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4.10 Education of Looked After Children


This guidance applies to all Looked After Children.


Education of Looked After and Previously Looked After Children Procedure

Personal Education Plans Procedure

Role and Responsibilities of the Virtual Headteacher Procedure

Children and Young People Aged 0 - 25 with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Procedure

Exclusions and Children out of School

Delegated Authority Procedure


DfE, Mental health and behaviour in schools


This chapter was updated in September 2017 to reflect the current structure and terminology within Southwark and also to revise national standards and attainments, (see Appendix 1: Understanding the Education System).


  1. Responsibilities of Social Workers
  2. Responsibilities of Carers Concerning the Promotion of Education
  3. Responsibilities of Designated Teachers
  4. Checklist for Independent Reviewing Officers 
  5. Personal Education Plans (PEP)
  6. Southwark Arrangements 

    Appendix 1: Understanding the Education System

1. Responsibilities of Social Workers

Social workers need to show through their everyday practice their understanding of the importance of education. They should:

1.1 General

Inform the school’s Designated Teacher when a Looked After Child is admitted into their school.

Share essential information with the Designated Teacher immediately a Looked After Child starts at a school, including details of carers, contact arrangements, emergency contact details and any information around pre-care history, Court hearings, contact arrangements or any other relevant care issues that need to be shared. The school should be made aware of any potential involvement of the birth parents.

Read and discuss the school report with the child and give positive feedback.

Ensure the school tell them any key information straight away e.g. attendance issues or any behaviour issues, especially if they may lead to a fixed term or permanent exclusion.

Know how the child is doing in school e.g. their achievements and their potential, any strengths or concerns.

Know how the child feels about school and support them appropriately if they have any worries e.g. being bullied.

Act as advocate for the child on any issues of concern e.g. not achieving potential, undiagnosed learning needs.

Ensure health checks have taken place e.g. sight and hearing.

Ensure the child is receiving appropriate support for their education from the foster carer. Discuss any concerns with the foster carers’ supervising social worker or if placed with an external provider, with the agency concerned.

Try to arrange as many appointments as possible for therapy etc. out of school hours.

Discuss travel arrangements to the school and include them in the child’s Placement Plan.

1.2 Meetings and documentation

Attend Education Health and Care Plan Annual Reviews for all Looked After children with a Statement - this will double up as one of the Personal Education Plan (PEP) meetings.

Keep education related documents in an education section on the child’s file. This should include school reports, the child’s PEP (with the ongoing section updated regularly and in the current file), the IEP, Statement reviews and final Statements where appropriate.

1.3 Attendance and punctuality

Know if there are any issues in relation to the child’s school attendance and/or punctuality, and work with the child’s carer and school to support good attendance and punctuality.

1.4 Admission to school

Ensure that applications are being made when a child is going to be in need of a school place e.g. when starting at primary school, transferring to secondary school or moving care placements mid-term which will require a new school place. A letter of support may sometimes be helpful.

Make appeals when child is not given a place in the school of choice.

1.5 Exclusions and behaviour

If the child is at risk of exclusion check that everyone is working together to minimise the risk. This should be formalised in a Pastoral Support Plan (PSP) if the child is at risk of permanent exclusion (the school are responsible for co-ordinating the PSP).

Consider appealing if a child is permanently excluded from school.

1.6 For children with Special Educational Needs

Have a basic knowledge and understanding of the Education, Health and Care Plan Assessment Code of Practice (see Children and Young People Aged 0 - 25 with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Procedure.)

Know if the child is receiving special education provision through school action, school action plus or a Statement and what that special education provision is.

Provide ‘advice for statutory assessments,’ within the time limits when requested by the education service.

Ensure that children attend medicals/tests etc. required as part of the statutory assessment.

Attend Annual Reviews for children with a Statement.

Consult with the appropriate education service when a Looked After Child with a Statement moves from the area of one education service to another. This should be done in advance of the move, if possible, so that the new education service can receive the papers from the previous authority and plan appropriate provision. (If it is an emergency placement, the education service should be informed as soon as possible.)

Ensure that Looked After children have their Special Educational Needs met. They should advocate for the child e.g. they should ensure that the child participates fully in their school, has access to a broad and balanced curriculum and receives the named extra support. The social worker should form a view of whether this is helping the child to make appropriate progress.

Ensure that a child’s view of their Education Health and Care Plan and their education are taken into account in IEP’s, PEP’s and Annual Reviews.

1.7 Homework

Ensure that child is being given appropriate amounts of homework and receives adequate support from the carer. Encourage the child to complete homework by taking an occasional interest in what they are doing.

1.8 Pre-school

Ensure the child is accessing good quality play and learning experiences.

Ensure the carer is preparing the child appropriately for primary school (e.g. helping them develop concentration and listening skills).

