Education of looked after children and young people

Expectations of foster carers


The Fostering Services: National Minimum Standards 2011 state: Children, including pre-school children and older children, should have a foster home which promotes a learning environment and supports their development.

The standards also state that Children and Families should have a clear policy in relation to its expectations regarding school-day responsibilities of foster carers, and the arrangements which will be put in place if any child in their care is not in school, including structured occupation during school hours.

Brighton and Hove City Council accords the education of looked after children a high priority and takes its role as ‘corporate parent’ seriously. The Council has put in place a number of positive support measures which should help children experiencing difficulties in school and assist carers in their crucial role of promoting educational achievement of the children they are caring for.

Responsibilities of foster carers

This section is based on the Council’s The Education of Looked After Children and Young People, A Handbook for Corporate Parents,which your supervising social worker can obtain for you if you wish.

Foster carers should:

  • as soon as a child is placed, contact the school s/he attends and give relevant information
  • go to the school and introduce yourself to the class teacher and designated teacher for looked after children
  • ensure that the child attends school every day
  • seek support from the child’s social worker or your supervising social worker if educational problems occur
  • accompany the child to and from school, according to the child’s age and ability
  • maintain regular contact with the school and attend parents’ evenings and school functions, such as school plays and sports days
  • ensure that the child has somewhere quiet to study and do homework, encourage them do it and offer help where appropriate, including safe access to the internet
  • encourage all children to develop their own talents, interests and hobbies
  • encourage children to enjoy music and play musical instruments
  • ensure that all children join a library
  • build up a supply of children’s books, including those that deal with anti-discriminatory issues and relate to the experience of being looked after
  • read to or with looked after children as age appropriate
  • encourage children and young people to read Who Cares? Magazine; children over 10 receive this magazine of the Who Cares? Trust (a national charity which campaigns on behalf of looked after children)
  • encourage children to watch educational television programmes and videos and go on outings to places of interest. Carers can use everyday situations to promote learning
  • encourage children to participate in after school activities
  • keep information on the child’s educational circumstances and attainments and discuss these with child
  • check with the child how things are at school and discuss their education regularly
  • encourage children to do well educationally, to consider going onto further or higher education and an appropriate career
  • act as an advocate on behalf of the child and intervene immediately if there is a problem with education
  • liase with social workers (and other relevant people) regarding educational issues
  • notify the school as soon as possible during the first school day of absence
  • supply school with evidence of a child’s illness
  • celebrate success and reward the child when they do well in school academically and/or in other spheres of achievement, such as sport and drama. The Council celebrates the educational achievement of looked after children by holding an annual awards ceremony which receives a high media profile.
  • Discourage children and young people from the excessive use of computer games and social networking.

Foster carers can be the positive advocates so many looked after children and young people need. As you have the day to day care you are regularly dealing with education issues, problems and successes. You provide the link to teachers, birth parents and other professionals. There is a network of support to help you carry out your crucial role in promoting positive educational outcomes for children and young people, including:

  • advice and assistance from the child’s social worker
  • advice and assistance from your supervising social worker
  • training programme for carers, which includes a course on the education of looked after children and handling bullying and harassment in schools
  • support groups and support from other carers
  • the Fostering Support Team (FST) based at Moulsecoomb Hub South, Hodshrove Lane, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 4SE.
  • a wide range of educational and health services.

At your annual foster carer review and LAC reviews on children placed with you educational issues should be thoroughly discussed.

Exclusion of children and young people from school

The Council has a helpful booklet of guidance on exclusions entitled Exclusion from School - Guidance for Parents and Carers. As the booklet provides details of exclusion procedures this section will only give an outline of procedures and answer commonly asked questions. Copies of the booklet can be obtained from any school.

Exclusion from school – general points

Every school has a policy on the standards of behaviour that are expected of pupils and how unacceptable behaviour will be dealt with, which you can ask to see.

Head teachers in Brighton and Hove are aware that exclusion is a serious step. The Council is committed to making sure that pupils lose as little education as possible.

Research has shown that looked after children are more likely to be excluded from school than other children are. This is because severely disrupted family life, disaffection and disrupted early education can lead to the kind of behaviour for which schools exclude children and young people.

Brighton and Hove schools, however, are expected by the Council to prioritise the needs of looked after children in order to break the cycle which has caused these problems, and so increase the child’s sense of security and self-esteem. The pressures to exclude a child who has been extremely disruptive are often difficult to resist, particularly when there may be staff or other pupils who have suffered because of the actions of a particular child.

