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3.5.2 Education of Children with a Social Worker, Looked After and Previously Looked After Children

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter applies to all Looked After and Previously Looked After Children. It also sets out the role of the Virtual School Head in relation to all children with a social worker.

Note: that different provisions apply to children who acquire Looked After status as a result of a remand to local authority accommodation or Youth Detention Accommodation. In relation to those children, please see Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure, Care Planning for Young People on Remand.

RELATED CHAPTER

Children and Young People Aged 0-25 with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Procedure

AMENDMENT

In June 2022, this chapter was updated to reflect Keeping Children Safe in Education. Schools should have policies and processes in place to ensure all concerns about all adults working in or on behalf of the school or college (including supply teachers, volunteers and contractors) are dealt with promptly and appropriately. See Section 6.3, Protecting Children with a Social Worker, Looked After Children and Previously Looked After Children from Adults Who May Pose a Risk to Them and/or Other Children in the School.


Contents

CAPTION: contents list
   
1. Duty to Promote the Educational Achievement of Looked After Children
2. Duty to Promote the Educational Achievement Previously Looked After Children
3. Duty to Promote the Educational Achievement of all Children with a Social Worker
4. The Personal Education Plan (PEP) for Looked After Children
5. Avoidance of Disruption in Education
6. Safeguarding the Looked After Child at School
  6.1 Child Protection Policy and Procedures
  6.2 Protecting Children from Sexual Harassment and Peer on Peer Abuse
  6.3 Protecting Children with a Social Worker, Looked After Children and Previously Looked After Children from Adult that May Pose a Risk to Them and/or Other Children in the School
  6.4 Data Protection and Safeguarding
  6.5 Serious Violence
  6.6 Assisting Children with a Social Worker, Looked After Children and Previously Looked After Children to Reduce Risk- taking Behaviour
7. Celebrating a Child's Achievements
8. When a Child is Absent from School
9. School Exclusions
10. When a Young Woman becomes Pregnant
11. School Transport
12. Children and Young People with Medical Conditions
13. Mental Health
14. Training for those Involved in the Care and Education of Looked After and Previously Looked After Children
15. Information Sharing
  Further Information

IMPORTANT NOTE: in line with guidance "Keeping Children Safe in Education" the term "must" in this chapter is for when the person in question is legally required to do something and the term "should" is used when the advice set out should be followed unless there is good reason not to.


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

Under the Children and Families Act 2014, every local authority must appoint an officer, employed by them or another authority, to make sure that it properly discharges its duty to promote the educational achievement of Looked After Children, no matter where they live or are educated. This officer is called the Virtual School Head (VSH).

VSHs are required to track and monitor the individual achievements of each Looked After Child, keeping an account of how they have achieved in the past, how they are currently achieving, how they are predicted to achieve and the targets set for them by their schools.

In Hillingdon, the VS team uses the child's PEP meeting as the main vehicle through which to negotiate with a child's school the best package of support and intervention to support them to make better progress.

VSHs also track and monitor the attendance of the Looked After Children on their school roll as if they attended a single school. Hillingdon commissions Welfare Call Ltd to contact individual schools daily to ascertain that our Looked After Children are attending and, in the case of absence, the reason for this. Where reasons for absences are not acceptable, such as a child being taken out of school for a holiday, VSOs will challenge carers and schools to make changes.

The exclusion of Looked After Children is also monitored by the VSH, and support given to carers, social workers and schools via VSOs where there are frequent fixed term exclusions or the threat of permanent exclusion.

The VSH should ensure there are effective systems in place to:

  • Maintain an up-to-date roll of its Looked After Children who are in school or college settings and gather information about their education placement, 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 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 are in place which 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;
  • 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.

Foster carers and residential staff must be ambitious for children and support children to attend and do well in their education.

There must be effective liaison with the school/college and the Virtual School Head.


2. Duty to Promote the Educational Achievement Previously Looked After Children

The role of Virtual School Heads also includes promoting the educational achievement of Previously Looked After Children, as well as Looked After Children.

Definition: the term refers to a child who has left care via one of the following routes:

  • An Adoption Order: this is the legal order which gives adoptive parents full, permanent parental rights for their children;
  • A Special Guardianship Order: introduced in 2005 as a way of providing children with a permanent family without severing legal ties with their birth families. Special guardians may be family members, family friends, or foster carers. The child's special guardian does have parental responsibility, however;  
  • A Child Arrangements Order: a court order regulating arrangements relating to who a child lives with or has contact with. The individual/s named on the order has parental responsibility.

