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Designated teachers for looked-after children

Schools within the Local Authority (LA) should appoint a designated teacher for young people who are in care. The virtual head teacher for children who are looked after maintains an up to date register of designated teachers and shares this with social workers and teams in the Children and Adult Services Directorate.

All of Medway's designated teachers are offered training to support their role in schools. They are kept up-to-date on issues concerning children who are looked after (CLA) through a programme of training and workshops. The LA is working with providers of early years and post-16 education to provide designated members of staff and support for children who are looked after in these settings.

Standards for designated teachers for children who are looked after

  • Children and young people of statutory school age have access to education appropriate to their age and ability. This includes access to a broad and balanced curriculum, including the national curriculum
  • Effective assessment, recording and reporting practices are established in accordance with the school's policy on CLA
  • The child or young person has a personal educational plan that is regularly reviewed twice each year within the care management planning process
  • Any special educational needs are identified and appropriate provision is made
  • The child or young person is included within a local school setting
  • The child or young person has a designated teacher in school who liaises with carers, natural parents (as appropriate) and social workers on a wide variety of educational and care issues
  • The designated teacher ensures that educational, care and health information in the child or young person's school file is up to date
  • The designated teacher ensures that positive messages about behaviour and achievement are shared within the school and between school and outside agencies and that high educational expectations are maintained
  • If the child or young person has a statement of special educational need, the annual review coincides with one of the six-monthly care planning reviews
  • All teachers within the school are made aware of the needs of CLA and actively promote their best interests
  • Every effort has been made to provide continuity of schooling and educational experience.

What can teachers and school staff do?

At a multi-agency level:

  • a designated teacher will need to liaise closely with carers, natural parents and the pupil’s social worker on a variety of issues, including homework, kit and equipment required: it is important that positive messages about behaviour and achievement are shared
  • adults in school will need to be sensitive to the young person's wishes over what is known and by whom about their looked-after status
  • there should be a well planned and co-ordinated approach to meeting the young person’s educational and social needs, for example, whether potentially disruptive changes in school can be prevented
  • there needs to be clear understanding about the role and responsibility of school staff in relation to the young person and the roles and responsibilities of the other professionals involved
  • school staff will need to share positive perceptions and high expectations of the young person with other professionals but especially with the young person.

At the school level:

  • teachers should actively seek training to help them fulfil their roles in relation to young people who are looked after
  • it should be established who on the school staff has responsibility for the looked-after young person
  • school records need to be up to date with current names and addresses of carers, natural parents and social workers
  • the school should be aware of and sensitive to the appropriate role of the natural parents
  • the school should have an up to date history of educational and residential placements for the young person, including a record of educational performance and attainments
  • the young person will need the opportunity to participate fully in planning and decision making
  • teachers should have high expectations of the young person, encouraging achievement and ambition
  • the young person will need to have a special, trusted adult in school who is able to take time to listen to them
  • where attendance is a problem, a first day of absence procedure needs to be established
  • designated teachers should ensure that requests from the LA for statistical information held by the school are completed and returned on time to comply with statutory obligations.

For the individual:

  • CLA often have very low self-esteem and may try to hide this: teachers can help them develop more confidence and a sense of belonging
  • teachers can be aware of a variety of issues that may undermine the young person’s ability to engage in the learning process including feelings of loss, rejection, isolation, confusion and low self-esteem
  • teachers need to be aware of possible unresolved feelings the young person may have about their own families and siblings, in addition to insecurity over their current homes and carers
  • teachers can help the individual begin to feel that they are fitting in and offer them a safe haven and a sympathetic ear in a crisis.