carers. Any exclusion of a pupil, even for short periods of time, must be formally recorded;
  • Schools should give particular consideration to the fair treatment of pupils from groups who are vulnerable to exclusion, such as looked after children;
  • Where a school has concerns about a pupil's behaviour it should try to identify whether there are any causal factors and intervene early. When a head teacher decides to exclude a pupil, they must, without delay, notify the child's carers and social worker of the period of exclusion and the reasons for it. They must then, without delay, give this information to the carers and social workers in writing, specifying whether it is a fixed term (FTE) or a permanent exclusion (PE) and their right to make representations about the exclusion to the governing body, how any representation should be made and their right to attend a meeting, be represented at this meeting and bring a friend. They should also notify the carers and social worker of their responsibilities whilst the child is excluded, such as ensuring the child is not in a public place during school hours.

When a child is excluded, schools are required to set and mark work for the pupil. However, in the case of a looked after child, schools and local authorities should work together to arrange alternative provision from the first day following the exclusion. Social workers should ensure that carers have suitable arrangements in place to supervise the child's doing such work during normal school hours whilst excluded.

If the exclusion is for more than 5 days, the school is obliged to provide alternative education for the rest of the period of exclusion.

Schools are expected to have a strategy for reintegrating pupils that return to school following a FTE, and for managing their future behaviour. It is expected that both the carer and the social worker will attend the re-integration meeting and actively support the school in developing strategies and interventions for the child.

Where a looked after child is excluded from school, the child's social worker must inform the child's IRO and VS Practitioner immediately.

If any looked after child is in danger of permanent exclusion, the social worker should consult the VSH without delay in order to prevent such a PE. In this case, it may be advisable to seek a "managed move" to another school or alternative provision.


9. When a Looked After Young Woman becomes Pregnant

Where a looked after young woman becomes pregnant, the social worker must ensure that the young woman remains in education and arrange for her to receive support or be provided with alternative provision if she is unable to attend.

End