School and Education


  1. Introduction
  2. The Personal Education Plan (PEP)
  3. When a Child Needs or Joins a New School
  4. Avoidance of Disruption Whilst at School
  5. When a Child Moves to a New Local Authority
  6. Celebrating a Child's Achievements
  7. When a Child is Absent from School
  8. Holidays and Short Breaks
  9. School Exclusions
  10. When a Young Person Becomes Pregnant
  11. School Transport
  12. School Transport Training for those Involved in the Care and Education of Looked After Children

1. Introduction

Looked-after children start with the disadvantage of their pre-care experiences and often have Special or Additional Education Needs. Many looked-after children have suffered disrupted learning, may have missed periods of school. The gaps in learning and in many cases emotional impact of their experiences impact on their educational progress. Educational outcomes for looked-after shows that do not perform as well as their peers at all stages of schooling.

Statutory guidance issued in February 2018 sets out the framework through which local authorities discharge their statutory duty under 22 (3A) of the Children Act 1989 to promote the educational achievement of looked-after children. The Children and Families Act 2014 require every local authority to appoint and officer to make sure the duty is discharged, referred to as the Virtual School Head (VSH).

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.

All maintained and academies are required to appoint a Designated Teacher for looked-after children, who are responsible for promoting and supporting the educational progress of looked-after children in their school.

It is vital that a child’s educational arrangements and needs are discussed with the child’s social worker and your Supervising Social Worker before the placement starts.

You play an important role in promoting education, including pre-school and providing a learning environment outside of educational settings for the child/young person.

Your role:

  • Keep nursery, school, alternative education or college informed of any significant changes and issues;
  • Discuss any concerns, issues and support with the Virtual School Head and Designated Teacher;
  • Help the young person to express their concerns or aspirations and advocate on their behalf;
  • Attend open evenings and any school meetings needed and encourage where appropriate parent’s involvement;
  • Provide uniform, equipment including a computer and appropriate financial support for trips and after school clubs;
  • Establish clear expectations and support with attendance, punctuality, uniform, and completion of homework;
  • Liaise with the school and other agencies including the child’s social worker and Virtual School Head if non-school attendance is an issue;
  • Support a child/young person to achieve their education or training goals;
  • Encourage a child/young person to look at alternative education/placements, further or higher education or training;
  • Have up to date information about progress and attendance;
  • Contribute to the on-going assessment of the child’s educational needs and progress including attending the Personal Education and support the action and decision recorded in the Personal Education Plan;
  • Record any relevant information with regards to the child/young person;
  • Speak to the child’s social worker if you have any concerns;
  • Attend training to gain a wider understanding about how to support your child’s education.

2. The Personal Education Plan (PEP)

All Looked After Children of compulsory school age must have a PEP, even if they are not currently in education. It provides important information to make sure that the right support is in place so that the child can achieve their targets. It should also be a record of the child's leisure interests and educationally what has been achieved.

The child's social worker should arrange a meeting to put together the first PEP within the first 10 days of a child becoming Looked After.

Who should be invited?

  • You;
  • The child and their parents if appropriate;
  • The Designated Teacher at the school;
  • Any other relevant professionals.

If the child is excluded from school, the Head Teacher, an education officer and the SEN adviser if needed should be invited.

The first PEP should:

  • Identify what may have caused or may cause a negative effect on the child’s education;
  • Identify the child’s needs and targets, (e.g. to maintain the current school place, make transport arrangements, find a new school, obtain short-term interim education);
  • Include any SEN Support Plan or other school-based plan;
  • Identify a named person for the day to day management of the PEP and establish how the school will keep in contact with you and the social worker;
  • Be clear about who needs to know about the PEP in school;
  • Agree a date for the next PEP review meeting and when the next (full) PEP is due.

The completed PEP should be given to you, the child, their parents, and all others invited to the meeting. A copy should also be sent to the child's Independent Reviewing Officer.

The PEP covers the following:

  • History of education and training including information about educational settings attended and the reasons for leaving, attendance and behaviour record, academic and other achievements, any special educational needs;
  • How much the child’s education has been disrupted before becoming Looked After;
  • What arrangements are currently in place for education and training, including details of any special educational provision;
  • Any planned changes to arrangements;
  • The child’s leisure interests;
  • Your role and any other person who cares for the child in promoting their educational achievements and leisure interests.

The child’s social worker must ensure PEP review meeting take place on time.

PEP decisions and recommendations must be shared with the child's Independent Reviewing Officer at the Looked After Review.

If there are changes in arrangements such as a change of school or if the child may need private tuition, these recommendations should be taken to the child’s Looked After Review.

3. When a Child Needs or Joins a New School

Choosing and applying for a school place is usually the child's social worker's responsibility but in some circumstances may be delegated to you or shared with others.

Changes of school should be avoided as this will disrupt the child's education. It should not take place in the middle of a school year or in years 10 and 11, unless this is unavoidable.

