Virtual School previously looked after children advisor

Virtual School previously looked after children advisor

A previously looked after child potentially remains vulnerable and all staff should have the skills, knowledge and understanding to keep previously looked after children safe.

Pupil premium funding for PLAC

Pupil premium allocations are paid on a financial year basis.

Schools October Census return will determine the level of funding you receive for each designation of Pupil Premium. 

To qualify for PLAC (Previously Looked After Children) status, children need to have been in the care of a local authority, before a new order of permanence; that is adoption, special guardianship order or child arrangement order (previously residency orders). 

PLAC children are entitled to the highest level of PP - £2530. (2023-2024) 
See the gov.uk website page for more information, Pupil premium overview - (gov.uk)

Pupil Premium funding is provided to improve the education outcomes for disadvantaged pupils. Schools should ensure that pupil premium is focused on effective approaches to raising pupils educational attainment, schools must use their pupil premium in line with the ‘menu of approaches’ set by the Department for Education. You can find out more about using pupil premium here, pupil premium guidance for school leaders (gov.uk)

Policy

The Previously Looked After and Looked After Children policy by Worcestershire Virtual School outlines schools Key Responsibilities and duties to promote the Educational Achievement of Looked after Children. This Policy applies to all looked after Children and Previously Looked after Children and it must be read in conjunction with government guidance documents. See the policy here: Worcestershire Virtual School Policy for Previously Looked After Children (Word doc)

Two new documents published by the Department for Education are extremely relevant to previously looked-after children. Both of these have the potential to influence how schools work with previously looked-after children and their families.

Website: The Designated Teacher for looked-after and previously looked after children statutory guidance (February 2018) (GOV.UK)

Key points to consider:

  • the guidance is statutory therefore schools must comply
  • the guidance recognises that previously looked after children are likely to have significant barriers to their learning
  • it requires that all schools identify a designated member of staff who will take responsibility for promoting the achievement of previously looked-after children; this person should be experienced, in a senior position with the ability to influence whole school decisions; they should also receive regular training ensuring other staff access training and are kept updated
  • in order to meet needs of previously looked after Children Social, emotional and academic needs are suggested as a priority
  • the importance of involving parents in decisions about their child’s education and ensuring good home-school links are built this includes involvement about how pupil premium plus is spent.
  • the importance of relationships between staff and pupils and the importance of enabling children to have voice is identified
  • there is recognition that previously looked-after children are more likely to have special educational needs and mental health needs
  • direction is given for schools to put in the right support so as to avoid exclusion of a previously looked-after child becoming necessary
  • introduces the new requirement for Virtual School Heads (VSH) to make information and advice available to parents and schools in relation to previously looked after children
  • the guidance is clear about schools needing to ensure sufficient flexibility in their behaviour policy to meet the needs of previously looked after children

Keeping children safe in education (GOV.UK)

This is the main safeguarding document that schools need to be familiar with, in terms of previously looked-after children the guidance states:

A previously looked after child potentially remains vulnerable and all staff should have the skills, knowledge and understanding to keep previously looked after children safe. When dealing with looked after children and previously looked after children, it is important that all agencies work together and prompt action is taken when necessary to safeguard these children, who are a particularly vulnerable group.” (Point 95).

Inclusion plan

What is an Inclusion Plan?

An Inclusion Plan drawn up in partnership with the young person, parents, professionals and school to ensure the effective provision for a previously looked after child in school.

Child previously looked after Inclusion Plan (Word document)

Here is a guidance document to help you complete the Inclusion Plan for the child.

Inclusion Plan guidance (PDF)

Use the resources below to help complete the inclusion plan.

Inclusion Plan resources

Brainstem Calmers

A psychiatrist, Dr Bruce Perry, has developed something called the 'Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics', which is a framework that helps us to know how to help children who have suffered early trauma and loss.

Children's brains organize from bottom to top, with the lower parts of the brain (brainstem aka "survival brain") developing earliest, and the cortical areas (thinking brain) much later. Traumatised children's brain becomes stuck in the brainstem, and they therefore swing between their survival modes of fight/flight/freeze/collapse.

