So you want to… Accessing Education for your Child or Young Person

  • FosterWiki
  • Author:Jennifer O'Callaghan
  • Published:2021
  • Country: United Kingdom

Introduction to Accessing Education for your Child or Young Person

At FosterWiki, we are fully aware of the complexities that can surround the education of a child or young person in our care. Each looked after child should have opportunities in attending the best possible setting that meets their individual needs and enables them to reach their potential. FosterWiki hopes that this wiki can help and assist you through what can at times, be a minefield of information around a child or young person’s educational needs and options.

How does it work?

  • Looked after children have priority in the majority of schools and must be given admission even if a school is full.
  • There are some exceptions. If the school is of a particular religious denomination, priority may be given to looked after children of that particular faith, followed by other children of that faith. Therefore in this instance, other looked after children would come third on the school’s admission criteria.
  • You should discuss school applications with the child’s social worker, and they or you should consult the authority’s Virtual School Head(VSH).
  • What is the Virtual School? – it is a ‘Virtual’ school that acts as the local authorities ‘champion’ to promote and progress the educational attainment and outcomes of the children we care for. The Virtual School has a Virtual School Head.
  • The Personal Education Plan (PEP) All looked-after children must have a care plan, of which the PEP is an integral part. The school, other professionals, and the child’s carers should use the PEP to support achieving those things.
  • The PPP or PP – this is the Personal Pupil Premium or just referred to as the Pupil Premium, it is funding for your children from the Department of Education (DfE) to raise the educational attainment and close the gap between looked after children and their peers.
  • When a child is moving school, their current school is always expected to provide information to the new school, whether they are looked after or not. Usually, the child’s file will be transferred electronically from the current school to the new one. All past Personal Education Plan Reviews will be included in the file.
  • Whichever school your child attends, you should expect staff to have an understanding of your child’s educational needs, including social, emotional, and mental health (SEMH) as well as academic needs.
  • School choices should be made in consultation with the virtual school head. Parents and local authorities can delegate decision-making to carers, but because of their long-term impact decisions about school admission are likely to be made jointly by social workers, the local authority, the virtual school, carers, and parents.
  • Each school should have a ‘Designated Teacher’ – this is a member of staff who takes responsibility to promote the educational achievement of children in care.
  • The role of the IRO (Independent Reviewing Officer) in education is to oversee and scrutinise the personal educational plan of each child as part of the child’s overall care plan.
  • EHCP – this is an Education, Health, and Care Plan. It outlines any special needs a child has, and the provision a local authority must put in place to help them. If you identify or feel the child in your care has any special needs then work with the child’s social worker, the school, your social worker, and the local authority.
  • If your child or young person has an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), the local Special Educational Needs Assessment (SENA) Team will be responsible for consulting with schools to identify which is best to meet the child’s needs, though parental preference will be taken into consideration. They are also responsible for commissioning places where a child’s EHCP states that a special school is required.

Here’s the legal bit

It is really important to know the legal side of things, it will give you more authority, you will command more respect, be seen as professional and you will know what your child or young person’s rights are regarding their education.

So this is statutory (legal) guidance from the Department for Education. It is issued under section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 and it refers to promoting the education of our children looked after children.

Here are the important parts for us to understand, taken from that statutory guidance, and crucial for you to know as part of the team securing the best possible education for our children and young people.

  • Local authorities have a duty under the Children Act 1989 to safeguard and promote the welfare of a child looked after by them. This includes a specific duty to promote the child’s educational achievement, wherever they live or are educated. The authority must, therefore, give particular attention to the educational implications of any decision about the welfare of those children.
  • Top priority is given to creating a culture of high educational aspirations and that the authority strives for accelerated progress and age-related attainment or better for looked-after children.
  • Looked-after children have access to a suitable range of high-quality education placement options and that, when commissioning services for them, the authority takes account of the duty to promote their educational achievement.
  • Social workers, VSHs, IROs, school admission officers, and Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) departments should work together to ensure that, except in an emergency, appropriate education provision for a child is arranged at the same time as a care placement.
  • Securing appropriate education: When a child becomes looked after, his or her local authority will arrange a suitable care placement. In doing so, the child’s allocated social worker should do everything possible to minimise disruption to the child’s education, whatever the child’s age, and this should involve the VSH. Stability and continuity in education are important at all stages, but particularly so at key stage 4.
  • If it is not possible to maintain the child’s existing education placement, the child’s new education placement should be arranged in consultation with the VSH at the same time as the care placement. The VSH is responsible for supporting social workers to ensure the timely provision of a suitable education placement for looked-after children. Their views should be given appropriate weight as part of decisions on placement moves. There should also be appropriate consultation with the VSH in another local authority where out-of-authority placements are planned and made.
  • In the case of an emergency placement, the authority that looks after the child should secure a suitable new education placement within 20 school days.
  • The choice of the education setting should be based on what any good parent would want for their child. It should be based on evidence that the setting can meet the educational needs of the child and help them make maximum progress.
  • Schools judged by Ofsted to be ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ should be prioritised when seeking a place for looked-after children in need of a new school.
  • The choice of school requires skilled working between relevant people. It should be based on a discussion between the child’s social worker, the child, their carers, and, if appropriate, birth parents. The carer’s level of input into the choice of school for the child should be addressed explicitly in the child’s permanence plan, which is part of their wider care plan.

What Foster Carers say

  • We are our children’s advocates, and many of us here know that we often have to be persistent in accessing the right education for our children. We know just how crucial education is, not just the education itself but the school and the setting, as we are usually very informed on the schools that surround us and which one will be the best fit for each child.
  • Sometimes the school we feel will be best for our child will say they are ‘full’, the reality is, although we know it shouldn’t be, is that due to the background and trauma our children and young people have been exposed to they will often be behind, have more complex needs, require extra help and more intensive pastoral care. Some schools embrace this some already feel overstretched.
  • Remember that school is integral to the care that the child needs and can be an influential part of whether or not the placement succeeds overall.

This is what one of the Foster Carers had to say:

It is important to understand that taking into consideration, trauma, neglect and mental health issues that many looked after children have experienced, can be a tall order in getting them to engage. You may be starting the educational journey of a child that has been out of school for some time, and this will take encouragement and resilience in order for them to gain confidence and have the motivation to return to an educational setting. Success within the school environment is dependent on all our children having a safe, secure, and stable placement.

Take advantage of all that is on offer at the school, in terms of after-school activities, clubs, trips, etc.. bearing in mind what will work for each individual child. Also in some cases, you need to make sure you have permission and delegated authority for them. If you offer opportunities for children to take part in enjoyable school activities, this can greatly enhance their self-esteem and resilience. So think about ways that you can work with the school to make these activities accessible for your child.

When your young person attends college post 16 they still continue to have access to funding, for things like travel, equipment, books, etc… When enrolling your young person access the finance department of the college, different colleges fund in different ways – Some in a lump sum each week, others on a needs and request basis.

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