In England, Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield reports that Ofsted highly-rated school schools are best for children in care. She further instructed school councils to liaise for children in care within the region. Longfield will work with the local authorities to achieve the movement of children in care to either good or outstanding schools.
The commissioner stated in her latest Stability Index report :
“We want to see children in care placed in ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ schools only. We will be writing to local authorities where a low proportion of children in care are in these schools, seeking both an explanation and a commitment from the local authority to secure better school places for its children in care.”
According to the Anne Longfield report, children in care enrolled in schools with low Ofsted ratings suffer instabilities. These instabilities result in the children being moved within the academic year to schools farther away from their homes. When this happens, the children in care find it hard to pick-up resulting in low grades in school and GCSE. Sometimes, the children can miss a whole term in the academic year.
The possibility of children being moved from inadequate and unstable schools is high. The Anne Longfield report gives the frequency as one in every five pupils in low Ofsted rated schools. This frequency is poor compared to the outcome in outstanding schools, which is one in every twelve children in the schools. Due to instabilities associated with poorly rated schools, children in care should be sent to good or outstanding rated schools.
Addendum to the Anne Longfield report
Nadhim Zahawi, minister for children and families, claimed the government had “taken a range of measures to help create a stable environment” for looked-after children including a virtual support network of headteachers, funding projects through the Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme, and the recently announced exclusions review and plans to reform alternative provision.
Councillor Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, said councils are supporting “record numbers of children” through the care system “against a backdrop of unprecedented cuts to local authority budgets”.
Existing DfE guidance specifies that looked-after children in need of a new school must be matched with ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ school. A looked-after child should never be placed in an ‘inadequate’ school except for “exceptional evidence-based reasons”, the guidance further states.
Defining the term “children in care”
A child who has been in the care of their local authority for more than 24 hours is known as a looked after child. Looked after children are also often referred to as children in care, a term which many children and young people prefer.
Each UK nation has a slightly different definition of a looked after child and follows its own legislation, policy and guidance. But in general, looked after children are:
- living with foster parents
- living in a residential children’s home or
- living in residential settings like schools or secure units.
Scotland’s definition also includes children under a supervision requirement order. This means that many of the looked after children in Scotland are still living at home, but with regular contact from social services.
There are a variety of reasons why children and young people enter care.
- The child’s parents might have agreed to this – for example, if they are too unwell to look after their child or if their child has a disability and needs respite care.
- The child could be an unaccompanied asylum seeker, with no responsible adult to care for them.
- Children’s services may have intervened because they felt the child was at significant risk of harm. If this is the case the child is usually the subject of a court-made legal order.
A child stops being looked after when they are adopted, return home or turn 18. However local authorities in all the nations of the UK are required to support children leaving care at 18 until they are at least 21. This may involve them continuing to live with their foster family.