One of the most helpful ways to move children from these super-high anxiety states, to their calmer ‘thinking brain’, is patterned, repetitive rhythmic activity Creating a therapeutic web of relationships around the child together with regular brainstem calming activities can, over time, help a child’s brain and body to learn that they are safe.

School staff resources and reading list

Information for parents

What are the Virtual School’s statutory duties towards previously looked after children?

Virtual Schools have a statutory duty (from September 2018) to provide advice, and information to schools, parents and a range of professionals around improving the educational outcomes of children previously looked after. They are not corporate parents for this group of children.

How do I identify the most appropriate school for my child/ young person?

When selecting a school, it is important to visit all prospective schools and meet with the designated teacher for Previously Looked After Children.

In consultations with experienced adoptive parents, Pac-UK have identified some key questions for parents and schools to consider, not all the questions will be relevant for every child. It's unlikely that any school will be doing all of these; look for flexible schools who are willing to listen and learn and are proactive about developing support to meet each child's needs

My school does not seem to understand the needs of my previously LAC child. What can I do?

Each school has a designated teacher with responsibility for Previously Looked After children, the Virtual School would encourage contact to be made with them to explore any worries or concerns.

School staff are very welcome to contact the Virtual School for advice and support. There are various training opportunities available to them.

Parents are also welcomed to contact the Virtual School if they need advice or guidance on educational matters. Contact details at the end of FAQs.

How do I support my child with transition to first, primary, middle, or secondary school?

We recognise that transition and change can be very daunting for children/young people previously in care. Most schools have transition arrangements in place to support the move. This will usually include opportunities in the summer term for the child to spend time at the middle or secondary school and have additional visits to get to know other students and be introduced to key members of staff. If you feel further support is needed, speak to the child’s first/primary school about how they can help and contact the middle/secondary school to explain your concerns and they will support to make the transition as smooth as possible.

How can I ensure a new school understands my child’s needs? 

We would recommend that parents discuss their child’s specific needs with any new school. There should be a good transition plan in place with plenty of opportunity for the child to make visits and connections with staff in the new school.  The Inclusion Plan document can support a positive transition.

Some parts of the curriculum can be very traumatic for my child - how can I work with the school to ensure this does not happen?

If you feel your child may be affected by particular aspects of the school curriculum, it may be useful at the beginning of each academic year to talk to the class teacher, SEN Co-ordinator, pastoral lead or Head of Year to discuss any potentially difficult areas of the curriculum.

Some common areas that adopters highlight include topic work on families, family trees, WW2 evacuation, writing personal biographies, and any subject that includes an element of grief or loss. The inclusion plan document would allow for exploration of any potential triggers and this document can be passed to new teachers and updated at each transition point.

I have heard of the Inclusion Plan for PLAC, where do I get a copy?

The inclusion plan is a good practice document, it is a partnership agreement between school, home, and any professionals. It allows exploration of early experiences, developmental trauma, curriculum hotspots. It supports with transition and allows any needs and actions to be identified.

Download: Inclusion Plan for Early Years and Schools (Word doc)

Download: Inclusion Plan guidance (PDF)

How much is Pupil Premium Plus for Previously Looked After Children and what is its purpose?

The pupil premium rate for 2023/24 is £2530 per child, per year. For more information see the Pupil premium: overview - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). This money is paid directly to schools and is not managed by Worcestershire Virtual School.

The DfE takes the view that many care experienced children will have experienced trauma and attachment in their early experiences. Many children/young people may have entered care due to abuse or neglect. These needs do not change overnight, and they do not stop being vulnerable just because they are in a loving home. Evidence shows that early life experiences can have a lasting effect emotionally, socially and academically. The purpose of the Pupil Premium Plus is to raise educational attainment and close the gap between previously LAC students and their peers.

Do schools have to tell parents what they spend the Pupil Premium plus funding on?

The DFE consider it to be good practice for schools to work in partnership with parents, and to have transparent processes in place. The use of the Inclusion Plan will support the evidence for the decisions taken around Pupil Premium plus funding.

When does Pupil Premium Plus funding for Previously Looked After Children start and finish?

