Statutory guidance launched on promoting education of children in care
Virtual School Heads have key role supporting looked after children
Published on 28th February 2018
Virtual school heads have a “key role” to ensure looked-after children have the maximum opportunity to reach their full educational potential, official guidance has stated.
Looked-after and previously looked-after children start with the disadvantage of their pre-care experiences and, often, have special educational needs, said the statutory guidance for local authorities published by the Department for Education.
“VSHs have a key role to ensure these children have the maximum opportunity to reach their full educational potential- an important part of why this role was made statutory,” said the guidance.
“For looked-after children, as part of a local authority’s corporate parent role, the VSH needs to be the educational advocate that parents are for others. For previously looked-after children, the VSH will be a source of advice and information to help their parents to advocate for them as effectively as possible,” the guidance added.
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.
As the guidance is statutory, it must be followed unless there are exceptional circumstances that justify departing from it.
It states that 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. All looked-after children should have a Personal Education Plan (PEP) which is part of the child’s care plan or detention placement plan.
For children who were previously in care, local authorities have a duty under the Children Act 1989 to promote the educational achievement of previously looked-after children in their area by providing information and advice.
VSHs are 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.
A second piece of guidance issued by the DfE states that personal adviser support should be extended to all care leavers to the age of 25 in line with the Children and Social Work Act 2017. The new duty comes into force in April 2018 and the guidance provides information for local authorities to assist them in implementing the new duty.
The guidance was issued as the government announced funding of £5 million for three projects to support care leavers into education, employment and training. Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi announced up to £5 million for three new Social Impact Bond projects to support young people as they make the transition from care to independence.
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