This extension of the role of the VSH acknowledges that Previously Looked After Children are highly likely to have had similar experiences to Looked After Children, such as having missed extended periods of school, disrupted learning and/or special educational needs. Emotional or trauma related experiences, as well as gaps in learning may pose significant barriers to their progress and attainment.

The VSH is required to promote the educational achievement of Previously Looked After Children in their area by providing information, advice and guidance to:

  • Any person who has Parental Responsibility for the child;
  • Providers of funded early years education, Designated Teachers for Looked After and Previously Looked After Children in maintained schools and academies; and
  • Any other person the authority considers appropriate for promoting the educational achievement of relevant children.

The VSH should ensure that:

  • They promote the educational achievement of Previously Looked After Children through the provision of information and advice to their parents, educators and others who the VSH considers necessary;
  • They respond to requests for advice and information – e.g. advice on school admissions in their area and sign-post them to other services that can offer support and advice;
  • They respond to requests for advice and information from providers of early education, Designated Teachers in maintained schools and academies, and providers of alternative provision in their area in respect of individual children supported by the local authority;
  • They develop / build on existing good working relationship with Designated Teachers for Previously Looked After Children in their area;
  • They improve awareness of the vulnerability and needs of Previously Looked After Children by providers of early education, Designated Teachers in maintained schools and academies, and providers of alternative provision in their area in respect of individual children supported by the local authority. This should include promoting good practice on identifying and meeting their needs, and guidance on effective use of the Pupil Premium.

However, it is important to note that the local authority is no longer the corporate parent for Previously Looked After Children. Any intervention in the education of a Previously Looked After Child must be with the agreement of the person(s) who have Parental Responsibility for the child. They, like all parents, are responsible for overseeing their child's progress in education.


3. Duty to promote the educational achievement of all children with a social worker

  • The VSH has a strategic role in improving outcomes for all children who have, or have had, a social worker by, for example:
    • Enhancing partnerships between education settings and the local authority so agencies can work together;
    • Identify the needs of the cohort and addressing barriers to poor educational outcomes and ensure pupils make educational progress;
    • Offering advice and support to key professionals.
  • The Government's Children in Need Review (2019) recognised the crucial role Virtual School Heads have in helping education settings and local authorities work together and made a commitment to explore the capacity needed to extend their leadership to the cohort of children and young people with a social worker;
  • Children who need help and protection from children's social care are likely to have, or have had, complex family circumstances that will result in them experiencing trauma or adversity, contributing to why they struggle to achieve good educational outcomes;
  • Children who need help and protection from children's social care want to do well, have a good education and be like their peers. However, schools report that the cumulative impact of trauma or adversity, increased instability, and the frequency of transitions, results in barriers which reduce their ability to achieve. The most common reported barriers this cohort face are interlinked and present across four main areas of school life: attendance, learning, behaviour and wellbeing;
  • For most, the impact of being in need of help and protection from children's social care is compounded by other educational disadvantages. Approximately half of this cohort also have identified special educational needs (SEN) and/or disabilities; with social, emotional and mental health as the most common primary SEN. Around two thirds are also economically disadvantaged and they also face a much higher rate of exclusions than other pupils and are over-represented in non-mainstream school settings such as alternative provision and special schools, where attainment is generally lower;
  • Using their knowledge and expertise from promoting the educational outcomes of Looked After and Previously Looked After Children, Virtual School Heads will become the strategic leader who champions the educational attendance, attainment and progress of children with a social worker. This non statutory responsibility for promoting the educational outcomes of children with a social worker will be in addition to the existing statutory duties for Looked After and Previously Looked After Children;
  • This means the VSH will help to:
    • Make visible the disadvantages that children with a social worker can experience, enhancing partnerships between education settings and local authorities to help all agencies hold high aspirations for these children;
    • Promote practice that supports children's engagement in education, recognising that attending an education setting can be an important factor in helping to keep children safe from harm;
    • level up children's outcomes and narrow the attainment gap so every child can reach their potential.
  • Virtual School Heads are not being asked to:
    • Work with individual children and their families - including tracking and monitoring educational progress of individual children or providing academic or other interventions;
    • Respond to requests from parents or carers to offer advice, intervention and support in relation to individual children with a social worker;
    • Take responsibility for children with Special Education Needs and Disability (SEND) who do not require or need a social worker.


