Children Looked After are often referred to as children in care. They are children who are looked after by the local authority. These include children subject to a care order made by a judge at family court, and those who are accommodated on a voluntary basis in agreement with their parents. Children become looked after because their parents/carers are unable to care for them, they have been abused or neglected and/or are unaccompanied asylum seekers. Because of their experiences they are often more vulnerable than other children.
All Children Looked After have a care plan. This plan includes information about services provided for the child; their care, education and health needs; the local authority’s responsibilities; arrangement for contact between the child and their parents and other family members; how long the plan is likely to last; arrangements made for the child at the end of the placement. The latter includes returning to their family or other alternatives if that is not possible.
For young people who are in care at 16 years old arrangements are made for when they leave care, which will usually be at 18 years of age. This includes support, including practical support, advice, assistance, finding accommodation, and help with education and training.
As a Corporate Parent, the Council recognises that it is crucial to support and promote the education of children looked after and to encourage children and young people to aspire and achieve in order for them to realise their potential.
Local authorities have a statutory responsibility to make sure that they promote the educational achievements of the children they look after, regardless of where they are placed. This means that local authorities must consider the educational implications of every decision taken about a child’s care and placement. This reflects their wider role as a Corporate Parent – local authorities must strive to offer all the support that a good parent would give in order to make sure that the children they look after reach their full potential. Having a virtual school is one of the key ways in which a local authority can demonstrate that it is discharging its statutory duty.
In July 2014, new statutory guidance was issued by the Department for Education setting out the framework through which local authorities should discharge their statutory duty to promote the educational achievement of looked after children. This guidance included the appointment of a Virtual School Head (VSH). This duty has therefore strengthened the role of the local authority with regards to prioritising and supporting Looked After Children’s education and achievements. The duty also made changes to the frequency of Personal Education Plans (PEPs) and has linked the allocation of Pupil Premium funding to completed PEPs; with management of the funding to be held and overseen by the Virtual School Head.