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3.5.4 Southwark Virtual School - Educational Placement Protocol


This protocol is written in order to ensure consistency of practice across the Virtual School and in liaison with Social Work teams responsible for arranging care placements. It is hoped that, in developing and sharing key principles relating to education placement, earlier and more strategic involvement of the Virtual School can avoid placement in inadequate or otherwise inappropriate schools or Alternative Provision placements. Please note a young person who is Looked After by Southwark will never be placed in a grade 4 school. (See Placement in a Grade 4 School).

This chapter was added to the manual in September 2017.


  1. Guiding Principles
  2. Contingencies

1. Guiding Principles

It is agreed that, in all cases, the guiding principle of the Virtual School and the wider Local Authority is that all Children Looked After (CLA) will be placed in good or better schools* and that no CLA will be placed in a grade 3 (‘Requires Improvement’) or grade 4 (‘Inadequate’). See OFSTED Inspection Handbook, paragraphs 95 – 106 for information on systems in place to work with grade 3 or grade 4 schools.

Whilst it is clear that any individual young person’s experience in a category 3 or 4 school might still be very good, we must have a protocol which actively specifies only ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ schools are acceptable for Southwark CLA. To do otherwise sets a precedent which would increase numbers of CLA in unsuitable provision.

2. Contingencies

Downgrading of School Against OFSTED Criteria

In some cases, it is possible that a school previously graded as ‘good’ or better is downgraded to a category 3 or 4 whilst a CLA is in attendance. In this instance the Virtual School and Social Work teams will liaise to plan a response in the best interests of the young person. This plan will be drawn up on a case by case basis, but with reference to the following caveats/principles:

  1. If the school is downgraded to a grade 3, the Virtual School and Social Work teams will increase the frequency of PEPs to every 3 months, and will monitor the quality of provision very closely with regular communication with carers and Designated Teacher in the interim (every month by phone);
  2. If the school is downgraded to a grade 4, in addition to the above, the Virtual School and Social Work teams will take into account the judgements in the OFSTED report covering Safeguarding, Behaviour and Welfare and Teaching, Learning and Assessment – with particular reference to Disadvantaged Pupils. Where any of these criteria poses an unacceptable risk to the educational future of the young person, a move to another school will be considered:
    • Any plans to move school will be determined by the young person’s age, academic progress and the current school’s ability to safeguard;
    • If a young person is in Year 10 or Year 11, the stability of the placement and its effects on the progress of the young person at GCSE level must be considered.
  3. If the judgement for Safeguarding is inadequate, a school move must be considered.

Emergency Placement

It is acknowledged that in some cases, where a young person comes into care through the Safeguarding route, a care placement is likely to be put in place as a matter of urgency, without perhaps the necessary time for educational planning available. In such cases, interim 1:1 tutoring is ALWAYS preferable to placement in a category 3 or 4 school, and will be arranged by the CLA Education Advisor in liaison with the Social Worker and Carer(s).

Placement in Grade 3 School

In some cases, due to being over Published Admission Number (PAN), or due to difficulties with accessibility, ‘good’ or better schools best suited to meeting the needs of the CLA may present as unfeasible options. In such cases, rather than place a young person in a grade 3 school for the sake of expediency, interim 1:1 tuition will be put in place as described whilst the CLA Education Advisor and Social Worker liaise in order to:

  1. Investigate possibility of funding for transport to ‘good’ school far from care placement;
  2. Give time to Virtual School Head Teacher to liaise with Head Teacher of over PAN ‘good’ or better school in order to negotiate possible acceptance onto roll of CLA with appropriate inducements [1].

Only after these possibilities have been investigated will a young person be placed in a grade 3 school and, in that case, closer management of the young person’s educational experience will be put in place as described in the sections above.

[1] In many cases, schools can be induced to accept a young person over PAN with the offer of short-term financial support.

Placement in a Grade 4 School

A young person who is CLA to Southwark Local Authority will never be placed in a grade 4 school. Where a school is graded 4 and the young person has not yet been placed, 1:1 tuition will be put in place and a suitable school provision will be sought.

Where a young person has been placed in a foster family where another young person currently resides, whilst every effort will be made to treat them as a sibling set, the principles outlined above will not be compromised and a suitable school will be sought for the young person new or returning to care. Any other young person residing with the carers will have their educational placement managed according to the points outlined above.