Roles and responsibilities

What should the carer look for in a school?

Visit the school, if possible with the child once a school has been identified by the Virtual School and social worker, with the input of the carer. Most schools have open days or evenings, but it is also good practice for parents and carers to arrange an appointment to be shown round at other times. Does the school seem welcoming? Look out for purposeful activity and evidence that the children’s work is valued by being put on display. Check if the school is well run: policies can give useful information on how the school deals with special educational needs, equal opportunities, behaviour and bullying, for example.

A report on the school written by Ofsted (Estyn for Welsh schools) can be found on the Ofsted website, or ask for a copy from the school or local library. The school prospectus includes details of recent results of national tests and public examinations.

What do the admission rules say? These decide how places are allocated when more people apply than there are places. The Government expects schools and Local Authorities to give top priority to Children in Care in allocating places when schools are over-subscribed. Carers should say on the application form that they are applying for a Child in Care.

What support does the school usually provide for children who may need extra help to learn? Ask for a copy of the school’s special educational needs policy if the child has learning difficulties, including emotional and behavioural difficulties.

Taking up a place. Well planned moves and transition support should be detailed in the child’s Personal Education Plan. The designated teacher is responsible for liaising with their counterpart in the new school to enable information, including the Personal Education Plan (PEP), to be passed on quickly so that any support can be put in place without delay. Teachers responsible for pastoral care should make sure that a child is helped to settle in, for example by matching the child to a ‘buddy’.

Day-to-day carers should:

  • encourage regular school attendance
  • provide a quiet place for the child to do homework, and essential materials (e.g. pens, paper, ruler, books, calculator)
  • check homework is done
  • encourage after-school activities
  • attend school events including parents’ evenings (unless there is an agreement between social services and the designated teacher that the child’s parent attends)
  • attend local authority events to celebrate children’s achievement

Being in school full-time gives children the best possible chance to succeed. As well as learning subjects in class, they develop routines and understand about timekeeping. Missing school makes it harder for them to catch up what they miss. Carers can help children to build the habit of attending regularly by:

  • making sure they get up in time to have breakfast and go to school
  • taking an interest in the child’s school work and activities
  • checking homework diaries
  • attending parents’ evenings and reading reports
  • keeping in contact with school
  • not taking holidays during the school term
  • looking out for signs of children missing school, and taking prompt action to get them back in if they are

Supporting young people to attend and do well at school is one of the primary tasks of carers. This means encouraging the child by showing an interest in work they bring home; reading with younger children and, for young people, understanding the demands of course work, exams and tests, and offering the right kind of support and encouragement.

Reviewing progress

All parents and carers are entitled to a school report detailing a child’s progress every year and should be given information about how they can discuss this with the child’s teachers, generally at parents’ evening.

Personal Education Plans (PEP) can take many forms but all Children in Care should have an effective PEP, which forms part of the overall Care Plan. This should be initiated by the child’s social worker in partnership with:

  • the child
  • designated teacher
  • parent or relative
  • carer and/or other professional

The PEP should be reviewed every term and include targets. It is important that these are appropriate and sufficiently challenging for the child, and that the child is aware of them.

Supporting learning

Taking an active interest in a child’s school is a powerful way of letting the child know that their education and progress are important.

There are many ways in which learning can be supported within the home environment. For younger children this often involves more informal learning experiences, whilst for those who are older this may take the form of exam revision.

Some examples of how learning can be supported include:

  • reading with the young person and asking them questions about the text e.g. “What do you think will happen next?”
  • practising spellings
  • offering experiences, such as exploring the local community. This can build on a child’s understanding of the world and support others areas, such as maths when working out change in a shop
  • being on hand to help with homework
  • using online sources such as BBC Bitesize (which covers primary and secondary school) and GCSE Pod

Good home-school communications make it easier for problems to be resolved quickly if difficulties arise for the child in school. An informal meeting with a trusted member of staff can often resolve any emerging problem before it becomes a much bigger issue.

Planning for life after school

When young people reach the age of 16 their Care Plan will become their Pathway Plan.

The Pathway Plan must include an updated assessment of the young person’s education and training. Detailed information will be necessary about the support that will be provided to the young person so that they are able to continue to achieve at school or to successfully make the transition to college-based education, training or employment. It is the responsibility of the young person’s Leaving Care Personal Adviser to make sure that this plan is in place and reviewed.

Special Educational Needs

For a number of reasons, young people in care are more likely than other children to have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or statement. Achieving the right help for children with SEN often requires much energetic determination by carers. The local authority, in its role as corporate parent, should be equally vigorous in ensuring that all Children in Care have their additional and special needs met, and have access to effective advocacy when needed.

Carers can raise concerns about a child’s progress if they feel that the child has learning difficulties, including social, emotional or mental health needs.

Supporting children at school

Taking an active interest in a child’s school is a powerful way of letting the child know that their education and progress are important.

Good home-school communications make it easier for problems to be resolved quickly if difficulties arise for the child in school. An informal meeting with a trusted member of staff can often resolve any emerging problem before it becomes a much bigger issue.

Exclusions and challenging these

All those who work with Children in Care should take responsibility for identifying behaviour that is likely to hinder their education.

If there are concerns over full time and part – time education, advice and guidance can be found by following the link to the exclusion guidance booklet.

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