Looked After Children.
‘Education matters. You learn. It’s the key to freedom in what you want.’
Looked After : A child is looked after by a local authority if she/he is “in care” by reason of a court order, or if he is provided with accommodation for more than 24 hours by agreement with his/her parents or with the child if he is aged 16 or more.
Accommodated: A child is accommodated if s/he is looked after by the local authority with the voluntary agreement of his/her parents, or with the child if s/he is over 16 years old.
In care: A child is in care if s/he is the subject of a care order made by a court.
Child: A child or young person under the age of eighteen years.
Evidence shows that looked after children do not meet national educational expectations as well as other children.
Evidence shows that looked after children do not meet national educational expectations as well as other children. They can be at risk of underachieving at school because of disruption to their education and family life, or through poor emotional and psychological health.
The education for looked after children involves specialist support teams in virtual schools that aim to improve the educational results of looked after children, promoting high aspirations and progress in education as a means to better opportunities in life. They are responsible for raising attainment, monitoring progress and removing barriers to learning of all the looked after children in care in their area.
In a recent study by a charity it was revealed that ‘vulnerable children are often shuttled between foster homes, harming them further.’ In the year to March 2015, there were 64,372 children in foster care in the 143 councils that responded to the request. Most children stayed in the same placement for the year but 14,583 (or 22.7% of foster children) had two or more placements and of these 168 had seven or more placements.
Why are foster children moved?
There are many reasons for foster children to be moved; sometimes the foster family needs to relocate, the foster parent or someone within the family is sick or there is a death within the foster home and it is better if the child is moved to a new foster home.
The Virtual School head status within the Council became a statuary position in England in 2012. Data obtained by Action for Children suggests vulnerable children are too often shuttled between foster homes, harming them further. Nearly one in four foster children in the UK is moved at least once with some moved six or more times. The charity sent Freedom of Information requests to every UK local authority and more than two-thirds responded. Councils said they were doing everything possible to limit the need for children to move around the system, however the statistics speak for themselves.
Who is responsible for a looked after child?
When a child is placed into care, the Authority that originally started their care remains in charge of their wellbeing until they become an adult, even if they move location. For example, a child may be placed into care in Birmingham and then move to Plymouth, however they are still the responsibility of Birmingham Council.
What responsibility do Schools have for looked after children?
Schools can only put in place support systems if they know which pupils are looked after. There should be very clear arrangements within a local authority for informing schools in and out of area when a pupil becomes looked after, or when a looked after child or young person joins the school. Similarly there should be arrangements for informing schools about changes in legal status, care placement, or discharge from care. It is good practice for a liaison professional (often this will be a social worker) to inform the school’s designated senior manager for looked after children and young people in person.
“The designated senior manager must know which pupils in their establishment are looked after and, in the same way as for all other pupils, maintain confidential files in relation to each of them [and] should act as the liaison person within the school for social work, education, local health services, and other relevant agencies.” The Scottish Government
How do you monitor looked after children?
It is important to distinguish between reporting and monitoring functions.
Reporting means providing data about a cohort of looked after children and young people for the purposes of considering year-on-year progress, for instance against targets set out in Single Outcome Agreements and Integrated Children Services Plans. Monitoring means anticipating potential impacts on education of being looked after and providing effective support without undue delay.
A robust electronic system for collecting accurate information about attendance, exclusion, school and placement moves and attainment is essential so that local authorities and the Scottish Government can make accurate reports annually on the outcomes for looked after children and young people and care leavers. This is vital for reviewing progress nationally against the broad aim to narrow the gap in educational attainment between looked after children and young people and those not looked after.
Accurate reporting is also vital for developing local policies, for deployment of resources, and for supporting the development of services to meet clearly identified needs and gaps.
The educational progress of individual looked after children and young people should be monitored to ensure that there can be early intervention if difficulties arise, and to help in making a case for appropriate supports and resources.
Effective monitoring can only happen if schools, carers and social workers develop good working relationships. The responsibility for monitoring the progress of a pupil who is looked after lies with the school’s designated senior manager. This responsibility includes liaison with social work services in relation to educational aspects of the care plan and making arrangements for support within the school.
“Although data is to be used for the purposes of reporting outcomes at a local and national level, the primary reason for collecting and sharing data is to identify and meet the needs of individual looked after children and young people.” Scottish Government
“Local authorities and their partners can improve the effectiveness of the ways in which they assess and meet the needs of looked after children by… using strategic joint approaches to ensure that support methods are built on the best of practice and that the necessary resources are brought to bear on children’s problems at the earliest possible stage.”
The Looked After Call System.
Looked After Call from the Contact Group monitors the attendance and assessment progress of looked after children, both in and out of area.
The Looked After Call system works by using a calling team and automatic data collection, it gathers data on looked after children from schools/establishments in and out of area. This data can be viewed online in real time by the Virtual School and can be integrated to show attendance, personal details, assessment SEN status, behaviour, school history and exclusions.
‘Children in care have a special relationship with the State due to the fact that they have been taken into care either through a court order or by voluntary agreement with their birth parents. Central Government, local authorities and their partners, individual professionals and carers all share responsibility for ensuring the best for children in care – as they would for their own children. Children in care should be cared about, not just cared for.’ (Care Matters: Time for Change 2007)
If you would like to learn more about the Looked After Call system please click here or call us on 03333 131415.