This document was written as part of a collaboration between the charity Kinship and Leeds Virtual School. The purpose of the document is to inform Kinship carers around the roles and responsibilities of schools towards young people in their care. We also hope it will enable Kinship carers to ask questions around the education of the young people they look after. The document is split into 2 sections; what Kinship carers should expect from a school and what Kinship carers might expect from a school. The second section outlines good practice, but may not be found in all schools due to the type of school, the size of school, budget constraints etc. Although this is written with Leeds Virtual School, it is relevant to all schools across England.
Section 1: What Kinship carers should expect from school
a. Designated Teachers
Each school should have a Designated Teacher for looked after and previously looked after children. This teacher will have responsibility for and is usually the main point of contact for young people living under kinship care. They will have received appropriate training related to promoting the education of previously looked after children and should be the member of staff Kinship carers can talk to about issues relating to their young person’s education.
For further information on the role of the designated teacher, please see the following publication from the Department for Education: The designated teacher for looked after and previously looked-after children. Statutory guidance on their roles and responsibilities. February 2018. DfE.
b. Pupil Premium Plus funding
Pupil Premium Plus is funding (£2410 per annum) which is paid to schools to promote the education of pupils who have been previously looked after. This funding is not a personal budget for individual pupils but should benefit the cohort of looked after and previously looked after children. Pupil Premium Plus can be spent on a wide variety of educational interventions, but the school should be able to explain where and why the money has been spent.
Note: This funding is completely separate to Pupil Premium, which is funding to improve outcomes for disadvantaged young people and is based on eligibility for free school meals. Also, if a young person leaves care to be returned to their birth parents, then they are not eligible for the funding.
c. Declaring Status for Pupil Premium Plus funding
You will need to self-declare your child’s eligibility to the school, by providing proof of your child’s status, for example, a photocopy of the child arrangements orders or special guardianship order. Carers may conceal sensitive information on such documentation if they wish. Alternatively, the school do not have to keep a copy of the order, they only need to check the order to clarify eligibility. If you do not have the order you can apply to the court for another copy or a letter from the local authority, adoption agency or social worker will be sufficient to confirm previously looked after status.
The school must record this information in the Autumn census, which takes place in October. Therefore, it is important that carers and guardians inform the school of their child’s status well before the census. If your child changes school, you will need to declare their status again.
It is the responsibility of the school to keep this information confidential and only share it with relevant members of staff. You should be prepared to discuss with the school who will be party to this information when showing evidence of previously looked after status.
d. Special Educational Needs
Your school will inform you if your young person has special educational needs (SEN). The designated teacher and / or the SENCo (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) at school will explain to you what extra support is being put into place and why it is necessary. Most pupils with special educational needs are helped within school by a process known as SEN Support. A proportion of pupils with special educational needs may have an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) if their needs are more complex, as assessed by the Local Authority. This is a legal document which is reviewed annually and sets out educational objectives and provision for the young person. Find more information here.
You can also join our online information workshop on EHCP and the SEND process for kinship carers across England which you’ll be able to access for free. Dates are continually added so keep an eye on this page.
e. Virtual School
Each Local Authority has a Virtual School. The Virtual School is not an educational establishment, but a service to promote the educational achievement of looked after and previously looked after children. The role of the Virtual School is to give information and advice to parents and schools about the needs and educational progress of previously looked after children, including training to raise awareness, and understanding. The designated teacher may seek the advice of the Virtual School about meeting the needs of individual children with the agreement of the Kinship carer.
f. Early Years
You may be entitled to early years pupil premium if your child has left care in England or Wales through a Special Guardianship Order or a Child Arrangements Order. To enquire please speak to your local council or childcare provider. Early years pupil premium is a payment of up to £302 per year to your childcare provider to help with their education. You can also obtain further information here.
Section 2: What Kinship carers might expect from a school.
These are descriptors of good practice and not necessarily found in every school due to size of school, type of school etc.
A young person who is in Kinship care has past experiences which may continue to impact on their behaviour. This should be recognised by the school and some degree of flexibility should be exercised (for example within their Behaviour Policy). The school should look to support the child to improve their behaviour by incorporating trauma informed, attachment aware practices, with relevant training if necessary. All approaches should be exhausted to avoid exclusion becoming necessary. Where a previously looked-after child is at risk of exclusion, the designated teacher should talk to the child’s carers and possibly ask the advice of the Virtual School.
b. Communication with school
Carers of previously looked after children should have clear lines of communication with school. This is obviously much easier in primary schools, where a young person will usually have a single class teacher, than in a large secondary school where a young person will have many teachers. To avoid confusion or duplication of information, the school should ensure (or the carer could insist on) a single person to communicate to the carers if at all possible. This may be the Designated Teacher for previously looked after children, the form tutor, or a member of the pastoral team, for example. Good practice in school would also be for a young person to have a ‘trusted adult’, which would be a single member of staff a student could go to if they were experiencing any sort of difficulty.
c. Academic progress, attainment and teaching methods
Schools should keep kinship carers regularly informed regarding the academic progress of the young people in their care. Carers should be well aware of the strengths of the pupil and the areas for development in different areas of the curriculum and it should not come as a surprise to find out that a pupil is performing particularly well or needs more support in a particular subject. Schools should obviously have high aspirations for young people in kinship care and realise that all pupils can achieve their academic potential, despite suffering past traumas, for example. Schools should also ensure kinship carers are aware of how key skills are taught, particularly in mathematics, as these may have changed since the carer was at school themselves.
A transition is a move between schools e.g. primary to secondary school, or a move between classes e.g. Reception to Year 1 and can be a difficult experience for previously looked after children who may have already experienced significant disruption in their lives. Transitions should be managed carefully by schools and it should be understood that young people living under kinship care may need a longer and more gradual transition than other pupils e.g. they may need to visit a secondary school earlier and more frequently than other pupils, before they actually start. Transport to school should be organised well before the pupil’s start date, with a ‘trial run’ of the journey for the pupil being particularly beneficial if possible.
e. The spending of Pupil Premium Plus
When spending this funding, the school should seek out the opinion of the carers and the school should evidence how this funding benefits the young person. However, the funding must benefit the cohort of previously looked after children, it is not an individual budget which is ring-fenced to a particular pupil. The school does not have to spend exactly £2410 on each pupil but needs to be able to evidence the effectiveness and the impact of where the funding is spent.
Section 3: References
- Promoting the education of looked-after children and previously looked-after children. (Statutory guidance for local authorities) February 2018. Department for Education.
- The designated teacher for looked-after and previously looked-after children. (Statutory guidance on their roles and responsibilities) February 2018. Department for Education.