4. The Personal Education Plan (PEP) for Looked After Children

As a group, Looked After Children (LAC) typically lag behind their non-Looked After peers at the end of every Key Stage. In order to narrow this gap a personalised learning plan is essential for each LAC, which identifies their individual learning needs and puts a plan in place to meet those needs so that their own expectations, and those of others, are raised and their life chances enhanced. This is known as the Personal Education Plan (PEP).

It is a legal requirement that every LAC has a care plan of which the PEP is an integral part. An up-to-date copy of the PEP should be available for each LAC Review and Pathway Planning meeting from when the child is pre-school until they are 18.

The PEP also forms part of the child's official school record. If a child moves school, all previous PEPs should be securely forwarded along with the child's file, to the receiving school by the Designated Teacher (DT). As a document, it provides a 'collective memory' about the child's education.

The first PEP is usually referred to as the 'initial' PEP. Subsequent PEPs should build upon previous ones, to become an evolving record and review document.

It is expected that a PEP will be agreed at a meeting which is usually held at a child's school. Where a child does not have an education placement, the Virtual School Officer (VSO) will liaise with other professionals to agree a suitable alternative location.

Whilst attendees at the PEP meeting can be varied depending on the needs of the child, it is expected in Hillingdon that as a minimum the PEP meeting will be attended by the child, Virtual School Officer, the Designated Teacher, the Social Worker and the Foster Carer / Key Worker.

Some LAC do not wish for their PEP meeting to be held at school or to attend. Where this is the case, their wishes and feelings should be gathered beforehand and shared at the meeting on their behalf. While it may not always be possible, efforts should be made to not remove a child from their lessons in order for them to attend their PEP meeting.

PEPs should not be disciplinary meetings. They should identify, promote and build upon the child's strengths. PEPs should be solution focused; finding ways to support the child's educational progress.

4.1 Before the PEP

4.2 After the PEP

4.3 Initiating a PEP

4.4 The Initial PEP

4.5 PEP Reviews

4.6 The Child's Voice

4.7 Academic Review

4.8 Other areas for discussion at a PEP

4.9 Target setting and review

4.10 PEPs in EYFS

4.11 PEPs for those who are NEET

4.12 PEPs for children with significant SEND

4.13 PEPs for children who are missing

Information on the above can be found in the Hillingdon Virtual School Handbook 2021-2022


5. Avoidance of Disruption in Education

The VSH 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.

In those circumstances, the local authority must make appropriate arrangements to promote the child's educational achievement as soon as reasonably practicable. It is important to ensure that:

  • The child's wishes and feelings have been ascertained and given due consideration;
  • The wishes and feelings of the parent(s) have been ascertained where the child is accommodated (where possible) and where appropriate where the child is subject to a Care Order;
  • The educational provision will promote educational achievement and is consistent with the PEP;
  • The Independent Reviewing Officer has been consulted;
  • The Designated Teacher at the child's school has been consulted.
Other than in Key Stage 4, where the local authority proposes making any change to the child's placement that would have the effect of disrupting the arrangements made for education and training, they must ensure that other arrangements are made for education or training that meet the child's needs and are consistent with the PEP.


6. Safeguarding the Looked After Child at School

All staff in a school should be aware of the systems within it which support safeguarding. These systems should be explained to them as part of induction and there should be regular update training for all staff. This should include:

  1. The child protection policy and procedures;
  2. The Data Protection Act and safeguarding;
  3. The child behaviour policy;
  4. The staff behaviour policy (code of conduct);
  5. The safeguarding response to children who go missing from education.

All staff must report any concerns regarding Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)* and should report modern slavery, trafficking or exploitation.

* Teachers have specific legal duty 2 Under Section 5B(11) (a) of the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, “teacher” means, in relation to England, a person within section 141A(1) of the Education Act 2002 (persons employed or engaged to carry out teaching work at schools and other institutions in England).

