Like any specialist field of work the world of Children Looked After has its own language that can be hard for those who are new to the area to understand. We have explained some of the most commonly used terms for you.

Children Looked After (CLA)

Both children and young people who are looked after are those for whom the Local Authority (LA) either
has full or shared parental responsibility. In most cases this means they are taken away from the care of their parents, provided with alternative accommodation and supported by LA agencies, charities or independent organisations. Children will only be looked after until they reach the age of 18 and not beyond their 18th birthday.

Children In Care (CIC)

Children and young people looked after and children in care are both terms for children in the care of the LA. Some will be subject to legal orders, for example a Care Order which gives the LA shares parental responsibility. Others will be looked after with the agreement of their parents. If there is no legal order, parents retain parental responsibility in law.


Sometimes you will have children who are accommodated rather than having a care order. Previously they were accommodated under what was known as Section 20 of the Children Act 1989. This is now known as Section 76 due to new legislation in light of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act (2014). When a child is accommodated, it is not the result of a court proceeding but happens because the child is being accommodated by request or in agreement with the parents. In this case the parent retains the primary parental responsibility for their child but the Local Authority still has responsibilities as corporate parent.

Care Orders

A care order is the legal element of a child being placed under the care of a LA. It determines who has the parental responsibilities for the child. Sometimes children will have an Interim Care order because the court wants to have further information before it will make a decision. A court can only make a care order if it is sure that:

• the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm;
• the harm is caused by the child’s parents;
• the harm would be caused because of insufficient care being given to the child by the parents in the future; or
• the child is likely to suffer harm because they are beyond parental control.

Care And Support Plans

All CLA will have a Care and Support Plan that brings together the child, their family and professionals to plan for their care and support. This will be reviewed regularly. It contains information about the child’s wellbeing outcomes and care and developmental needs and a long term plan for the child’s upbringing and education. Achieving permanence in all aspects of the child’s life is a key driver within the plan. Reviews will monitor progress towards both the long and short-term targets. The PEP (see later) and a health plan will also be incorporated into this.

The ‘Corporate Parent’

Local authorities have a ‘corporate parent’ responsibility towards the children and young people they look after, to ensure they get the best possible education. All must be proactive and effective champions, ensuring that the young people in their care gain access to, and benefit from, the opportunities on offer. They must work in partnership with other agencies that have a role to play in delivering education to CLA.

Valuing and supporting the education of children in public care is considered to be one of the most important contributions a corporate parent can make to their lives, because it is about investing in and caring about their future, and recognising that education may be their passport to better chances in life. 

Welsh Government (2015b) tells us that:

“A good corporate parent seeks the same outcomes for children in their care and care leavers
that every good parent would want for their own children by ensuring they do everything
possible to give them the best possible start in life”.

Designated Teacher for CLA

The role of this person will be covered in much more detail further in this resouce. This is a teacher who must be appointed by the governing body of all maintained schools, to promote the educational achievement of children looked after (CLA).

Edge Of Care

This is a term that is often used to describe children and young people who are considered by social care workers to be at high risk of going into care (for example, because of maltreatment, parental mental health problems or parental substance misuse). It includes those currently living with their birth parents or original family (such as step-parents) and those adopted from care but who are at high risk of returning to care. The new legislation, Social Services And Well-Being Act (Wales 2014) repeals Section 17 “Children In Need” it is replaced by the concept of a ‘Child with Care and Support Needs”.

Foster Care

Generally when children come into LA care they will be placed into foster care. This will be in the private family home of people who are registered as foster carers, who may or may not be related to the child or young person. The child may stay with them for a very brief period as an emergency placement, or it could be a short-term or long-term placement. In many cases CLA will stay in one placement for very long periods, but for many different reasons some children will have a number of different placements which research tells us can compound the difficulties for a young person. Foster carers will have been through a rigorous assessment process prior to being accepted as foster carers, including approval by a fostering panel. Their position is then reviewed annually. Foster carers may be working for a Local Authority or an independent  fostering organisation.

Foster carers will have their own Social Worker who is the supervising social worker.

There may be occasions where CLA are not placed with foster carers but instead move to live in a care home. Generally this is for those in secondary education and entails living in a home with other young people and where the adults are trained and skilled in meeting the needs of vulnerable young people. Again as with foster carers there are independently run homes as well as those run by LAs.

Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO)

Every CLA must have a named IRO, who is a LA appointed officer appointed to chair reviews for CLA and monitor the LA’s performance in relation a child’s case. The IRO acts independently from the LA.

Key Adult (KA)

This is an adult with whom the CLA can develop an attachment-like relationship. The KA works hard to build a positive and secure relationship with the CLA so that they become someone who can be trusted and who makes them feel special.

Kinship Care

This is when care is provided by adults who have a relationship with, or connection to, the child or young person, including grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, godparents or step-grandparents. Kinship carers are assessed, approved and registered and reviewed in the same way as foster carers.

CLA Reviews

A CLA Review is a meeting to review a Care and Support Plan. Schools are expected to send a representative to this meeting with an updated PEP that includes a detailed summary of progress. In exceptional circumstances when someone from school cannot attend the meeting then at the very least a comprehensive report should be submitted. Reviews are completed 28 days after the first plan is drawn up and then again after a 3 monthly interval. Thereafter they are 6 monthly unless there is a need for more regular reviews.

