Research shows that children in care fulfil their potential when everyone involved in meeting their needs works together to promote positive outcomes.
The advice in this section will help you fulfil your role. As lead professionals, it will help you bring together all those involved in the child's plan. this will make sure they achieve to the best of their ability.
We've included advice on applying for a school place and information about your role in the personal education planning process. We've also included links to legal guidance that underpins this process.
You'll also find advice about how the Virtual School can support you in fulfilling this key role.
Applying for a school place for a child in care
How to find school placements and maintain stability for looked after children.
Your role in this process
When a child or young person is taken into care, we have a responsibility to keep things as stable as possible for them.
We should make every effort to keep them in their existing school to ensure continuity of learning, friendships, and pastoral support.
Where this isn't possible, you should work in partnership with the Virtual School. They'll find the right educational provision.
As lead professional, you should always complete school application forms. This shouldn't be done by foster carers.
Why a child may need to move schools
You may need to find a new school place for a child in care if they're:
- starting school for the first time
- at the stage of moving from primary to secondary school education
- being moved a significant distance to a new care placement, for example to live with a family member. Note, where it's feasible to transport the child to their current school, the school move should only take place once permanency has been agreed
- to be moved from their current school on a permanent basis for safeguarding reasons
- being placed for adoption
Who you should involve
You should always consult the Virtual School before making plans for a school move.
You should work with the other key adults involved in the care and education of the child. This will make sure that the choice of school is right, and that it forms a part of the child’s care plan. It's crucial that you involve the young person in the decision-making process.
You should record all school change planning in the young person’s care plan. You should agree it through the looked after child(LAC) review process.
What you need to think about before applying for a school place
The current school's Ofsted rating
You must always think about the current Ofsted judgement of the school.
Statutory guidance states that good or outstanding schools should be prioritised. Children in care shouldn't be placed in schools with an inadequate Ofsted rating. The Virtual School will help you in reviewing the most recent Ofsted reports.
The school's location
You should think about how easy it will be for the child's carer to get them to school.
Convenience shouldn't be the main factor, if two or more schools could meet the child's needs, consider ease of travel.
Where the child is at an appropriate age and stage of development, you should think about how independent travel can be promoted.
Information needed by the new school
It's important that the child's new school has access to the correct details about them.
All councils have school admission forms on their websites. The forms clearly display the details the receiving authority requires. This is likely to include:
- reasons for the school move
- current school details
- current attainment
- current attendance
- information about any exclusions
- SEND and pastoral needs
It's vital that you complete these accurately and to a high standard. Where a child's circumstances are complex, it may be best to provide a covering letter.
The Virtual School’s education advocate will help you complete the school application forms.
If the young person lives very close to or within the Barnsley borough boundaries, you should always find out if there are good places available in our local schools. Consider schools in neighbouring authorities as second choice.
if a child attends a school which is judged to be inadequate, it's vital that you use the termly personal education planning and monitoring process. This will help assess the progress they're making. It will allow you to make a judgement as to whether there needs to be a change in school.
Ideally, school placement stability will be maintained. If you feel that the school’s areas for improvement are having a negative impact on the child’s education, it may be best to plan a move.
You should always consult the Virtual School if you're considering moving a child to another school.
When to apply
There are key dates to be aware of when applying for school places:
- Applying for a reception primary school place: the annual closing date is 15 January
- Applying for a Year 7 secondary school place: the annual closing date is 31 October
All other school moves will be mid-year school moves and should follow each local authority's mid-year application protocols.
If the child has special educational needs
Where a child has a special educational need, you need to identify a school best placed to meet those needs.
If the child has an education, health and care plan (EHCP), the SEND assessment and review team must be involved. It will be necessary for the child’s named SEND reviewing officer to undertake a statutory consultation process. This is to identify a school that can meet the specific needs identified in the EHCP.
Where a child has significant special educational needs, or an EHCP, transition planning for secondary school should begin early in Year 5.
Once a child's on the roll of a school, you should make every effort to avoid making any change in school placement. This is to ensure continuity of learning and pastoral support, friendships, and a sense of belonging.