1.9 Primary

At the end of year 5 and at the beginning of year 6, discuss with the child and the carer possible choices for secondary school. Ensure appropriate information is gained to make an informed choice.

With the carer, make application for secondary school places in good time (currently around mid-October of year 6).

Ensure that the child has adequate support from the school and the carer to help with the transition to secondary school.

1.10 Secondary

Ensure the child has adequate support to adapt to secondary school routines.

Ensure the child has appropriate resources for storing school equipment and doing homework/revision.

2. Responsibilities of Carers Concerning the Promotion of Education

Carers need to show a consistent, interested and supportive attitude to the child’s school and education.

They can be the positive advocates for Looked After children. They deal with the educational issues, problems and successes, on a day-to-day basis. They are the link to teachers, parents and other professionals. 

The foster carer’s social worker should help foster carers with all these responsibilities and offer support and training for carers to help them improve their role and the educational outcomes of the children they care for.

Educational issues should be thoroughly discussed at foster carer’s reviews.

See Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.

In order to promote a child’s education, they should do the following:

2.1 General

Encourage their child to join a library and be aware of all the services they offer e.g. during school holiday times.

Be aware of extra-curricular activities offered in the community and by the school and encourage the child to participate in activities.

Check the child has no vision or hearing difficulties that could impede progress.

Actively support the school’s ethos and behaviour policy.

Respond to any concerns expressed by school and share them with the child’s social worker.

Ensure the child has appropriate equipment/money etc. for each school day.

Take the child to places of interest e.g. museums, nature trails etc.

2.2 Meetings and documentation

Read and discuss the school report with the child and give positive feedback.

Attend parents’ evenings and inform the child’s social worker of significant discussions.

Attend Personal Education Plan (PEP) meetings and contribute to joint planning to improve the child’s educational achievements.

Keep copies of documents relating to child’s education in a safe place e.g. PEP’s, Education Health and Care Plan Assessments, Individual Education Plans (IEP), school reports, letters from the school, brochures etc.

2.3 Attendance and punctuality

Ensure the child attends school every day.

Always let the school know if a child is going to be absent for any reason.

Avoid booking holidays during school term except in the most exceptional circumstances.

Make sure the child is at school, and picked up from school on time or if the child is older make sure they get to school on time.

2.4 Admission to school

If the child has no school place they should, in conjunction with the child’s social worker, find out the admissions process for local schools and where there are vacancies.

Appeal for a place at the school/schools of their choice if they are refused a school place. Ask the child’s social worker and education worker to support the appeal.

2.5 Exclusions and behaviour

Try and help prevent any exclusions from school, by making sure they know if the school have any concerns about the child’s behaviour and work with the school and the child’s social worker to improve the behaviour.

Always inform the child’s social worker if child has a fixed term or permanent exclusion.

Ask the school why the exclusion has been given and discuss with the child and the child’s social worker.

Ask for a meeting at the school to find out what needs to be done to support the child’s school placement.

Decide with the child and the child’s social worker whether to appeal if the child is permanently excluded and ask for the support of the education worker.

2.6 For children with Special Educational Needs

Attend IEP meetings. Find out what they can do to support learning in the home.

Attend Annual Reviews (where the child has a Education Health and Care Plan).

Know if the child is receiving special education provision through school action, school action plus or a Statement and what that special education provision is.

Consult with the SEN department when the child is changing schools (in conjunction with the child’s social worker).

2.7 Homework

Read to, and with, younger children and less experienced readers as frequently as possible (preferably daily).

Encourage older children/independent readers to read daily. Express an interest in what they’ve read.

Support homework by: ensuring the child has a suitable place to do their homework; checking they are doing the homework and taking an occasional interest in what they produce and praising their efforts. Also discuss with school if quantity, or difficulty, of homework seems inappropriate.

2.8 Life Pack

If their child has been issued with a Life Pack, work with or encourage child to fill in appropriate parts and collect appropriate memorabilia - see Life Packs Guidance.

2.9 Pre-school

Ensure the child is accessing good quality play and learning experiences.

Help the child develop appropriate skills to prepare them for school e.g. putting on a coat and shoes independently, attempting to write their name, concentrating for short periods of time, listening to a story.

2.10 Primary

During year 5 and at the beginning of year 6, collect information (e.g. on selection criteria for schools) and brochures on different secondary schools in the area. Visit the schools with the child at the beginning of year 6. 

Make applications for secondary school places in good time (currently around mid-October of the child’s year 6).

In the last term in year 6, help prepare the child for transition to secondary school. 

2.11 Secondary

Help the child adapt to secondary school routines e.g. routines for preparing equipment and school uniform etc. for the next day, help set up homework routines for example when homework will be done and what homework needs to be done each day.