They should be provided with a copy of the child's current PEP. Other members of staff who need to know should be identified at the PEP meeting, taking into account the child's wishes about confidentiality.

Education, Health and Care Plans:
A change of school at any time needs the agreement of the relevant local education service maintaining the statement.

4. Avoidance of Disruption Whilst at School

A Senior Manager (Nominated Officer) must approve any change of placement affecting a child in Key Stage 4, except in an emergency/where the placement ends 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 possible.

5. When a Child Moves to a New Local Authority

If the child is to be placed in the area of a different local authority and will need a new school, this should be looked at (unless it is an emergency placement) begin well before they move.

The Education Officer and, if needed, the SEN adviser, should be asked to help with this.

Where possible a child should not be moved to a new placement until they have a school place.

Pupils With Education, Health and Care Plan (previously called Statement of Special Educational Needs):
The local education service where the child lives (unless in residential accommodation) is responsible for the placement and provision of education to a pupil who has a Education, Health and Care Plan. The education service for the area to which the child is moving should therefore be requested to adopt the plan. This needs to be planned as early as possible as it can cause long delays.

6. Celebrating a Child's Achievements

Children’s educational (and other) achievements should be acknowledged at one or more of the following times: at Looked After Reviews; in the PEP, at school-based meetings; in school reports; and after exams.

A Looked After Child's educational attainments at Key Stages 1-3, GCSE, A Level and GNVQ should be recorded, including on the electronic record and in the PEP.

7. When a Child is Absent from School

You must notify the school and the child’s social worker immediately if the child does not attend school for any reason.

If the child has been absent from school for more than 10 days, the social worker should talk to you, the school and the child, and any other relevant person to understand:

  • The reasons for the absence;
  • How to ensure the child returns to school or education;
  • Whether and how the child can be helped to catch up on what they have missed.

If the child is missing see also My Foster Child is Missing.

8. Holidays and Short Breaks

You should talk to your Supervising Social Worker if you are planning a holiday or short break, which might affect school attendance. Islington does not allow children to have holidays during the school term. If this rule becomes a problem please speak with your supervising social worker about what help can be provided to avoid this.

9. School Exclusions

The school should tell you and the child’s social worker the reasons for the exclusion. You should decide with the child’s social worker who should speak to the child. The social worker should inform the parents, if appropriate. The social worker, after talking to the child and their parents, must look at whether to appeal against the decision to exclude the child.

The child’s social worker must also inform the child’s Independent Reviewing Officer.

Exclusion from school should be a last resort for children who are looked after so it is vital that you work with the school as soon as a child's behaviour becomes a cause for concern.

If a child is excluded from school for a fixed period, the school will provide work for the first five days of the exclusion.

The social worker must talk to you about suitable arrangements for making sure the child does schoolwork during the day and ensuring that the child does not go out during school hours.

From the sixth day the school should provide a place for the child to be educated.

If the child is in primary school and receives a fixed term exclusion or is in secondary school and is excluded for more than five days, the social worker should make sure a meeting is held within the five days to discuss the child’s return and how best this can be supported.

When a child is permanently excluded but is in the same foster home, the social worker should speak to the local education service to find another school placement.

In the case of permanent exclusion a meeting of the governors will be held within fifteen days to review the decision. If the meeting decides to uphold the decision to permanently exclude, an appeal can be made within fifteen school days. The appeals form can be completed by you or anyone who has Parental Responsibility for the child.

10. When a Young Person Becomes Pregnant

Becoming pregnant is not in itself a reason to stop attending school, nor to cease education.

Where a young person becomes pregnant, the social worker must ensure that the young person remains in education if at all possible. They should talk to the Designated Teacher for Looked After Children at the school to ensure an appropriate plan is in place.

11. School Transport

As a foster carer it is your role to take the child to their current school. If there is likely to be any difficulty please speak with your supervising social worker or the out of hours fostering social worker. If you are caring for children of different ages or children are at different schools you may need to ask your support carer to help you by caring for other children.

12. School Transport Training for those Involved in the Care and Education of Looked After Children

Under section 22 (3A) of the Children Act 1989, local authorities have a duty to promote the educational achievement of Looked After Children. Section 99 of the Children and Families Act 2014 requires an officer be appointed to take on this this duty – this is sometimes referred to as a ‘Virtual School Head’ (‘VSH’). The VSH should ensure that there are appropriate arrangements in place to meet the training needs of those responsible for promoting the educational achievement of Looked After Children. This includes carers, social workers, Designated Teachers and IROs.

The training will cover information about school admission arrangements; Special Educational Needs; attendance and exclusions; homework; choosing GCSE options; managing any challenging behaviour in relation to education; promoting positive educational and recreational activities and supporting children to be aspirational for their future education; training and employment, and the importance of listening to and taking account of the child’s wishes and feelings about education and the PEP process. You should speak to your Supervising Social Worker.