6.1 Child Protection Policy and Procedures

Following induction, all staff should have read the child protection policy and have an awareness of safeguarding issues and be clear about how to report concerns and who they should report to. Staff should receive training and guidance so they can recognise signs that a child is being drawn into anti-social or criminal behaviour (including gang involvement) and understand how behaviours linked to issues such as drug taking, alcohol abuse, deliberately missing education and sexting (also known as youth produced sexual imagery) put children in danger (see also Section 6.2, Protecting looked after children from sexual harassment and peer on peer abuse and Section 6.5, Serious Violence).

All children should feel and be safe in the school they attend. Children with a Social Worker, Looked After Children and Previously Looked After Children are all particularly vulnerable. The aim of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of all children in education should be:

  • Protecting them from maltreatment;
  • Preventing any impairment of their mental and physical health or development;
  • Ensuring they are growing up in circumstances consistent with safe and effective care;
  • Taking action to enable them to have the best outcomes.

6.2 Protecting Children from Sexual Harassment and Peer on Peer Abuse

Schools must have procedures in place to protect all children, but particularly vulnerable groups of children such as Looked After Children, from unwanted and damaging interactions with their peers.

For further information, please see: Part 5 of Keeping Children Safe in Education - Child on Child Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment.

All staff should be aware that safeguarding issues can manifest themselves via peer on peer abuse. This can include (but is not limited to):

  • Bullying (including cyberbullying);
  • Physical abuse such as hitting, kicking, shaking, biting, hair pulling, or otherwise causing physical harm;
  • Initiating/hazing type violence and rituals;
  • Sexual violence such as rape, assault by penetration and sexual assault;
  • Sexual harassment such as sexual comments, remarks, jokes and online sexual harassment, which may be stand-alone or part of a broader pattern of abuse;
  • Upskirting which typically involves taking a picture under a person's clothing without them knowing, with the intention of viewing their genitals or buttocks to obtain sexual gratification, or cause the victim humiliation, distress or alarm;
  • Sexting (also known as youth produced sexual imagery);

An Ofsted thematic review (Review of Sexual Abuse in Schools and Colleges (Ofsted, June 2021)) identified substantial levels of sexual harassment for both girls (90%) and boys (nearly 50%) and that in a number of schools this went unreported as a result of the school's 'culture' – a part of which appeared to be that staff were not aware; did not countenance that this could happen, and because once it was discussed (the children) feared the process would be out of their control.

Keeping Children Safe in Education highlights that, 'Sexual violence and sexual harassment can occur between two children of any age and sex, from primary through to secondary stage and into colleges. It can occur through a group of children sexually assaulting or sexually harassing a single child or group of children. Sexual violence and sexual harassment exist on a continuum and may overlap; they can occur online and face to face (both physically and verbally) and are never acceptable. As set out in Part one of this guidance, all staff working with children are advised to maintain an attitude of 'it could happen here'. Further, that given children and young people's reluctance to come forward, staff should take into account that they may 'overhear conversations' that a child may have been harmed.

The Ofsted Report reflects that school and college leaders should create a culture where sexual harassment and online sexual abuse are not tolerated, and where they identify issues and intervene early to better protect children and young people.

Schools and colleges should assume that sexual harassment and online sexual abuse are happening in their setting, even when there are no specific reports, and put in place a whole-school approach to address them of which all staff are aware. This should include:

  • A Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education curriculum, based on the Department for Education's statutory guidance, that includes sexual harassment and sexual violence, including inappropriate online material;
  • Routine record-keeping and analysis of sexual harassment and sexual violence, including online, to identify patterns and intervene early to prevent abuse. These should be routinely reviewed;
  • A behavioural approach, including sanctions when appropriate, to reinforce a culture where sexual harassment and online sexual abuse are not tolerated;
  • Working closely with Local Safeguarding Partnerships in the area where the school or college is located so they are aware of the range of support available to children and young people who are victims or who perpetrate harmful sexual behaviour;
  • Training to ensure that all staff (and governors, where relevant) are able to better understand the definitions of sexual harassment and sexual violence, including online sexual abuse and identify early signs of peer-on-peer sexual abuse.

Peer on peer abuse also indicates that there will be an identified, or alleged, perpetrator. It may well be the case in some instances that they themselves have been a victim of abuse. If established, there will be the need to ensure they are separated from the complainant (child); offered further support at school/college, and possibly specialist work regarding their behaviour; provided with an education, safeguarding support as appropriate, as well as implementing any disciplinary sanctions.