Provide a shelf/box/area where they can store their school-books and equipment.

Check if the school provides extra support prior to SAT’s or GCSEs and if appropriate for the child, encourage child to participate.

Check if the child needs any extra resources or revision guides.

Help plan a revision timetable and provide encouragement at appropriate times.

Discuss year 9 options and support their decision-making processes.

During the later years of secondary school, regularly discuss school/work/college/training 16+ options.

3. Responsibilities of Designated Teachers

The Designated Teacher should:

  1. Keep a list of the Looked After pupils in the school, with contact telephone numbers and make sure it is up-dated regularly;
  2. Ensure all information is stored confidentially and shared on a “need to know” basis;
  3. Act as a liaison person for other agencies and individuals in relation to Looked After pupils;
  4. Advocate for Looked After pupils in schools;
  5. Attend relevant training on Looked After pupils;
  6. Ensure that staff in school have relevant information/training on Looked After pupils to enable them to positively promote educational issues;
  7. Act as liaison officer in school making links where necessary with, for example pastoral support staff and the Special Educational Needs Coordinator;
  8. Act as adviser for other staff in school and school governors on issues relevant to Looked After pupils;
  9. Ensure that Reviews by Social Services of Looked After pupils are seen as a priority and that an appropriate contribution to the meeting is made;
  10. Ensure that all Looked After pupils have a Personal Education Plan and that tasks are actioned;
  11. Keep general circulars, legislation and information on Looked After children up to date;
  12. Ensure that each Looked After pupil has a member of staff in school they can talk to;
  13. Ensure speedy transfer of educational information from the school to all appropriate colleagues;
  14. Ensure that the liaison teacher in the primary school passes all information to the Designated Teacher in the secondary school;
  15. Ensure that any concerns or significant developments are promptly communicated to the allocated social worker or team duty officer.

4. Checklist for Independent Reviewing Officers

4.1 General

Reading at home/homework.

Attendance/punctuality/behaviour concerns.

Child’s attitude to school.

Support offered to child by carer, social worker and school.

Copy of last school report.

Attendance of carer at open evenings.

4.2 PEP’s

Check when last PEP meeting took place.

Main strengths and weaknesses.

Actions planned for school, carer or social worker.

Did child and carer attend PEP meeting/review?

Did social worker consult with child prior to PEP meeting/review and involve the child in the PEP process?

4.3 Special Education Needs

Check if the child is receiving extra support through school action, school action plus, or if a statutory assessment is being sought or if a child has a Education Health and Care Plan and if so:

  • What are the child’s Special Educational Needs?
  • What extra support is the child receiving?
  • Do the carer and the child’s social worker feel that the child is making appropriate progress with the extra support?
  • Child’s view of their Education Health and Care Plan.

4.4 Transitions

  • If 4 years old or at end of year 5 or in year 6:
    • Check which schools are being considered and if application has been made;
    • How is the child being prepared for the transition?
    • Child’s view.
  • If in year 8 or 9 (Option choices are increasingly made in Year 8 for starting GCSE's in Year 9:
    • What option choices are available?
    • Has the child any idea of what they may be interested in doing as an adult?
    • What do they need to help them develop their thinking?
    • Do option choices seem appropriate for their aspirations for the future?
    • Who is discussing 16+ provision with them? 
    • If they are doing GCSEs next year, has a referral to home tuition project been made?
    • Is this something the child would be interested in?

4.5 Life Pack

Have the carer and the child completed appropriate sections in school memories?

What certificates, photos etc. have been kept in the school memories?

5. Personal Education Plans (PEP)

See Personal Education Plan Procedure.

PEP's are a joint plan between the school, the child's social worker, the carer and the Looked After Child to develop a support package to help the child achieve their potential in school.

The PEP also acts as a record of:

  • Strengths and weaknesses;
  • Behavioural, attendance and punctuality concerns;
  • Special educational needs;
  • Child’s view of their education;
  • Carer’s view of the child’s education;
  • Extra-curricular activities.

It also sets up to 3 targets (unless the child has Special Educational Needs and the IEP is up to date). One target at least should be an academic target. Targets from the last PEP should also be reviewed.

The PEP also has an ongoing section, which acts as a record of the child's educational history e.g. schools, SAT's results, GCSE options and plans to support transitions etc. The ongoing section should be updated at every PEP meeting as necessary

The Personal Education Plan should be initiated as part of the Care Plan before the the child becomes looked after (or within 10 working days in the case of an emergency placement), and be available for the child's Looked After Reviews.

Involving Looked After Children in their PEP

Social workers should have a discussion with the child prior to their PEP meeting (unless they arrange for someone else to do this) to find out how the child is doing in school and if they need any extra support. The social worker should bring to the meeting anything that is sensitive for the child but needs to be discussed to help the child achieve their potential in school.

