Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

New obligations for looked-after children

New statutory guidance has been issued to local authorities on the treatment of 'looked-after children'. It includes all children for whom the local authority is effectively the carer. The guidance has significant implications for schools.

The educational achievement of looked-after children has been notoriously disappointing. One major issue has been the failure to provide continuity in education, which is at least partly the result of a lack of attention by social services.

The new guidance places a duty on social services to secure appropriate education within 20 days of placing a child in care.

Similarly, when an authority is placing a child in an area other than its own, effective education arrangements must be made before the placement is arranged. This should make life better for schools in both authorities.

The guidance also puts pressure on attendance and exclusion from school, both of which damage continuity. It encourages every effort to be made to get children to school and keep them there.

Schools which are admission authorities should note that the government intends to make regulations that compel schools to give priority to looked-after children in their admissions policies. This makes it a legal requirement, rather than simply something that schools must have regard to.

Schools will need to make sure that they know who the looked-after children are in their care and to make sure that their achievements are being monitored and recorded over time.

It would be prudent to have an explicit policy on the admission, induction and support of looked-after children.

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Richard Bird, ASCL legal consultant

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