Children in care: advice and support for schools

Information for Headteachers, Governors and Designated Teachers that will help them develop the best provision for children in care.

Information for Heads & Governors

Schools have a key role to play in improving the educational outcomes of children in care. There is no denying that quality teaching has the greatest impact on outcomes but children in care need more than this. They need understanding, high aspirations, staff that go the extra mile, and organisations that work in partnership.

Resources from the Department of Education:

Who are our children in care?

A child is in care by a local authority if they have been provided with accommodation for a continuous period of more than 24 hours, in the circumstances set out in sections 20 and 21 of the Children Act 1989, or have been placed in the care of a local authority by virtue of an order made under part IV of the Act. Further definitions can be found in The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations, but if you have any doubts about the status of a student in your school then contact the Virtual School.

The majority of children in care enter care through no fault of their own. They are likely to have experienced some form of abuse, neglect or trauma prior to entering care and be living with those consequences. Most children in care live in foster care provided by the local authority or with a member of their extended family under a legal order. A smaller proportion live in children’s homes, or attend residential schools due to their more complex needs.

Children in care tend to have higher levels of Special Educational Needs but often this is due to their Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs and not necessarily due to their cognitive abilities. It is important to remember that an unaccompanied minor/unaccompanied asylum seeking child (UASC) is entitled to the same support as a child born in this country.

School Admissions

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

Put simply, a child in care must be given a place in the school chosen irrespective of the current numbers on roll or in a class. The local authority that looks after a child can direct a school in any local authority to admit a child in care. 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 Doncaster Council will ask the Secretary of State and /or the Regional Schools Commissioner to intervene. See the academy admission request form for children in care .

The Designated Teacher (DT) for children in care

All schools must have a designated teacher, who is ideally a member of the senior leadership team. The designated teacher is responsible for championing the educational needs of children in care in their school and ensuring they have good quality PEPs. They should be the main author and champion of the PEP within the school. The designated teacher should also maintain high expectations of children in care and have the time to understand their needs.

The statutory guidance relating to designated teachers provides an excellent summary of designated teacher good practice. The Virtual School offers professional development to designated teachers as well as the opportunity to network and exchange knowledge, understanding and good practice with other DTs.

School Governors

Headteachers who prioritise the education and welfare of children in care ensure that the governing body is able to fulfil its statutory duty to appoint a sufficiently senior and experienced designated teacher to promote the educational outcomes of children in care. The designated teacher must:

  • be a qualified teacher
  • be in a position to lead school staff
  • undertake appropriate training to fulfil the role
  • work closely with the virtual school

Governing bodies that prioritise the education and welfare of children in care identify a governor to take particular interest in the work of the school in relation to children in care, and meet regularly with the designated teacher. The chair of governors supports this ‘designated governor for children in care’ by ensuring they have access to training to fulfil their function and advise the governing body as a whole. Please contact the Virtual School to discuss training for governors.

Headteachers should ensure confidentiality about the personal details of children in care on the school roll while facilitating reports from the designated teacher to the governing body at least annually, and a positive working relationship between the designated teacher and the designated governor for children in care.

Useful resources

Self-evaluation & School Inspection

The outcomes of children in care remains a priority for Ofsted. The Doncaster Virtual School can help schools prepare for inspection and for any meeting with an inspector about children in care if it has an understanding of the issues from the schools point of view.  The simplest way to ensure this is true, and demonstrate a close working relationship between the school and Virtual School, is to share the Designated Teacher’s Report to Governors with the Virtual School.  This also helps when inspectors contact the Virtual School Head during an inspection for a view about the provision a school offers.

Please send us your completed self-evaluation as it will help us support you before or during inspection. Inspectors will look for evidence of a positive relationship between the school and the Virtual School and sharing your self-evaluation with us is a way to demonstrate this.

Sexual Behaviours Traffic Light Tool

Brook Young People publish a sexual behaviours traffic light tool to help professionals objectively assess the risk presented by what may appear to be inappropriate sexualised behaviour. It is important that the right tool is consulted for children aged: aged 0 - 5; aged 5 - 9; aged 9 – 13; and aged 13 – 17.

Last updated: 18 August 2017 11:35:12