Social Workers

Social workers have a key role to play in supporting the education of looked after children but it is important to know you are not alone. Each local authority has a Virtual School Head who is there to monitor, support and advise all those working with looked after children.


The Virtual School Head

All local authorities in England are required to have a Virtual School Head who monitors looked after children as if they were in one school, The Virtual School. The role of the Virtual School Head and The Virtual School varies across authorities but all work with other professionals to help improve the outcomes of looked after children.

School Admissions

There is a clear link between stability and educational outcomes so it is important to avoid schools moves unless absolutely necessary and it is always advisable to speak to your Virtual School Head first. They will help to identify the most appropriate school and ensure it is a good quality school with the right support for looked after children.

Looked after children have been given the highest priority within school admission arrangements. The admission requirements for looked after children are set out in the School Admissions Code which applies to maintained schools and academies, including free schools.

Put simply, a looked after child must be given a place in the school chosen irrespective of the current numbers on roll or in a class.  The home local authority can instruct a school in ANY local authority to admit a looked after child. This includes using their powers of direction in a timely way to avoid delay.

Where a local authority considers that an academy will best meet the needs of any child, it can ask the academy to admit that child but has no power to direct it to do so. The local authority and the academy will usually come to an agreement, but if the academy refuses to admit the child, the local authority can ask the Secretary of State to intervene.

The Personal Education Plan

The Personal Education Plan (PEP) is central to improving educational outcomes for looked after children. When used effectively, it is a tool to gather views of school, home and from the child or young person in order to identify strengths and barriers and put in place a plan of action to help support the education of a looked after child.

The Statutory Guidance provides more detail about what makes a high quality PEP.

The Pupil Premium

The Pupil Premium Plus for looked after children is currently £1900. Pupil Premium Plus must be managed by the Virtual School Head to improve the attainment and progress of looked after children.

The Virtual School Head, working with education settings, should implement pupil premium plus arrangements for looked after children in accordance with the latest DfE Conditions of Grant and any supplementary departmental advice issued, such as the document relating more specifically to the Virtual School Head’s responsibilities.

There are many best practice reports available including:


HOW SCHOOLS ARE SPENDING THE FUNDING SUCCESSFULLY TO MAXIMISE ACHIEVEMENT


EVALUATION OF PUPIL PREMIUM RESEARCH REPORT JULY 2013


The Education Endowment Foundation Toolkit is also very useful in helping to identify strategies that are most effective. 

Attachment

Many Virtual School Heads recognise the significant impact a child’s attachment needs have on their ability to settle to learn in school. There are many practical books available on the subject and the work on Attachment Aware Schools provides many useful resources. 


NICE Guidance: Children's Attachment

Emotional Health and Well-being

Perhaps the single most important thing that a Virtual School Head can do is to stimulate a professional dialogue with headteachers about the reasons why children and young people behave as they do.

This can, in turn, raise awareness of the physiological and psychological effects of early abuse, trauma and loss, on attachment and resilience, in particular, and through them relationships with peers and adults.


WHAT WORKS IN PREVENTING AND TREATING POOR MENTAL HEALTH IN LOOKED AFTER CHILDREN?

SDQs – Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires

The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) is a brief behavioural screening questionnaire. Local authorities are required to submit the scores of the carer version but there is also a version for young people (over the age of 11) and schools to complete. The triangulation of all three responses gives the most accurate picture of a looked after child’s mental health and well-being. There is also a link emerging between SDQ scores and educational outcomes, making them more significant for Virtual School Heads.


PROMOTING THE HEALTH AND WELLBEING OF LOOKED-AFTER CHILDREN