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4.9.1 Education of Children in Care


This chapter applies to all Children in Care. It should be read in conjunction with the following government guidance documents:

Promoting the Educational Achievement of Looked After and Previously Looked After Children (DfE)

Guidance on Designated Teacher for Looked After and Previously Looked After Children (DfE)

Keeping Children Safe in Education (DfE)

Supporting Pupils at School with Medical Conditions: Statutory Guidance for Governing Bodies of Maintained Schools and Proprietors of Academies in England (DfE)

Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice: 0 to 25 years: Statutory Guidance for Organisations who work with and Support Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (DfE / DHSC)

School Admissions Code

Mental Health and Behaviour in Schools - Departmental Advice for Schools Staff


Personal Education Plans Procedure

Children and Young People Aged 0-25 with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Procedure

Please see relevant section of Forms Library to access the required template.


In November 2022, this chapter was updated to reflect Keeping Children Safe in Education. Schools should have policies and processes in place to ensure all concerns about all adults working in or on behalf of the school or college (including supply teachers, volunteers and contractors) are dealt with promptly and appropriately. See Section 5.1, Protecting Children with a Social Worker, Looked After Children and Previously Looked After Children from Adults Who May Pose a Risk to Them and/or Other Children in the School.


  1. Duty to Promote the Education Achievement of Children in Care
  2. Key Points
  3. Avoidance of Disruption in Education
  4. Responsibilities of Social Workers Concerning the Promotion of Education
  5. Responsibilities of Residential Staff / Carers Concerning the Promotion of Education

1. Duty to Promote the Educational Achievement of Children in Care

Under Section 22 (3A) and 23ZZA of the Children Act 1989 (as amended by Section 4 of the Children and Social Work Act 2017), local authorities have a specific duty to promote the educational achievement of Children in Care, Eligible and Previously Looked After Children. Section 99 of the Children and Families Act 2014 imposes a requirement for an officer to be appointed to discharge this duty - sometimes referred to as a ‘Virtual School Head’ (‘VSH’).

Unaccompanied Migrant Children

Unaccompanied migrant children looked after by a local authority are entitled to the same local authority support as any other Looked After Child: to have a safe and stable placement; to receive the care that they need to thrive; and the support they need to fulfil their educational and other outcomes. Some unaccompanied children who have recently arrived in the country may never have had access to education before.

Appropriate education for unaccompanied children may include a period of time in a setting where their full educational needs can be assessed and integrated into the Personal Education Plan (PEP). They may need time to be prepared for and then become used to formal education, and their initial educational outcomes may include cultural orientation and life skills appropriate to their age. Virtual School Heads, Independent Reviewing Officers, school admission officers and Special Educational Needs departments should work together to ensure that appropriate education provision for the child is arranged at the same time as a placement.

The local authority should ensure robust procedures are in place to monitor educational progress. This includes securing a culture of commitment to promoting the highest possible educational outcomes for unaccompanied children or child victims of modern slavery. Achieving and implementing the above should be monitored by a senior manager, such as the VSH, who is responsible for making sure their local authority promotes the educational achievement of its Looked After and Previously Looked After Children.

Role of the Local Authority, Virtual School Head (VSH) and School

Governing bodies of schools and colleges must appoint a Designated Teacher to promote the educational achievement of Children in Care and Previously Looked After Children and to ensure that this person has appropriate training.

An up-to-date list of Designated Teachers should be maintained to assist with communications and assist other authorities that have placed children within the authority.

As leaders responsible for ensuring that the local authority discharges its duty to promote the educational achievement of their Children in Care, Directors of Children’s Services and Lead Members for Children’s Services should ensure that:

  • Closing the attainment and progress gap between Children in Care and Previously Looked After Children and their peers and creating a culture of high aspirations for them is a top priority;
  • Children in Care and Previously Looked After Children have access to a suitable range of high quality education placement options and that commissioning services for them takes account of the duty to promote their educational achievement;
  • VSHs are in place and have the resources, time, training and support they need to discharge the duty effectively;
  • VSHs have robust procedures in place to monitor the attendance and educational progress of the children their authority looks after;
  • The authority’s Children in Care Council (CiCC) regularly addresses the educational experiences raised by Children in Care and Previously Looked After Children and is able to respond effectively to such issues.

