Useful information for parents/carers and social workers on topics including personal education plans (PEPs) and pupil premium grants (PPGs).
The vital role of foster carers and residential care staff
The role of the carer is paramount in supporting the education of children in care. Carers should ensure that the child has appropriate access to learning and is encouraged to make best use of it and fulfil their potential. Though not always explicitly stated in the placement agreement this should include:
- working closely with the child’s school or other educational placement
- taking an active interest in the child’s homework
- encouraging a child to value learning
- supporting a child’s attendance at school
- advocating for the child’s individual needs
- REES Centre : based at The University of Oxford, REES carry out research about the role of foster carers and the education of children in care
- Fostering Network have resources on their website. Their London Fostering Achievement work is of interest
- The Doncaster Virtual School offers guidance to adults working with children at risk of attachment issues on its page of advice relating to emotional health and well-being.
The vital role of social workers
Social workers have a key role to play in supporting the education of children in care 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 to ensure the best education outcomes for children in care.
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)
All schools must have a designated teacher, or DT, 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 (personal education plans). They should be the main author and champion of the PEP.
The designated teacher is often the main point of contact for children in care in schools and they will usually attend meetings and reviews. In some larger schools parts of the role may be delegated to a pastoral member of staff such as a head of year or a mentor.
The Personal Education Plan (PEP)
The Personal Education Plan (PEP) is central to improving educational outcomes for children in care. 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 child in care.
The Pupil Premium Grant (PP+) for Children in Care
The Pupil Premium for children in care must be managed by the Virtual School Head to improve the attainment and progress of children in care 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.
Though the grant totals £1,900 per child in care per year the amount of funding used by the Virtual School, or the school at which the child is on the roll, will depend on their needs. That means that this is not a ‘personal budget’; less may be spent on an individual child who is doing well so that larger sums can be spent on a child with greater needs. The Virtual School Head will usually approve funding interventions and support based on evidence that they are likely to have a positive impact. The best source of evidence of what makes a difference can be found on the Education Endowment Foundation teaching and Learning Toolkit
Social workers and carers should influence the way in which Pupil Premium is spent through the personal education plan process. The PEP requires schools to tell the Virtual School how they plan to spend the funding they receive and this should be reviewed at PEP meetings.