Keeping Children Safe in Education identifies there are 4 basic options for schools in decision-making:

  • Managing the situation internally – where concerns are one-off for example and undertaken in a zero tolerance framework. These should be recorded;
  • Early Help – providing support (and including external specialist services as appropriate and with parent's permission); particularly where non-violent sexual harassment has occurred. (Keeping Children Safe in Education notes a range of support services children can be referred to);
  • Referring to Children's Services - where there has been harm risk of harm or immediate danger;
  • Reporting to the Police - where there are reports of rape or other serious sexual assault.

Schools must be aware that sexual assault can result in a range of health needs, physically, mentally and sexually. Children who experience health problems can access support from the NHS Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC).

(Keeping Children Safe in Education notes a range of support services children can be referred to by the police and Children's Services.)

Social workers, residential care staff and foster carers should ensure they are:

  • Aware of a child's school/college's safeguarding policy, particularly with regard to sexual harassment;
  • Support the child to complain/advise the relevant Designated Teacher of any actions or behaviour they have experienced in this regard; or,
  • Refer the safeguarding concerns themselves to the Designated Teacher directly but ensuring the child is involved, particularly in significant circumstances;
  • Where appropriate, consider a multi-agency section 47 Strategy Meeting;
  • Support the Looked After Child within the school/college's statutory guidance framework, whether the child has been subject to sexual harassment or is considered to be the perpetrator of it;
  • Where required, ensure the Virtual School Head is aware;
  • If necessary, consider an appeal to the School's Governors if there is disagreement or unhappiness with the implementation of the school's policy;
  • Where appropriate and proportionate, advise the child's parents or person with parental responsibility.

Previously Looked After Children: With regard to children attending school and college, parents / carers should be supported and enabled to work with a school or college as above, to ensure the child's best interests and welfare are maintained. This might include using an Advocate, health resource or appropriate voluntary organisation as required. (See Section 2, Duty to Promote the Educational Achievement Previously Looked After Children).

Universities and Colleges: The House of Commons Library Briefing on 'Sexual Harassment in Education, (2021)' acknowledges that Universities and Colleges of Further Education face different challenges to school with regard to the welfare and protection of students because most students are adults. It is therefore complicated where students are living and socialising together. Nevertheless, such bodies, 'have a duty under the Equalities Act 2010 to eliminate discrimination, to promote equality and to foster good relations between groups. These duties must be implemented whilst allowing adult students freedom and autonomy. This can be a difficult balance to achieve'. (See Section 1, Duty to Promote the Educational Achievement of Looked After Children).

The evidence is that there has been increasing concern regarding levels of sexual harassment at Universities and Colleges of Further Education. This has led to a number of universities through 'Universities UK' to progress a framework and guidance for dealing with complaints and allegations.

Additionally, a majority of Universities have established 'Consent Classes' in respect of student's sexual behaviour and a number have made these obligatory for new students.

See: Guidance for Higher Education Institutions - How To Handle Alleged Student Misconduct Which May Also Constitute A Criminal Offence, (Universities UK, 2016)

Changing the Culture - Tackling Gender-based Violence, Harassment and Hate Crime: Two Years On, (Universities UK, 2019)

Previously Looked After Children attending a university or college should be encouraged and assisted to make themselves aware of their university's policies and practice on this and, where appropriate and wanted, seek out services and resources, (on or off campus), that might offer ongoing support to a Previously Looked After Child who might need or require this.

6.3 Protecting Children with a Social Worker, Looked After Children and Previously Looked After Children from Adults Who May Pose a Risk to Them and/or Other Children in the School

Schools and colleges should have their own processes and procedures in place to manage any safeguarding concerns or allegations, no matter how small, about staff members (including supply staff, volunteers, and contractors).

These procedures should be consistent with local safeguarding procedures and practice guidance.

See also: London Children Procedures.

They should make clear to whom allegations and concerns should be reported and that this should be done without delay. It is crucial that any such concerns, including those which do not meet the harm threshold are shared responsibly and with the right person, and recorded and dealt with appropriately.

Managing allegations that may meet the harm threshold

An allegation may relate to a person who works with children who has:

  • Behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child; and/or
  • Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child; and/or
  • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates they may pose a risk of harm to children; and/or
  • Behaved or may have behaved in a way that indicates they may not be suitable to work with children.

