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Social workers and the education of looked-after children

Standards for social workers:

(All references to social workers also apply to community care workers who have case-carrying responsibilities for looked-after children.)

Social workers:

  • in conjunction with Medway Council as the Local Authority (LA), will be responsible for ensuring that any looked-after child of school age will have access to educational provision appropriate to their age and ability
  • will give the educational needs and interests of children and young people a high priority in their care management, care planning and review process
  • will initiate and maintain close liaison between a child’s school and LA throughout the time in which the child is being looked after
  • will ensure effective links are established and maintained between the child’s current carer(s) (e.g. foster or residential placement), school and LA throughout the time in which a child is looked after
  • will actively promote the involvement of natural parents and/or wider family, where safe and appropriate, in the child’s education by ensuring they are kept informed of progress and have opportunities to attend parents’ evenings, sports days etc.
  • will be responsible for ensuring that information regarding a child’s educational placement and progress is obtained and provided to the statutory child care review (including results of SATS tests and GCSEs): this could be in the form of a written report from the school or attendance by a member of school staff
  • will ensure that any special educational needs are given due consideration at the statutory review
  • will ensure that the views and wishes of the child about their education are sought and duly considered
  • will make every effort to ensure there is minimal disruption to a child’s education by avoiding, wherever possible, changes of school.

How social workers can help

(All references to social workers also apply to community care workers who have case carrying responsibilities for looked-after children).

At a multi-agency level:

  • the educational needs and interests of the young person should have an important place in the planning and review process through a co-ordinated approach, involving carers, natural parents, the school, and LA staff
  • changes of school need to be avoided wherever possible
  • there needs to be clarity about the different roles and responsibilities of all the professionals involved, including the role of natural parents
  • drift and delay in implementing decisions about permanency arrangements and/or educational placements need to be avoided
  • all the professionals involved need to have high expectations of the young person’s educational attainments
  • awareness of day to day educational issues for the young person, such as the need for kit and equipment, friendships, action to deal with bullying, parents' evenings and the need for adequate facilities and support for completing homework, is very important.

At the school level:

  • there should be a designated teacher in school who has special responsibility for looked-after young people from any authority responsible for their care
  • the social worker and the school will need copies of an up to date educational history for the young person and a copy of the statement of special need, if appropriate
  • if there are truancy issues, a plan to promote regular attendance, involving the support of the educational welfare service, will need to be agreed
  • if the young person has a statement of special educational need, the annual review should coincide with a care plan review
  • the social worker should help the school to be aware of the appropriate role of the natural parents
  • the young person will need someone to attend parents’ evenings, sports days, concerts and open days
  • if there is uncertainty over the care placement, the school will need to know that the young person’s behaviour may be more difficult in the short term
  • if colleagues in the education department use unfamiliar terms (e.g. NC levels, SATs, and key stages), an explanation should be requested.

At the individual level:

  • the social worker needs to be aware of the young person’s achievements in the school setting to share and celebrate these with them
  • education can play an important part in helping the young person achieve their ambitions, wishes and dreams
  • issues such as difficulty with homework, bullying, feeling that no one cares, insecurity, unresolved family issues or feelings of loss can undermine the young person’s ability and confidence to engage in the learning process: the young person will need to feel supported to work through these issues successfully.