The Virtual School Head should be the lead responsible officer for ensuring that arrangements are in place to improve the educational experiences and outcomes of the authority’s Children in Care, including those placed out-of-authority.

VSHs should ensure the educational attainment and progress of children Looked After by the local authority are monitored and evaluated as if those children attended a single school.

For Children in Care, the VSH should ensure that there are effective systems in place to:

  • Ensure the status of the child and their entitlement to support is made clear to all the professionals supporting that child;
  • Maintain an up-to-date roll of its Children in Care who are in school or college settings and gather information about their education placement, attendance and educational progress;
  • Inform headteachers and Designated Teachers in schools if they have a child on roll who is Looked After by the VSH’s local authority;
  • Ensure that social workers, Designated Teachers and schools, carers and Children’s Independent Safeguarding and Reviewing Officer (CISRO)s understand their role and responsibilities in initiating, developing, reviewing and updating the child’s PEP and how they help meet the needs identified in that PEP;
  • Ensure up-to-date, effective and high quality PEPs that focus on educational outcomes and that all Children in Care, wherever they are placed, have such a PEP;
  • Avoid drift or delay in providing suitable educational provision, including Special Educational Provision, and unplanned termination of educational arrangements through proactive multi agency co-operation. Where this requires negotiation with other authorities, this should be completed in a timely manner and with the best interest of the child as paramount;
  • Ensure the educational achievement of Children in Care is seen as a priority by everyone who has responsibilities for promoting their welfare;
  • Report regularly on the attainment of Children in Care through the authority’s corporate parenting structures.

For Previously Looked After Children the VSH should ensure:

  • They promote their educational achievement through the provision of information and advice to their parents, educators and others who the VSH considers necessary;
  • That with the Director they establish the extent of their offer to parents or those with Parental Responsibility;
  • The child is eligible for support by asking the child's parents or, those who have Parental Responsibility, for evidence of their previously looked-after status (or where this is not possible, to use their discretion in conjunction with the school);
  • They respond to requests for advice and information - e.g. advice on school admissions in their area and sign-post them to other services that can offer support and advice;
  • They respond to requests for advice and information from providers of early education, Designated Teachers in maintained schools and academies, and providers of alternative provision in their area in respect of individual children supported by the local authority;
  • They develop / build on existing good working relationship with Designated Teachers for Previously Looked After Children in their area;
  • They improve awareness of the vulnerability and needs of Previously Looked After Children by providers of early education, Designated Teachers in maintained schools and academies, and providers of alternative provision in their area in respect of individual children supported by the local authority. This should include promoting good practice on identifying and meeting their needs, and guidance on effective use of the PP+.

Social workers, Virtual School Heads and Children’s Independent Safeguarding and Reviewing Officers (CISROs), school admission officers and Special Educational Needs 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.

Governing bodies should ensure that appropriate staff have the information they need in relation to a child’s Looked After legal status (whether they are looked after under voluntary arrangements with consent of parents or on an interim or full Care Order), and contact arrangements with birth parents or those with Parental Responsibility. They should also have information about the child’s care arrangements and the levels of authority delegated to the carer. The designated safeguarding lead, through the Designated Teacher for Looked After children, should have details of the child’s social worker and the name of the Virtual School Head.

A Previously Looked After Child potentially remains vulnerable and all staff should have the skills, knowledge and understanding to keep Previously Looked After Children safe. When dealing with looked after children and Previously Looked After Children, it is important that all agencies work together and prompt action is taken on concerns to safeguard these children, who are a particularly vulnerable group.

The Virtual School Head is integral to ensuring that local authorities discharge their duty to provide suitable advice and information for the purpose of promoting the educational achievement of Previously Looked After Children. They can also undertake any activity they consider appropriate where that activity will promote the educational achievement of such children in their area. The VSH should promote a culture that takes account of the child's views according to age and understanding in identifying and meeting their educational needs.