Concerns that do not meet the harm threshold

Schools should also set out their policy and procedure on dealing with concerns where the threshold for an allegation is not met. Keeping Children Safe in Education defines a low level concern as any concern, even if no more than causing a sense of unease or a 'nagging doubt' - that an adult working in or on behalf of the school or college may have acted in a way that:

  • Is inconsistent with the staff code of conduct, including inappropriate conduct outside of work;
  • Does not meet the allegations threshold (as set out above) or is otherwise not considered serious enough to consider a referral to the LADO.

Examples of such behaviour could include, but are not limited to:

  • Being over friendly with children;
  • Having favourites;
  • Taking photographs of children on their mobile phone;
  • Engaging with a child on a one-to-one basis in a secluded area or behind a closed door; or
  • Using inappropriate sexualised, intimidating or offensive language.

Such behaviour can exist on a wide spectrum, from the inadvertent or thoughtless, or behaviour that may look to be inappropriate, but might not be in specific circumstances, through to that which is ultimately intended to enable abuse.

For further information, see Keeping Children Safe in Education, Part 4: Allegations made against/Concerns raised in relation to teachers, including supply teachers, other staff, volunteers and contractors.

See also: NSPCC Learning, Responding to Low Level Concerns in Education.

It is essential that social workers, carers and school staff, particularly the Designated Safeguarding Lead, have absolute clarity with regard to who is and is not allowed to have access to any Looked After Child.

Any suspicion regarding any adult seeking contact with the child, either in person or through social media, during school hours should be reported to the Designated Safeguarding Lead immediately.

Any member of staff who has concerns about anyone working within the school (staff, volunteers) or undertaking work on or near school premises (contractors, advisors, catering and so forth) must inform a senior member of staff immediately.

The child's social worker must then be informed and child protection procedures then followed. Staff will also need to be aware of issues such as forced marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) that may have led to some children becoming looked after.

6.4 Data Protection and Safeguarding

NOTE: Information does not refer simply to written or electronically stored records. It also refers to other kinds of information such as biometric data (for example, use of finger prints to receive school dinners or to enter buildings).

UK GDPR does not prevent, or limit, the sharing of information for the purposes of keeping children safe. Lawful and secure information sharing between schools, Children's Social Care, and other local agencies, is essential for keeping children safe and ensuring they get the support they need.

When Designated Safeguarding Leads in schools are considering whether, or not, to share safeguarding information (especially with other agencies) it is considered best practice for them to record who they are sharing that information with and for what reason. If they have taken a decision not to seek consent from the data subject and/or parent/carer that should also be recorded within the safeguarding file.

All relevant information can be shared without consent if to gain consent would place a child at risk. Fears about sharing information must not be allowed to stand in the way of promoting the welfare and protecting the safety of children. As with all data sharing, appropriate organisational and technical safeguards should still be in place.

6.5 Serious Violence

All staff should be aware of indicators, which may signal that children are at risk from, or are involved with serious violent crime. Indicators may include increased absence from school, a change in friendships or relationships with older individuals or groups, a significant decline in performance, signs of self- harm or a significant change in wellbeing or signs of assault or unexplained injuries. Unexplained gifts or new possessions could also indicate that children have been approached by, or are involved with, individuals associated with sexual exploitation, criminal networks or gangs.

Bearing in mind the reluctance of children to come forward, staff should take into account that they may ‘overhear conversations’ that a child may have been harmed and should act accordingly.

Bearing in mind the reluctance of children to come forward, staff should take into account that they may 'overhear conversations' that a child may have been harmed and should act accordingly.

Looked After Children and Previously Looked After Children are particularly vulnerable to being targeted by gangs. Carers, social workers and school staff should be proactive and share any concerns at the earliest possible time.

For further information go to please see:

6.6 Assisting Children with a Social Worker, Looked After Children and Previously Looked After Children to Reduce Risk-taking Behaviour

There is a whole range of risk-taking behaviours that Children with a Social Worker, Looked After and Previously Looked After Children could be involved in ranging from gang-based activities to drug and alcohol abuse and/or radicalisation.

It is important to be aware that some children with a social worker will become Looked After.

A child going missing from education is a potential indicator of abuse or neglect and such children are at risk of being victims of harm, exploitation or radicalisation.