Any child/young person attending school from the start of Reception Year to the end of Year 11 is eligible to receive PP+. Children who are electively home educated, educated in an independent setting or are post-16 students are currently not eligible for the funding.

Can we use the Pupil Premium plus for providing school uniform?

It is expected that a parent would provide school uniform for their child. If as a family you are experiencing financial difficulties and unable to provide a school uniform for your child, then please seek advice from your child’s school.

Should our previously Looked after Children/ young people be entitled to Free School Meals?

Parents and guardians can check if they meet the criteria for receiving Free School Meals on the GOV.UK website.

Apply for free school meals

Information for schools

What are the Virtual School’s statutory duties towards previously looked after children?

Virtual Schools have a statutory duty (from September 2018) to provide advice and information to schools, parents and a range of professionals around improving the educational outcomes of children previously looked after. They are not corporate parents for this group of children.

Do we use a Personal Education Plan (PEP) for students when they are no longer Children Looked After (CLA)?

The Virtual School would consider it best practice to use the Inclusion Plan for previously looked after children. 

What is the Inclusion Plan and when should it be used?

The Inclusion Plan is not a statutory document, it is recommended as good practice to create a partnership agreement between the child/ young person, home, school and professionals to ensure effective provision. It supports with transitions to ensure all staff are aware of pre adoptive experiences, any significant developmental trauma and it allows exploration of what is working well and any further actions that can support the young person.

Do we send the Inclusion Plan to the Virtual School when it is completed?

Please circulate the document to those agreed in the meeting. You are not required to send a copy to the Virtual school as the Virtual school does casework children who are previously Looked After. The virtual school offers advice and guidance to carers, parents and professionals.

Pupil Premium Plus (PP+) for children previously looked after

How do we access PP+ for PLAC?

On entry to school please ensure that your school registration form clearly asks if the child has been previously looked after. Publicise in your newsletter regularly that additional funding is available via PP+ funding. It is up to the parents/guardians to declare. Ensure you are satisfied that the child is eligible for PLAC PP+. Take a copy of the court order or sign and date to show that you have seen it. This information is then recorded in the school census, the funding is dependent on the October census.

Important - the child needs to have been LOOKED AFTER prior to the Orders being granted. Children who have a private family arrangement are not eligible for PLAC PP+ and Children who return home to live with their parents or relatives (outside adoption, Special Guardianship Order (SGO) and Child Arrangement Order (CAO) do not qualify for previously LAC premium.

Which Previously LAC pupils are eligible for Pupil Premium Plus (PP+)?

Children/young people in School (Year R to 11) who have ceased to be looked after by a local authority in England and Wales because of adoption, a special guardianship order or a child arrangement order are eligible to attract the Pupil Premium Plus funding.

What is the purpose of Pupil Premium Plus?

The DfE takes the view that many care experienced children from the groups described above will have experienced grief and loss and will have had traumatic experiences in their early lives. Many of these children entered care due to abuse or neglect. Their needs do not change overnight, and they do not stop being vulnerable just because they are in a loving home. Their early life experiences will have a lasting effect emotionally, socially and academically. The purpose of the Pupil Premium Plus is to raise educational attainment and close the gap between previously LAC students and their peers.

What are the conditions of Pupil Premium Grant?

Pupil premium: allocations and conditions of grant 2020 to 2021

When does Pupil Premium Plus funding start and finish?

Any child attending school from the start of Reception Year to the end of Year 11 is eligible to receive PP+. Children who are electively home educated, who attend an independent school/setting or are post-16 students are currently not eligible for the funding.

Can we use the Pupil Premium plus for providing school uniform?

It is expected that a parent would provide school uniform for their child. If the family is experiencing financial difficulties and are unable to provide a school uniform for their child, then they should seek advice from their child’s school.

Should our previously LAC be entitled to Free School Meals?

Parents and guardians can check if they meet the criteria for receiving Free School Meals on the GOV.UK website.

Apply for free school meals

Are children previously looked after entitled to FSM Ever 6 Pupil Premium?