2. Key Points

  1. Children in Care (and Previously Looked After Children) are often educationally disadvantaged and numerous studies have noted that these children do not achieve their educational potential;
  2. Social workers and other staff have responsibilities to ensure:
    1. That children / young people should be enabled and encouraged to attend school regularly and on time;
    2. That every effort is made to avoid disruption to their education;
    3. That children / young people should be encouraged to participate in extra school activities;
    4. That in discussion with parents, foster carers / residential staff should attend school open nights and other activities and meetings;
    5. That staff / carers should discuss at least once a term the progress of a child / young person with the relevant teacher(s), and such discussions be noted on the case file;
    6. That staff / carers should be aware of specialist educational provisions available.
  3. The Home Manager / foster carers should ensure that an appropriate selection of books and other reading material is available in the home;
  4. Children / young people should be encouraged to join the local library;
  5. Children in Care and Previously Looked After Children can find it difficult to obtain training and work opportunities. This is an important part of the responsibility towards helping young people become independent. The staff / carers, in conjunction with the child’s Social Worker, must therefore assist young people in acquiring and maintaining training and work experience;
  6. This procedure sets out responsibilities in addition to those set out in the chapter relating to Personal Education Plans (see Personal Education Plans Procedure).

3. Avoidance of Disruption in Education

The Nominated Officer must approve any change of placement affecting a child in Key Stage 4, except in an emergency / where the placement is terminated because of an immediate risk of serious harm to the child or to protect others from serious injury.

In those circumstances, the local authority must make appropriate arrangements to promote the child’s educational achievement as soon as reasonably practicable.

Before approving a change of placement affecting a child in Key Stage 4, the Nominated Officer must be satisfied that:

  • The child’s wishes and feelings have been ascertained and given due consideration;
  • The wishes and feelings of the parent(s) have been ascertained where the child is accommodated (where possible) and where appropriate where the child is subject to a Care Order);
  • The educational provision will promote educational achievement and is consistent with the PEP;
  • The Children's Independent and Safeguarding Reviewing Officer has been consulted;
  • The Designated Teacher at the child’s school has been consulted.

Other than in Key Stage 4, where the local authority proposes making any change to the child’s placement that would have the effect of disrupting the arrangements made for education and training, they must ensure that other arrangements are made for education or training that meet the child’s needs and are consistent with the PEP.

From 1 September 2021, the School Admissions Code provides that children being raised by family and friends carers under a Special Guardianship Order or Child Arrangements Order, who struggle to get a school place during the year, will be supported in finding one.

4. Responsibilities of Social Workers Concerning the Promotion of Education

The social worker for the child must:

  1. Have overall responsibility to ensure that the child’s educational needs are met;
  2. Ensure the child’s school is informed of the legal status of the child by telephone / e-mail in the first instance and followed by written confirmation of the information;
  3. Inform / confirm to appropriate colleagues in the education service and the child's school, particularly the Designated Teacher, the legal status of the child in all correspondence; 
  4. Keep the Designated Teacher informed of any significant events, for example, court cases, contact sessions etc.;
  5. Ensure that whenever possible, a child’s educational needs are addressed when considering any change of placement;
  6. Ensure all Care Plans, Statutory Reviews and other planning processes for each child address their education. All targets must be linked to the individual potential of the child;
  7. Ensure the child's school receive copies of relevant plans including the Placement Plan and that the day-to-day arrangements relating to school transport, clothes and dinner money are addressed. Plans must include where appropriate, details of who will read to the child and supervise homework;
  8. Ensure that tasks contained within the child’s Personal Education Plan (PEP) are implemented by named persons / agencies;
  9. Ensure that a new PEP is agreed as soon as possible and at least within 20 school days of a child coming into care or joining a new school, i.e. for the first Statutory Review post placement. Where a child is without a school place, the education service should be contacted in relation to the arrangements for the child's education;
  10. Contribute actively to the assessment process leading to an Education, Health and Care Plan and the annual review of the plan.