School and college staff should follow their procedures for unauthorised absence and for dealing with children that go missing from education, particularly on repeat occasions, to help identify the risk of abuse and neglect, including sexual or criminal exploitation, and to help prevent the risks of going missing in future. It is essential that all staff are alert to signs to look out for and the individual triggers to be aware of when considering the risks of potential safeguarding concerns such as travelling to conflict zones, female genital mutilation and forced marriage.

Further information about children at risk of missing education can be found in the Children Missing Education - Statutory guidance for local authorities.

Where necessary, the Children Missing from Care Procedure must be followed - see the London Safeguarding Children Procedures, Children Missing from Care, Home and Education Procedure.


7. Celebrating a Child's Achievements

Children's educational (and other) achievements should be acknowledged at one or more of the following times: at Looked After Reviews; in the PEP, at school-based meetings; in school reports; and after exams.

A Looked After Child's educational attainments at EYFS, Key Stages 1 & 2, GCSE, A Level and GNVQ should be recorded, including within the PEP.


8. When a Child is Absent from School 

Children must be educated in school while they are of statutory school age (SSA); that is, between the school term after their fifth birthday and the last Friday in June in the school year they turn 16. From age 16 - 18, they must be in some form of education, training or employment; this can include voluntary work, internships and work experience.

For children to realise their academic potential, it is highly recommended they have attendance of at least 95%.

When children miss school other than when they are ill, not only are they missing out on teaching and learning, they are also missing out on learning essential life skills such as how to interact and communicate with others in a positive social way.

Good school attendance is a safeguarding factor in the lives of all vulnerable children.

Carers, social workers and schools have a joint responsibility to ensure the children in their care attend school every day. They are expected to work together supportively if attendance rates dip.

As part of our duty as corporate parent, Hillingdon commissions Welfare Call Ltd to contact the school for each of our Looked After Children every day to check that they are attending and, if not, to ascertain the reason why.

Unacceptable reasons for absence:

  • Medical, dental and therapy appointments should be made for out-of-school hours. Carers and social workers should negotiate with medical practitioners to ensure Looked After Children are a priority for such appointments. This is also true for the carer who holds PR in the case of Previously Looked After Children;
  • Holidays may not be taken during term-time and those with PR may be fined for taking their children on holiday when they should be in school.

Social Workers should:

  • Ensure the school is being held to account, explore what support they can offer to address any attendance or punctuality issues.
  • Encourage good attendance and punctuality at every opportunity (LAC Reviews, statutory visits etc).

Ensure the Virtual School is informed about any rising concerns regarding attendance and punctuality.

If the child is missing from school and/or home, please see: Section 8, Safeguarding the Looked After Child at School.


9. School Exclusions

The lives of many Looked After Children and children with a social worker are characterised by change and instability and these are major factors in underachievement. Where exclusion from school is used as a sanction for a Looked After or Previously Looked After Child, instability is increased and the sense of rejection reinforced.

Fixed term and permanent exclusion should be used only as an absolute last resort.  

9.1 Preventing Exclusion

9.2 Fixed Term Exclusions

9.3 Permanent Exclusions

For information on the above please see Hillingdon's Virtual School Handbook 2021-2022

See also: Exclusion from Maintained Schools, Academies and Pupil Referral Units in England: A Guide for those with Legal Responsibilities in Relation to Exclusion.


10. When a Young Woman becomes Pregnant

Becoming pregnant is not in itself a reason to stop attending school, nor to cease education.

Where a young woman becomes pregnant, the social worker and the allocated Virtual School Officer must ensure that the young woman remains in education if at all possible and arrange for her to receive support from the education authority for the area in which she lives and/or the school she attends.


11. School Transport

In order to maintain continuity of school, those with responsibility for school transport should be approached to provide assistance with transport. A decision will be made taking into account the child's age and the distance from the child's address to the nearest suitable school.


12. Children and Young People with Medical Conditions

Since 1 September 2014, governing bodies have had a statutory duty to make arrangements to support pupils at school with medical conditions. The Designated Medical Officer can support schools with these duties. For more information see Supporting Pupils at School with Medical Conditions: Statutory Guidance for Governing Bodies of Maintained Schools and Proprietors of Academies in England.