Exclusion means that a pupil will not be allowed to attend school for a period of time (fixed term exclusion) or, in some cases, permanently (permanent exclusion). There is no such thing as ‘informal exclusion’. Schools should be challenged if they are operating an ‘informal’ system. Only the head teacher is able to exclude a pupil (or if they are absent from the school site, whoever is deputising for them).

A fixed term exclusion should be for the shortest period necessary and must not exceed 45 days in a school year. In many cases fixed term exclusions are used as warnings or to provide time for ‘cooling off’. Schools must inform carers, prior to an exclusion, of the period of exclusion and date of return. Schools would normally expect to see carers prior to the pupil’s return to discuss the incident and a suitable re-entry plan back to school. Carers have the right to make representations about a fixed term exclusion to the school’s governing body.

Permanent exclusions are made following more serious incidents or when a variety of strategies to support the pupil have been unsuccessful. Carers have the right of appeal to the school governors, who must hold a meeting to review the exclusion.

Schools retain the responsibility for providing education to all excluded pupils while they are on the school roll. This usually takes the form of setting and marking work.

What happens when a looked after child/young person is at risk of exclusion from school?

The designated teacher for looked after children in the school contacts the child’s social worker as soon as possible. A meeting will be convened between all those ‘corporate parents’, including foster carers, supporting the pupil. As a result of the meeting a Pastoral Support Programme may be written. The Brighton and Hove Alternative Centre for Education (ACE) may be involved; ACE provides support to children and young people with emotional, behavioural and social difficulties. The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) may be involved as well.

What happens when a looked after child/young person is excluded for a fixed term period?

A head teacher can exclude a pupil for up to 45 days in a school year.

The reasons for the fixed term exclusion are communicated by the school in writing to other corporate parents, in particular the carer and the child’s social worker. The social worker or carer (whoever is the most appropriate one to do so) will discuss this with the child.

The school will set and mark work for a pupil on a fixed term exclusion.

What happens when a looked after child/young person is permanently excluded?

The head teacher can permanently exclude a child as a last resort and should make sure the carer is notified immediately by telephone which is confirmed by letter within one school day.

Letters about fixed period and permanent exclusions should explain:

  • why the head teacher decided to exclude the pupil and the steps taken to try to avoid exclusion;
  • the arrangements for enabling the pupil to continue their education, including setting and marking work. It is the carer’s responsibility to ensure that work sent home is completed and returned to school;
  • the carer’s right to state their case to the school’s Governing Body;
  • who the carers should contact if they want to question the exclusion with the latest date for submission of a written statement;
  • the carer’s right to see and have a copy of the child’s school record upon written request;
  • if the exclusion is fixed term or for lunchtimes only the length of the exclusion and when the pupil can return;
  • if the exclusion is permanent, the date the exclusion takes effect with a history of any previous exclusions;
  • the name and telephone number of a contact in Brighton and Hove Children and Families, and the Advisory Centre for Education (ACE) in London who can provide advice on the exclusion process.

In the period between a child being permanently excluded and the pupil being taken off roll, the school should set and mark work for the pupil to do at home.

Once a permanent exclusion has been confirmed, Children and Families will make arrangements for full-time provision in the period between exclusion and admission to a new school.

Most pupils permanently excluded for the first time will be found a place at an alternative mainstream school (where appropriate). For pupils with more than one permanent exclusion this may not be possible. In such cases, the Trust will liaise with ACE about appropriate provision.

Support to child/young person excluded from school and their foster carers

Whilst an excluded child remains on the school’s roll s/he and their carers should continue to receive educational support from school. ACE has a teacher specifically for looked after children.This person ensures that looked after children have full access to educational opportunities even if they have been excluded from school and ease pressures on carers. Carers have access to a psychologist as an additional support from CAMHS. In other local authorities, carers have found support from a psychologist in managing difficult behaviour particularly helpful.

There are other positive sources of support from Children and Families. It must be stressed this should not be viewed as ‘alternative education’. Other assistance supports and promotes education being provided and return to full-time education, to relieve pressure on the child/young person and carers caused by absence of full-time education and to help ensure structured occupation during school hours. You should not feel you have to struggle alone with the consequences of a child being excluded from school. There is effective support available to help you, your family and the child/young person excluded.

Additional support that can be offered is as follows:

  • social work advice and assistance from the child’s social worker and team
  • social work advice and assistance from your supervising social worker and their team, with additional visiting if required;
  • the FST based at Moulsecoomb Hub South, Hodshrove Lane, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 4SE. The FST accept direct referrals from carers or from social workers to provide flexible support packages to a child/young person and their carer(s) in a variety of ways, including one-to-one and group sessions at Moulsecoomb Hub South, Hodshrove Lane, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 4SE and/or in the community. The number of sessions provided will depend on the needs of the child/young person, pressures on their carers and the demands on the service. The support package will be planned with the young person, yourself and education staff.
  • FST support can be provided quickly and is viewed as effective and positive by carers who have received this service;
  • support from carers’ support groups and experienced foster carers.