5. Responsibilities of Residential Staff / Carers Concerning the Promotion of Education

  1. Contact the school immediately a child is placed and exchange relevant information;
  2. Go to the school and introduce themselves to the class teacher and Designated Teacher;
  3. Ensure that the child attends school every day;
  4. Accompany the child to and from school, according to the child’s age and ability;
  5. Seek support from the child’s social worker if problems occur;
  6. Maintain regular contact with the school and try to attend parents’ evenings and school functions e.g. school plays, sports day;
  7. Ensure that the child has somewhere quiet to study and do homework;
  8. Encourage the child to do their homework and offer help where appropriate;
  9. Encourage all children to develop their own talents, interests and hobbies;
  10. Encourage children to enjoy music and play musical instruments;
  11. Ensure that all children join a library;
  12. Build a supply of children’s books (these should include books that are anti-racist and anti-sexist and also books particularly relating to the experiences of being in care);
  13. Read to or with the child as appropriate to age;
  14. Encourage children to watch educational television programmes/DVDs and go on outings to places of interest. Use everyday situations to promote learning;
  15. Encourage children to participate in school and after-school activities;
  16. Keep information on the child’s educational circumstances and attainments with the child;
  17. Check with the child how things are at school; discuss education on a routine / regular basis;
  18. Encourage children to do well educationally, consider an appropriate career and go into further or higher education;
  19. Act as an advocate on behalf of the child and intervene immediately if there is a problem with education;
  20. Liaise with social workers and the education service as appropriate in relation to educational issues;
  21. Notify the school as early as possible during the first school day of absence;
  22. Supply the school with evidence of the child’s illness;
  23. Celebrate success and reward the child when they do well;
  24. Contribute to Personal Education Plans.

Residential staff / foster carers can be the positive advocates for children in care. They deal with the educational issues, problems and successes, on a day-to-day basis. They are the link to teachers, parents and other professionals. 

The fostering social worker should help foster carers with all these responsibilities and offer support and training for carers to help them improve their role and the educational outcomes of the children they care for.

Educational issues should be thoroughly discussed at foster carers’ reviews.

5.1 Protecting Children with a Social Worker, Looked After Children and Previously Looked After Children from Adults Who May Pose a Risk to Them and/or Other Children in the School

Schools and colleges should have their own processes and procedures in place to manage any safeguarding concerns or allegations, no matter how small, about staff members (including supply staff, volunteers, and contractors).

These procedures should be consistent with local safeguarding procedures and practice guidance. See Safeguarding Children in the East Riding.

They should make clear to whom allegations and concerns should be reported and that this should be done without delay. It is crucial that any such concerns, including those which do not meet the harm threshold are shared responsibly and with the right person, and recorded and dealt with appropriately.

Managing allegations that may meet the harm threshold

An allegation may relate to a person who works with children who has:

  • Behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child; and/or
  • Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child; and/or
  • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates they may pose a risk of harm to children; and/or
  • Behaved or may have behaved in a way that indicates they may not be suitable to work with children.

Concerns that do not meet the harm threshold

Schools should also set out their policy and procedure on dealing with concerns where the threshold for an allegation is not met. Keeping Children Safe in Education defines a low level concern as any concern, even if no more than causing a sense of unease or a 'nagging doubt' - that an adult working in or on behalf of the school or college may have acted in a way that:

  • Is inconsistent with the staff code of conduct, including inappropriate conduct outside of work;
  • Does not meet the allegations threshold (as set out above) or is otherwise not considered serious enough to consider a referral to the LADO.

Examples of such behaviour could include, but are not limited to:

  • Being over friendly with children;
  • Having favourites;
  • Taking photographs of children on their mobile phone;
  • Engaging with a child on a one-to-one basis in a secluded area or behind a closed door; or
  • Using inappropriate sexualised, intimidating or offensive language.

Such behaviour can exist on a wide spectrum, from the inadvertent or thoughtless, or behaviour that may look to be inappropriate, but might not be in specific circumstances, through to that which is ultimately intended to enable abuse.

For further information, see Keeping Children Safe in Education, Part 4: Allegations made against/Concerns raised in relation to teachers, including supply teachers, other staff, volunteers and contractors.

See also: NSPCC Learning, Responding to Low Level Concerns in Education.

It is essential that social workers, carers and school staff, particularly the Designated Safeguarding Lead, have absolute clarity with regard to who is and is not allowed to have access to any Looked After Child.

Any suspicion regarding any adult seeking contact with the child, either in person or through social media, during school hours should be reported to the Designated Safeguarding Lead immediately.

Any member of staff who has concerns about anyone working within the school (staff, volunteers) or undertaking work on or near school premises (contractors, advisors, catering and so forth) must inform a senior member of staff immediately.

The child's social worker must then be informed and child protection procedures then followed. Staff will also need to be aware of issues such as forced marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) that may have led to some children becoming looked after.