Looked after and previously looked-after children are given the highest priority within school admission arrangements. The admission requirements for looked-after children and previously looked-after children are set out in the school admissions code. This code applies to maintained schools and academies, including free schools.
It is important that admission authorities understand that fair access protocols do not apply to looked-after pupils and that they are ‘excepted pupils’ in relation to infant class size regulations.
The local authority, as a corporate parent, does not tolerate drift and delay where children the authority looks after are without an education placement that is appropriate to their assessed needs. This includes using the powers of direction in a timely way rather than delay issuing a direction as a result of protracted negotiation.
The choice of school requires skilled working between relevant people. It should be based on a discussion between the child’s social worker, their carers and, if appropriate, birth parents. The virtual school head should normally be consulted to avoid choosing a school that is unlikely to meet the child’s needs.
In arranging a school place the child’s social worker working with the virtual school head and other local authority staff, where appropriate, should seek a school or other educational setting that is best suited to the child’s needs.
The following principles should apply:
- educational provision should mean a full-time place
- schools judged by Ofsted to be ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ should be prioritised for children looked after in need of a new school. Unless there are exceptional evidence-based reasons, looked-after children should never be placed in a school judged by Ofsted to be ‘inadequate’
School changes in key stage 4
The care planning, placement and review regulations became statutory on 1 April 2011 and promoting the education of looked-after and previously looked-after children (February 2018) require that young people in key stage 4 (years 10-11) at school or in an education placement should not change that education placement unless in exceptional circumstances and without the agreement of the virtual school head.
Clearly, there will on occasions be a need for a change of care placement for young people that are in key stage 4 and that decision is a care planning one that is solely a social care decision.
The evidence is that changes to education placement are disruptive and often prevent our young people achieving. Often GCSE and other qualifications have set coursework which is not easily transferable as schools use many different examination boards.
It is vital that there is a need to improve the care planning to include education in the planning stages and not after a move has been made or agreed to prevent our young people missing out on education or not able to continue with their chosen qualifications.
In order to meet the requirements of the regulations when planning a care placement move for any looked-after child that is in key stage 4 (years 10 and 11) it is a requirement to seek agreement from the head of service for looked after children who will contact the virtual school head with the proposed plan so there can be a discussion and an agreement on the right way forward.
It is appreciated that on occasions there will be a need for emergency placement moves, in those circumstances, social workers should contact the Virtual School Head at the earliest opportunity in order to make any plans necessary to meet the young person’s educational needs and meet their statutory right to an education.
DfE guidance on the admission of summer born children can be found here.