A social worker's role in supporting education

A social worker's role in supporting education

Social care staff have an important role in supporting the education of children in care (CiC), and this is true whether you support the child or the carer.

Social workers should familiarise themselves with the DfE's statutory guidance produced in February 2018 Promoting the education of looked after children

School or education setting places

Early years

Early Years - 'Care Matters: Time for Change' introduced an expectation in care planning arrangements for children under five, particularly those aged three and four.

The social worker will work with the carer and the local authority to arrange high-quality early years education as part of the child's care plan unless it's demonstrated to not be in the child's best interests.

Statutory school age

All children in care will be admitted to their first choice of school.

It's important that applications are made in good time and the agreed process is followed.

If a child in care does not have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), you'll need to speak to Admissions. 

If a child in care has an EHCP, you'll need to speak to the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) team.

Admissions protocol and operational document (pdf, 33KB) (opens new window)

Schools sometimes report that they do not receive the correct information when a child in care is placed in their school.
'When placing a child in care in a new school' (pdf, 36KB) (opens new window) has information social care staff should provide as a minimum in that situation.

Attendance

It makes sense that children in care need to be in school to maximise their chances of achieving the best they can and so we all have a duty to make sure their attendance is as good as possible. Improving the attendance of children in care (pdf, 15KB) (opens new window)  provides further information, and can be shared with carers.

The government sees any pupil who misses 19 or more school days a year for any reason as a persistent absentee. 19 days is equivalent to missing 38 sessions, or having 4 weeks off in term-time during the school year. Find out why good attendance matters (pdf, 36KB) (opens new window) .

It's also important that young people in care don't take holidays during term time. You can read a letter about Bristol City Council's policy on term time holidays (pdf, 194KB) (opens new window) .

Any request for a holiday in term-time has to be submitted by the young person’s social worker on the Absence Request form (word doc, 387KB) (opens new window)  

The process for requesting a term-time absence is set out in the Requesting term time absence for a Child in Care flowchart (pdf, 85KB) (opens new window) .

The form needs to be sent to The HOPE Virtual School Headteacher and the Head of Service: Permanency and Specialist Services. Social workers need to allow a minimum of four weeks before the requested absence to submit the request. 

Care placement changes that result in the young person not being able to attend school should be avoided if possible. If such a move is unavoidable, the virtual school must be consulted. Contact The HOPE on 0117 90 36282.

The 2010 ' Care planning placement and case review regulations' statutory guidance states: "When placing a child, the responsible authority is under a duty to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable in all the circumstances, that the placement does not disrupt the child's education or training. This means that the responsible authority have an obligation to try to ensure that the child can continue to stay at the same school even if s/he can no longer live in the immediate neighbourhood." (Paragraph 3.16).

There is specific guidance for young people in KS4: "Moving a young person in the middle of a GCSE course may damage his/her chances of gaining the qualifications that s/he needs to enter further education or to get a job. Many schools now have specific requirements about gaining a particular number of GCSEs or grades in order to enter year 12 and 13 at the school. For this reason requirements are placed on the responsible authority before a decision can be made to make any change to a placement that will disrupt the education of a young person in Key Stage 4 (school years 10 and 11). It is expected that the young person's education should not be disrupted other than as a consequence of an emergency placement." (Paragraph 3.18)

Extracts from the 2010 Care planning placement and case review regulations statutory guidance (pdf, 36KB) (opens new window)  provides further detail from the statutory guidance regarding a placement move that will disrupt a young person's education.

It is expected that social workers will work with schools to:

  • Share information about a child's potentially volatile, aggressive or abusive behaviour to enable the school to make adequate health and safety arrangements
  • Resolve any issues relating to the child's education or behaviour as quickly as possible
  • Inform the school on the first day of absence if the child is unable to attend for any reason
  • Let the school know about any significant changes affecting the young person's life.

Exclusions

Bristol schools are expected never to permanently exclude a child in care. Our schools work very closely with The HOPE to find an alternative in all cases.

Fixed term exclusions do occasionally occur. The school will work to try to avoid them if at all possible and certainly to minimise the number of days a child is excluded.

A protocol is in place on managing exclusions (pdf, 44KB) (opens new window)  in Bristol schools. 

Personal Education Plan (PEP)

All children in care must have a current Personal Education Plan. The PEP is reviewed in line with the Looked After Child Review. It is essential that you attend the child's PEP meetings and have the chance to contribute. 

Top tips for PEPs

  1. Familiarise yourself with the current forms and guidance.
  2. Arrange the meeting sufficiently in advance to ensure all the relevant people can be present.
  3. Talk to the young person in good time before the PEP meeting to make sure s/he has time to fill in the relevant sections of the PEP form with whoever s/he chooses.
  4. Complete the relevant pages PEP before the meeting.
  5. Make sure you take all the relevant paperwork to the meeting.

Pupil Premium

Children and young people in care are eligible for Pupil Premium funding from the first day they come into care.