13. Mental Health

Looked After and Previously Looked After Children are more likely to experience the challenge of social, emotional and mental health issues than their peers. For example, they may struggle with executive functioning skills, forming trusting relationships, social skills, managing strong feelings (e.g. shame, sadness, anxiety and anger), sensory processing difficulties, foetal alcohol syndrome and coping with transitions and change. This can impact on their behaviour and education.

Designated Teachers are not expected to be mental health experts; however, they have an important role in ensuring they and other school staff can identify signs of potential issues and understand where the school can draw on specialist services, such as CAMHS and educational psychologists. In addition, many schools have an officer responsible for making links with mental health services, with whom Designated Teachers can work closely. Where such an officer is available, Designated Teachers should work with them, and the VSH to ensure that they, and other school staff, have the skills to:

  • Identify signs of potential mental health issues, and know how to access further assessment and support where necessary, making full use of the SENCO and local authority support team where applicable; and
  • Understand the impact trauma, attachment disorder and other mental health issues can have on Looked After and Previously Looked After Children and their ability to engage in learning. It is also important that the Designated Teacher and other school staff are aware that these issues will continue to affect Previously Looked After Children, and that the school will need to continue to respond appropriately to their needs.


14. Training for those Involved in the Care and Education of Looked After and Previously Looked After Children

The VSH should ensure that there are appropriate arrangements in place to meet the training needs of those responsible for promoting the educational achievement of Looked After and Previously Looked After Children. This includes carers, social workers, Designated Teachers and IROs.

Such training, among other things, should include information about school admission arrangements; Special Educational Needs; attendance and exclusions; homework; choosing GCSE options; managing any challenging behaviour in relation to education settings; promoting positive educational and recreational activities and supporting children to be aspirational for their future education; training and employment, and the importance of listening to and taking account of the child's wishes and feelings about education and the PEP process.

The VSH should ensure that school governing bodies understand the importance of specific professional development for, as a minimum, their senior leaders and Designated Teachers in supporting the achievement of Looked After and Previously Looked After Children.


15. Information Sharing

VSHs should have access to a secure email account that enables them to exchange information securely with other VSHs in whose area they have placed children.

Arrangements for sharing reliable data must be in place, particularly in relation to the tracking and monitoring of attainment data and notifications of where children, including those placed out-of-authority, are being educated, and must set out:

  • Who has access to what information and how the security of data will be ensured;
  • How children and parents are informed of, and allowed to challenge, information that is kept about them;
  • How carers contribute to and receive information;
  • Mechanisms for sharing information between relevant local authority departments and schools;
  • How relevant information about individual children is passed promptly between authorities, departments and schools when young people move. Relevant information includes the PEP, which as part of the Looked After Child's educational record should be transferred with them to the new school.

For further information regarding sharing of information, please see: Section 6.4, Data protection and safeguarding.


Further Information

Legislation, Statutory Guidance and Government Non-Statutory Guidance

Promoting the Education of Looked After Children and Previously Looked After Children

Promoting the Education of Children with a Social Worker: Virtual School Head Role Extension
This non-statutory guidance from DfE sets out the expanded role for Virtual School Heads in relation to all children assessed as being in need under section 17 Children Act 1989 with a social worker and those who have previously had a social worker, including children aged from 0 to 18 in all educational settings.

Policy Paper: Review of Children in Need (Updated 2019)

Designated Teacher for Looked After and Previously Looked After Children

Keeping Children Safe in Education (All staff in a school or college should read Part One of the guidance)

Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education (2021)

Behaviour and Discipline in Schools (DfE 2020)

Data protection: a toolkit for schools
This guidance draws attention to the link between data protection and child protection (although data protection is broader than just child protection) and notes that personal data can relate to pupils, staff, parents and potentially others. It makes clear that UK GDPR does not prevent, or limit, the sharing of information for the purposes of keeping children safe.

Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges

Supporting Pupils at School with Medical Conditions: Statutory Guidance for Governing Bodies of Maintained Schools and Proprietors of Academies in England

Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice: 0 to 25 years: Statutory Guidance for Organisations who work with and Support Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

Exclusion from Maintained Schools, Academies and Pupil Referral Units in England: A Guide for those with Legal Responsibilities in Relation to Exclusion

School Admissions Code

Mental Health and Behaviour in Schools - Guidance

Regulated Activity in Relation to Children: Scope

Good Practice Guidance

Sexting: how to respond to an incident

End