If a child does not want to attend the PEP meeting, the meeting should develop a strategy for involving the child in the future, as the child’s involvement is central to the success of the PEP.

Incorporating PEP’s into Annual Reviews of Statements

Much of the discussion that takes place at an Annual Review will provide information required for the PEP. It is not necessary to hold an extra meeting. However, the school and social worker will need to make sure that all the information needed for the PEP is shared. The Annual Review report could be attached to the PEP to avoid duplication where the information required is the same.

6. Southwark Arrangements

Children's Social Care and Health Authorities are required to work with the education service to coordinate and support the education of Looked After Children.

The Southwark arrangements provide for the following:

  • The Southwark SEN Panel to meet every school term to consider complex SEN cases (attended by Education senior managers and the Designated Officers from Health and Children's Social Care). Enquiries about Panel decisions should be made through the named SEN caseworker;
  • Arrangements for the sharing of data are ongoing and informal;
  • An LA Advisory Teacher for Designated Teachers for Looked After Children. The teacher advises and supports Designated Teachers for Looked After Children in Southwark schools and promotes understanding of how to help Looked After Children achieve particularly through the PEP process. This area of work will fall under the remit of the Virtual School.

Appendix1: Understanding the Education System

School organisation

Schools are usually divided into Primary and Secondary schools. Primary schools are sometimes further divided into infant and junior schools. The different stages of education are also known as Key Stages and are allied to the age group being taught. School is compulsory from the term after a child becomes 5 (although most children start in the term in which they become 5, or before) until the end of the school year in which they became 16.







Foundation stage profile










Although SATs are not now obligatory, schools often still use them as a useful baseline, and they report to parents by stating that young people are below, meeting or above expected progress.







There are no KS3 SATs any more. National Curriculum levels are no longer used. There is no nationally approved system, although most secondary schools are getting round this by extending GSCE numerical grade (1-9) downwards through to Year 7.





GCSE’s or alternatives


Assessments are made of a child's abilities in different subjects according to the level they have reached in the National Curriculum. Children can achieve Level W, 1, 2C, 2B, 2A, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8. These assessments are always made and nationally reported at the end of Year 2, Year 6 and Year 9. Children with Special Educational Needs may have their achievement recorded in 'P' levels. 'P' levels are Pre National Curriculum levels.

At the end of year 11 young people take nationally recognised qualifications usually GCSEs or B-techs. Pass grades for GCSEs are 1-9. Grades 5-9 are considered desirable (5 is the equivalent to a ‘good pass’, 9 to an A*).

Special Educational Needs (SEN)

See the guidance contained in Children and Young People Aged 0 - 25 with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Procedure.

Admissions - General

Schools have different admissions policies dependent on the status of the school e.g.

  • Community schools - admission administered within the local education service;
  • Voluntary aided schools (frequently church schools), foundation schools, technology colleges etc. - admission administered by the school.

Therefore if a Looked After Child has no school place, there will be a need to consult with the local education service's admissions department for a place at community schools within their area but separate applications will be needed for other schools e.g. voluntary aided and foundation schools, free schools or academies.

Some local education services prioritise the admissions of Looked After children in line with the recommendations from 'A better education for children in care'.

Admissions for children with Special Educational Needs

If a child has a Education Health and Care Plan Assessment, the admissions process is dealt with in the SEN department of the local education service for the area where they live. If a child with a Education Health and Care Plan moves from area of one local education service to another and needs to change schools, advance planning (preferably 1 or 2 months) is essential as the consultation process for placing a child with a Education Health and Care Plan in a school is lengthy.

Transferring to Secondary School

The process for transferring to secondary schools starts at the beginning of a child's Year 6 in school. It is vital at this stage to get the relevant education service's secondary school booklet, which details local arrangements for admission to secondary school. This will include the date applications for secondary school places need to be made by. This date needs to be strictly adhered to. London education authorities are introducing 'common admission arrangements' that will make it easier to apply for secondary schools. Some schools have agreed to prioritise the admissions of Looked After children.

The process is slightly different for a child with a Education Health and Care Plan Assessment and the local SEN department will need to be consulted. The process will begin in the summer term of year 5 with the Education Health and Care Plan Annual Review and should begin to identify the most appropriate secondary school for a child with a Education Health and Care Plan.

Avoidance of Disruption in Education

The Nominated Officer - in Southwark this is the Virtual Headteacher - must approve any change of placement affecting a child in Key Stage 4, except in an emergency/where the placement is terminated because of an immediate risk of serious harm to the child or to protect others from serious injury.

For further information please see Education of Looked After Children Procedure, Avoidance of Disruption in Education.