The Role of the Virtual School for Previously Looked After Children

  • To promote their educational achievement through the provision of information and advice to their parents, educators and others who the VSH considers necessary for children who are resident in that local authority regardless of their care authority
  • VSHs are not expected to monitor the educational progress of individual children or be held to account for their educational attainment
  • Any intervention in the education of a previously looked-after child must be with the agreement of the person(s) who have parental responsibility for the child. They, like all parents, are responsible for overseeing their child’s progress in education

Schools and the Designated Teacher for Looked After children now have a statutory duty (from Sept 2018) to take particular account of the circumstances of a previously-LAC. The relevant revised statutory guidance is available on line. In general, the statutory duties of the DT with respect to looked after children have been extended to Previously Looked After Children. This means that the governing bodies of maintained schools, academy proprietors and the designated staff member at maintained schools and academies must have regard to it when promoting the educational attainment of looked-after and previously looked-after children.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/promoting-the-education-of-looked-after-children

The Virtual school advise Designated Teachers to maintain, and even intensify, their direct monitoring of a child at the point they become previously-looked after. DTs need to make staff in school aware that some of the attachment issues resulting from early trauma and loss may re-surface and that a child who was previously settled to learning may need extra support when they cease to be legally looked after.

“74% of those adopted in 2014-15 entered care due to abuse or neglect. Their needs do not change overnight and they do not stop being vulnerable just because they are in a loving home. Their experiences in early life can have a lasting impact which can affect the child many years after adoption. We therefore believe that teachers and schools have a vital role to play in helping these children emotionally, socially and educationally by providing specific support, to raise their attainment and address their wider needs.”                            

Department for Education (2015)

 

Previously Looked After Children (PLAC) are those children who are not in the care of a local authority in England and Wales because they became subject to an adoption order, a special guardianship order or a child arrangements order.

Special Guardianship is increasingly used as an alternative to adoption. Special guardians may be foster carers, but are usually people within the child’s birth family or family network, such as grandparents, aunts and uncles, or family friends. Special guardians face specific challenges as they were not usually planning to become carers, but instead are responding to a need within the family.

Children may also leave care under a Child Arrangements Order (formerly residence order),which allows them to live with a family member who is given parental responsibility.

Previously Looked After Funding (PP+)

Schools receive an annual £2300 PP+ for previously-looked after children, direct. The VSH does not receive, manage, or allocate this funding and has no role in defining school policy on how it is spent. Schools should ensure their Pupil Premium Strategy includes details of how they deploy PP+ for previously-LAC.  The PP+ grant is accessed when the school indicates the child’s adoptive, special guardianship or child arrangements order status on the School Census. This is why schools should ensure their management information systems are up-to-date with respect to a child’s legal status. The school therefore needs to alert all parents and guardians that they will need to declare their child’s status to the school if they wish the school to claim the pupil premium plus.  The school should give parents choice about how to demonstrate their child’s eligibility; some parents may wish to share their court order and confirm their children was previously looked after by the local authority, whereas others might prefer to share a confirmation letter from the Local Authority.  It is helpful if schools raise this with all parents (for example via a newsletter) each year, as there may be some adoptive and permanently placed families of which the school is not yet aware.

The DFE has said that it expects schools to work in partnership with parents about how the funding is used. A Personal Education Plan, while not statutory for adopted and permanently placed children, may provide a useful format and forum for reviewing the child’s progress, identifying areas of need, and forming an intervention plan. Schools must be transparent in their use of pupil premium plus.

Issues often facing previously looked after children in school:

Adopted and permanently placed children may have difficulties in some or all of the following areas:

  • Forming trusting relationships with adults
  • Social skills and relationships with peers
  • Executive functioning skills, such as planning, organising, remembering, inhibiting their impulses, focusing their attention, and initiating tasks
  • Speech and language difficulties
  • Learning delays or difficulties
  • Managing their strong feelings, such as shame, sadness, anxiety and anger
  • Coping with transitions and change
  • Sensory processing

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