- It's especially important that everything should be done to avoid moving a young person who's approaching the end of key Stage 2, in Years 5 and 6. At this stage, pupils are preparing for their end of key Stage assessments and beginning to plan for transition to secondary school.
- It's also very important to avoid moving young people who are in key Stage 4, in Years 9, 10 and 11. By this stage, young people have begun their exam courses. Please note that different secondary schools often use different examination boards. This can lead to significant complications if a child has to move schools once they've started their exam courses. If a move in Year 10 or 11 is unavoidable, you must seek approval from the assistant director.
- If a child is undergoing a statutory assessment for special educational needs, you should make every effort to keep them in their current school. This should be the case until the assessment has been finalised and the appropriate type of provision has been identified. (This may take up to 20 weeks.)
- If, for any reason, a child has to change school, you should, wherever possible, make sure that a new school place has been secured. This should be done before moving a child from their current school.
- If a young person has an education, health and care plan stating they require special school provision, you should always check in with the SEND assessment and review team. This should be done prior to placement. This is to check that the appropriate specialist provision is available in the location you're looking to place the child.
- Ideally, all school moves should be undertaken at the beginning of a new academic year to reduce the negative impact on the child.
The role of the social worker in the PEP process
What the guidance says about your role and step by step guides to support you.
Your role in this process
Social workers play a key role in supporting the education of children in care.
You have overall responsibility for the child's care plan, including their Personal Education Plan. Because of this, it's crucial that you're familiar with the statutory guidance, promoting the education of looked after children and previously looked after children February 2018.
This guidance underpins the education planning process for children in care.
It recognises the social worker as lead professional, supported by the Virtual School, in developing and monitoring robust personalised plans to support educational outcomes.
Step by step guides for social workers
The guides below will help you fulfil your role in the PEP process:
The flow Chart of Termly Personal Education Planning Cycle illustrates our education planning process.
Read more about what the guidance states
Wherever the child is placed, their social worker, supported by the authority’s Virtual School Head(VSH), should take the lead to:
- initiate a Personal Education Plan(PEP) even where a looked after child is without a school place. This includes meeting with appropriate education providers and the carer
- ensure that where a child is placed in an emergency the PEP is initiated within 10 working days of them becoming looked after, wherever they are placed
- ensure, with the support of others, including the VSH, that the PEP contains a summary of the child’s current attainment and progress
- ensure the PEP is effective and is available for the first statutory review meeting of the care plan
- ensure the PEP gives details of who will take the plan forward and specifies timescales for action and review.
The social worker with responsibility for the child should:
- not take significant decisions about a looked after child’s education without reviewing the PEP. This should be done in consultation with the child, the child’s school, carer, VSH, Independent Reviewing Officer(IRO) and, where appropriate, their parent(s)
- alert the IRO to any significant changes to the child’s PEP. This could be the breakdown or change of an education placement, so that the IRO can decide whether a review of the care plan is required
- ensure that all relevant information about the child’s educational progress and support needs is up-to-date and evidenced before the statutory review meeting
- act on any changes required to meet the child’s education needs identified by the IRO.
In Barnsley, this duty is discharged through the Termly Personal Education Plan(TPEP) system (see TPEP policy).
Support for social workers
What we can do to help you carry out your role, and support your professional career.
How the Virtual School can help you
The Virtual School will help you in discharging your statutory duty in respect of education planning for children in care.
- Offer you advice on individual cases.
- Attend looked after child(LAC) reviews, as needed, to support decisions about a child's education.
- Offer you professional development, via the social work forum.
- Make sure an education advocate attends team meetings.
- Provide resources to create dialogue with children on ambitions and education matters.
if you're one of our social workers and you need advice about the education of a child in care, please email the education advocate in the first instance.
Where to get help
Statutory advice and guidance from the Department for Education (DfE).
Advice and statutory guidance from the DfE
- Care planning, placement and case review guidance
- Careers guidance and inspiration in schools
- Improving the attainment of looked after children in secondary schools
- Mental health and behaviour in schools
- Planning transition to adulthood for care leavers
- Pupil premium conditions of grant
- School admissions code
- School exclusions guidance
- SEN and Disability Code of Practice 0 to 25