School attendance problems

Carers have prime responsibility to ensure the child/young person placed with them attends school. However, children with a history of disruption may have difficulty attending school, and need support to enable them to do so. If a child is absent from school, carers should inform the school on the first day of absence by telephone. If the school does not hear when a child is absent, many will now make contact with the home. If a child is developing a phobia about attending school, it is important the carer speaks to the school for advice. It may be possible to provide help from an Education Welfare Officer or provide a programme of school based support from ACE.

Children with emotional and behavioural difficulties can be very difficult to help, and there are no easy solutions. The key support, from all those involved, especially their carers, is patience in developing a good relationship with the child, no matter what the setbacks, and a recognition that behaviour can improve, though not always quickly.

Brighton and Hove City Council has made considerable investment to ensure that the needs of these pupils, a high proportion of whom are looked after children in foster care, are prioritised. With this approach, the aim is that each child can have equal access to the learning opportunities that other children enjoy.


Bullying is a universal problem – it occurs in all settings across all races and cultures. It also exists in every school. It is often invisible and not always easy to identify. Looked after children can be vulnerable to bullying and this can affect attendance and performance at school. This can have an impact on foster placements, putting an additional strain on carers.

Bullying is defined as the deliberate intention to subject another to emotional, psychological or physical pain and distress. This includes the abusive use of social networking. The effects can range from temporary pain to suicide. All the corporate parents of looked after children, particularly foster carers, need to give this problem particular attention.

The following sections include guidance on bullying given to schools which should be helpful to foster carers.

Bullying – what to look out for

There are many signs that may indicate that a pupil is feeling anxious. These signals can be emotional or physical and need to be taken seriously. It does not always mean that the pupil is being bullied but research has shown that the following are a good measure of whether the pupil is being bullied:

· the pupil is reluctant to travel home alone and insists on being collected by carers. Pupils who are bullied often look for alternative routes to and from school;

· the pupil’s possessions are lost and their work is either destroyed or defaced. Sometimes school clothing may go missing or possessions are broken;

· the pupil is continually asking for money and tells adults that the money has been lost or used for unlikely purposes. It may have been stolen or used to buy sweets to placate the bully;

· the pupil does not want to go out at break and lunch times. If persuaded the pupil will stick close to the adult;

· there are not always overt signs and teachers and other adults need to be aware of the less obvious clues, for example a pupil may ask to sit next to someone else in class or carefully avoid contact with certain pupils.

Anti-bullying strategies

Brighton and Hove Children and Families has a pro-active city-wide anti-bullying policy and strategy with a handbook for schools and all those involved with children entitled Guidance and Recommendations on Preventing and Responding to Bullying. If you wish to read this guidance please ask your supervising social worker.

The school your child/young person attends should have a policy on bullying which you can ask to see. Teachers and school staff are provided with specific anti-bullying guidance and should consult you if concerned about a child you are caring for.

Foster carers’ concerns about possible or actual bullying

If you have concerns that the child placed with you is being bullied or has been bullied you should discuss them directly with the school and inform the child’s social worker and your supervising social worker.

There are other sources of help and advice, including:

  • selected internet sites: resources on the Internet are subject to rapid alteration however the following websites offer a good level of both general and more specific information around bullying and related issues. This site is regularly updated and has information from recent publications that can help schools and carers combating bullying. A broad site with comprehensive resources for children and adults. Very informative and easy to use, up-to-date. Well linked to other sites and concerned with protection of children.
  • the government’s leaflet entitled Bullying - Don’t Suffer in Silence which has useful advice for carers and a separate information sheet for pupils; this leaflet is included in this handbook at the end of this chapter.

Youth, Advocacy & Participation Service Bullying Phone Helpline

The Council’s Children’s Rights Service has a bullying helpline for children and young people who are experiencing, or who are worried about, bullying. The line is open on Tuesdays from 3.00 to 8.00 pm but the line is also answered at other times during the week when there are people in the office to respond to calls. The Children’s Rights Service has learnt that bullying is a huge problem for children and young people. Bullying issues are addressed in the service’s Listen Up! which is sent to young people in foster care.

For more information or help with a bullying-related problem, ring 0800 052 0228

Further Queries

Please contact:
The Head of the Virtual School for Children in Care

Kings House
Grand Avenue

Tel: 01273 294271