Does the local authority still have to set targets for its looked after children after 2011?

There are no longer any nationally prescribed educational attainment targets for looked after children, From 2011 local authorities will no longer have to set statutory targets via the Annual SaLTs (School and Local Authority Target setting)  for LAC at KS2 (in English and in maths) or at KS4 (obtaining 5 A*-C GCSEs).

However LAs still retain a duty to promote the educational achievement of the children they look after. Setting targets, either at individual level or across the service you provide for your looked after children, will still be a useful way of measuring their attainment and the quality of support they receive to help them progress.

 Does the local authority still have to collect data on the school attendance of looked after children?

Prior to 2010 the Department collected school absence data via the Outcomes of Children Looked After (OC2) data collection. This is no longer the case as the Department can collect absence data directly from matching SSDA903 data to the National Pupil Database (NPD). However it is clearly important that the local authority, as the corporate parent, knows about a looked after child’s attendance at school and the reasons for any absence. How a local authority monitors and manages that is for them to decide.

 Do all looked after children have low attainment?

No. Looked after children are individuals, each with their own unique strengths as well as weaknesses. While as a group looked after children achieve poorer education outcomes than all children, some individual looked after children do very well.

 Does a school have to admit a looked after child to the school if it is oversubscribed?

Yes, but for some very limited exceptions (i.e. in relation to faith and grammar schools). The requirements are set out in the School Admissions Code.

 Does a school have to take a looked after child if it would mean it breaks the rules on infant class size?

Yes. Looked after children are an 'excepted group'. Further details on the arrangements for looked after children in relation to oversubscription criteria on infant class size can be found in the School Admissions Code.

 Does the school admissions priority for looked after children apply to academies and Free Schools?

Yes, all academies and free school have to abide by the school admissions code which gives looked after children top priority in any oversubscription criteria.

 Do academies have to have a designated teacher for looked after children?

Yes. As part of their funding agreement academies are required to have a designated teacher for looked after children.

 My local authority has told me that it is not possible to fund the HE bursary for care leavers undertaking a course of higher education. What should I do?

Regulations are very clear. Local authorities must provide a Higher Education Bursary to their former relevant children (i.e. care leavers) who are undertaking an eligible course of Higher Education.

Any care leaver who is having difficulty with their local authority regarding this needs to urgently discuss the situation with their Personal Adviser. If a local authority is failing to undertake its statutory duty then the local authority’s complaints procedure should be used. Once the local complaints procedure has been exhausted, if the care leaver remains dissatisfied the complaint can be referred to the Local Government Ombudsman.

 Is it necessary for a local authority to have a 'Virtual School Head' for looked after children?

There is no statutory requirement for a local authority to have a 'Virtual School Head' for looked after children. However, local authorities have a duty to promote the educational achievement of the children they look after. Where a virtual school head is in place who knows about the attainment of looked after children as if they were in a single school and provides challenge and support to help them make progress, this is a clear demonstration that a local authority is fulfilling that duty.

Many local authorities have chosen to appoint a virtual school head or someone with a similar title to undertake the role and there are some positive statements from Ofsted reports of children’s services about how this is working.   

 What do the proposals in the Schools White Paper 'The Importance of Teaching' mean for looked after children?

As a general rule, any proposal within the White Paper will apply equally to looked after children. However there are a few specific references:

  • Paragraph 5.30 – the strategic role of LAs, the key roles of supporting vulnerable children, which includes, specifically, looked after children;
  • Paragraph 5.35 – confirming that any simplification of the admission Code  will nevertheless retain the principle of top priority for looked after children; and
  • Paragraph 5.41 – the LAs broader role in relation to children’s services and their continuing to act as the corporate parent for looked after children with a key role in improving educational attainment.
 Does the local authority looking after a child have to maintain the statement of SEN even though the child is living in another authority?

No, except in a few cases. When a decision is made that a looked after child should be assessed to see whether a statement of SEN is required, the authority which carries out that assessment is determined by section 321(3) of the Education Act 1996. This means that the SEN assessment should be carried out by the authority where the child lives. The authority where the child lives will also maintain the statement. However, there can be some exceptions to this, for example, children placed in out-of-authority 52-week placements, where the placing authority would normally continue to maintain the statement.

 Do the Belonging Regulations determine who maintains a statement of SEN?

No. The Belonging Regulations determine to which authority a child belongs for the purposes of recoupment.