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 from their school.
Where this isn't possible, you should work in partnership with the Virtual School to identify appropriate educational provision.
As lead professional, you should always complete school application forms; this shouldn't be done by foster carers.
The following advice will help you with the process.
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 in close partnership with the other key adults involved in the care and education of the child, to make sure that the choice of school is appropriate, and that it forms a positive 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 and 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 consider the current Ofsted judgement of the school.
Statutory guidance states that good or outstanding schools should be prioritised and children in care shouldn't be placed in schools with an inadequate Ofsted rating. The Virtual School will support you in reviewing the most recent Ofsted reports.
The school's location
You should consider how easily it will be for the child's carer to get them to school.
While convenience shouldn't be the overriding factor, where two or more schools could meet the child's needs, you can consider ease of travel arrangements.
In instances where the child is at an appropriate age and stage of development, you should consider how, over time, independent travel can be promoted.
Information needed by the new school
It's important that the child's new school has access to relevant information about them.
All councils have school admission forms on their websites. The forms clearly identify the information 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 important that you complete these accurately and to a high standard. Where a child's circumstances are complex, it may be appropriate 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 suitable places available in our local schools, before considering schools in neighbouring authorities.
Where a child is already attending a school which is inspected and judged to be inadequate, it's important that you use the termly personal education planning and monitoring process to assess the progress they're making, and to make a judgement as to whether there needs to be a change in school.
Ideally, school placement stability will be maintained, but if you feel that the school’s areas for improvement are having a detrimental impact on the child’s education, it may be necessary 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 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, to ensure continuity of learning and pastoral support, friendships, and gain 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, which 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 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 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 with the SEND assessment and review team, prior to placement, 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.