Generally, they are not entitled to FSM Ever 6 PP as they cannot receive both pupil premiums. Therefore, the PP+ for Previously LAC will take precedent.

Should the Pupil Premium plus be used for school trips and outings?

It is expected that a parent will provide the financial support for additional curricular activities. Use of the Inclusion Plan for PLAC will support the evidence for the decisions taken around Pupil Premium plus funding. The allocation of PP+ to specific interventions should be evidence based and meet the individual needs of the child/young person. The Education Endowment Foundation provide schools with evidence of high impact strategies for disadvantaged learners.

Pupil Premium Guide

If a Parent or guardian’s financial situation is unable to support the cost of a trip, then please discuss with them as you would any other parent in a similar situation.

Do schools have to tell parents what they spend the Pupil Premium plus funding on?

The DFE consider it to be good practice for schools to work in partnership with parents, and to have transparent processes in place. The use of the Inclusion Plan will support decisions taken around the use of Pupil Premium plus funding and provide evidence of clear action planning involving the child/young person and their parents.

Is it ok to buy equipment or provide staffing support where other disadvantaged learners in the school benefit?

If you have identified how the child/young will benefit from the equipment purchase or staffing resource this is acceptable. Schools will need to demonstrate evidence of impact of the PP+ grant for each previously looked after child. Use of the Inclusion Plan will support the monitoring process and measure if the school’s chosen strategies are making a positive difference.

Can we use the Pupil Premium plus funding for the child to join out of school clubs?

If you can identify how this benefit the child’s academic progress and attainment. Use of the Inclusion plan will support you in making these decisions.

Transition

Transition can mean saying goodbye to the old, so endings must therefore be viewed as an integral part of the transition process.

Before tackling transition, we must acknowledge the central role and importance of saying goodbye.

It is important for all our children to help them manage the ending of their school/ nursery experiences and to help them say goodbye to key adults and peers. 
This should include explicitly acknowledging and celebrating the child’s achievements and successes.

Transitions for PLAC and CLA need to be managed very carefully even for those children who seem, on the face of it, to be taking things in their stride, to ensure that children can make a success of the next phase of their education.

You can find more information on goodbyes and transitions by visiting this resource by PAC-UK, goodbyes and transitions resource (PDF link)

Choosing a school

We recognise that choosing a school can be quite a daunting process for all the family.

Your local authority has a school admissions department, and they are responsible for ensuring your child gets a school place.

Since September 2013, Looked After Children (LAC) and children who left care on an adoption order, special guardianship order or child arrangements order (formerly residence order) have the highest priority within school admissions.

Recommendations:

  1. before you meet with any members of staff, it is worth looking at the prospective school’s website and reading the policies they have available there, including policies on inclusion, behaviour and wellbeing.
  2. arrange a Visit: School websites, inspection reports and the views of other parents you trust can all be great starting points, but there is really no substitute for visiting the school yourself, talking to members of staff, and experiencing the atmosphere.
  3. a good, collaborative working relationship between professionals and parents will be vital and this begins even before your child starts at the school. As you arrange meetings and tours, look for signs that the school takes those relationships seriously. How easy was it to set up the meetings you needed? Were key members of staff able to make themselves available to talk to you? 
  4. introductions with the schools designated teacher for previously looked-after children (DT). This is a statutory role in every state school and should be an important point of contact throughout your child’s time at the school.

The following resources include questions which will support with conversations when visiting prospective schools: 

Key questions for primary school visits (PDF)

Key questions for secondary school visits (PDF)

Education Advice Line

The advice line is available every Wednesday (term time only) from 9.30am to 11.00am.

If you have any issues to do with meeting the educational needs of permanently placed children and young people. Calls are welcomed from parents, guardians and carers, school staff and other education and care professionals.

Contact The Virtual School

Useful websites

  • Adoption Central England (ACE) - ACE provides adoption services and adoption support to children and families.
  • Adoption UK - A charity providing support, community and advocacy for those parenting or supporting children who cannot live with their birth parents
  • PAC UK - PAC provides information and advice to anyone who has been affected by adoption or other forms of permanent care, as well as the professionals who support them, with expert, independent advice and counselling
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