The Role of the School in Supporting the Education of Children in Public Care
08 January 2004
The problems surrounding the education of children in public care are well researched and documented in both research and government literature. It is also an area where there is remarkable and rare consensus among researchers, policy makers, practitioners and, importantly, young people themselves, about the central issues. These issues include low attainment and expectations, high mobility and exclusion rates, as well as the need to develop effective multi-agency working to support young people. The Guidance on the Education of Children and Young People in Public Care (DfEE and DoH, 2000) highlighted these issues and provided guidance to help local authorities in their role as corporate parents. This included schools identifying a designated teacher to act as an advocate for the children in public care and the development of personal education plans for this cohort.
The impact of the Guidance has not been evaluated and the current research aims to highlight examples of success, focusing on support structures that schools have developed for the stability of, and the provision for, the education of children in public care. In particular, it focuses on the introduction of the role of the designated teacher. This research also establishes the context within which schools are working to support young people in public care, particularly with regard to key transitional points in their lives, and provision for those with additional educational needs
Department for Education and Employment and Department of Health (2000). Guidance on the Education of Children and Young People in Public Care. London: DfEE.
Schools which had highly developed structures to identify and meet individual needs in a range of ways had little additional to do to meet the specific needs of children in public care. For example, there was evidence that special educational needs, additional educational needs, additional language needs and mental health needs were all addressed through regular support networks available to all pupils; however, schools often prioritised the needs of this cohort and/or boosted normal levels of support.
The research also looked in detail at the role of designated teachers and found that these teachers had specific roles to play in maintaining an overview of the pupils' progress and attainment, acting as an advocate for them and in ensuring that personal education plans are produced and maintained. However, approximately half of the designated teachers interviewed had had no specific training for this role.
All those in local authority teams for the education of children in public care worked extensively with other professionals - in some authorities, the teams were multi-disciplinary. All designated teachers engaged in multi-professional dialogue but with various responses - for some it was easier than for others.