Leaving Care

Care orders and care arrangements cease once the young person reaches the age of 18 and could end sooner if the child’s care order is discharged or they are adopted. At this time, if any further support is required Adult Social Service teams take responsibility. However this is not automatic and only happens if the young person has eligible care and support needs. Continuing or returning to education should always remain an option after a young person leaves care. CLA are also entitled to personal adviser support in relation to their education. Careers Wales and the Leaving Care Team (16 plus for RCT) within the local authority will work together to provide this.

Parental Responsibility (PR)

This is defined as:

“All the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in
relation to the child and his property”.

It is very important that schools know who has PR for all their pupils. Social workers and foster carers may have ‘delegated responsibilities’ for some CLA so that they can provide consent for some things such as school trips and photographs. When you are unsure about the accurate picture of PR and delegated responsibilities, then ensure that this is clarified with the child’s social worker.

Placement Plans

LAs are required to draw up a placement plan for a CLA. This will detail how the placement will meet the child’s needs. It is part of the overall Care and Support plan.

Special Guardianship Order

Some children will be in a placement where there is a special guardianship order in place. This is a legally secure placement for children and young people who cannot live with their birth parents, and parental responsibilities have been legally placed with the special guardian. In these cases the child or young person is no longer considered to be Looked After.

Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers

Local Authorities are also responsible for the support of unaccompanied asylum seeking children. They are expected to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need, by providing support appropriate to those children’s needs. This may involve provision for financial support and accommodation such as hostels or supported lodgings. Article 22 of the UNCRC establishes that refugees should have the same rights as children born in the country to which they are seeking asylum.

Glossary of Acronyms

ALN Additional Learning Needs 
ALNCo Additional Learning Needs Coordinator
CiC Children in Care
CLA Children Looked After
DT for CLA Designated Teacher for CLA
EP Educational Psychologist
FC Foster Carer
IRO Independent Reviewing Officer
KA Key Adult
LA Local Authority
LAC Looked After Children
LACE Coordinator LAC Education Coordinator
LACE Team LAC Education Team
PEP Personal Education Plan
PR Parental Responsibility
SEN Special Educational Needs
SGO Special Guardianship Order
SW Social Worker
TA/LSA Teaching Assistant / Learning Support Assistant


Every LA in Wales is expected to have a specialist practitioner, (the LAC Education Coordinator), whose primary role is to act as a champion for CLA and raise awareness to reform culture and embedded attitudes. The LACE Coordinator has a key leadership role within the local authority and a team approach is essential. Their responsibilities are many, but include:

  • Ensuring CLA gain maximum life benefits from education opportunities;
  • Working towards Welsh Government objectives on the education of CLA;
  • Promoting the education of CLA placed within and out of area; 
  • Working with LAC Education Coordinators in other authorities in relation to out of area placements and to establish working arrangements;
  • Developing and promoting a means of engaging CLA and obtaining their views on educational provision;
  • Bridging the gap between Social Services, schools and the Education Authority regarding SEN;
  • Providing challenge as necessary;
  • Disseminating good practice including training for elected members, foster carers; social workers, school governors and designated teachers;
  • Ensuring PEPs are in place and provide guidance on their implementation;
  • Monitoring attainment of CLA, collating and analysing performance information on an individual and collective basis;
  • Establishing and maintaining a list of designated teachers for each school in their authority and for schools attended by children placed out of area; and
  • Attending CLA reviews as appropriate.

The Personal Educational Plan (PEP)

It is a requirement that all CLA have an individual plan called a PEP. This is an individual plan that sets out their educational needs, targets improvements in attainments and wider educational outcomes. Young children may have a pre-school PEP identifying suitable educational opportunities such as access to a nursery or other quality early years provision. However this is not universal and is determined by the LA in which the CLA is placed. For older young people, this could be a post-16 PEP to aid transition and support as the young people continue with their education and lifelong learning.
The PEP complements Care Plans but with a specific focus on promoting and prioritising education. It is the dialogue that surrounds the PEP planning process that has proved to be the key to its success. It is the responsibility of several contributors to the PEP to supply and analyse the information contained within it and be solution focused in promoting education, thus setting high expectations of progress and swift responses to address identified need. The PEP acts as a record of progress against highlighted developmental and educational needs (short and long term) and provides some record of accountability. We shall look more at PEPs and how to ensure they are effective and useful documents in 'the Whole School CLA Friendly Approach' section.



At the end of March 2015 Wales had 5615 children in the care system, slightly more boys (3020) than girls (2595). Most children were aged between 10-15 years. The detailed breakdown by age is as follows:

Source: Mannay et al (2015)

The vast majority (91.1%) were white, the remainder being mixed race, Asian or British Asian, Black or Black British, or other ethnic groups. Of these children a disproportionate number had identified additional or special educational needs. In 2011 in Wales, 21% of LAC had statements of SEN compared to 3% of all children.

CLA attainment in Wales

Outcomes of LAC compared to all children in Wales as of March 2013: Stats Wales 2014-2016 (in Wales)

  Percentage of CLA that
achieved the expected
outcomes at each Key Stage
All Pupils
Core subject Indicator KS2 53% 83%
Core subject indicator KS3 36% 77%
GCSE (5 grade A*-C or equivalent) 13% 53%

Source: Welsh Government 2015a

The pattern over a number of years suggests that the gap between LAC and those not in the care system widens across students’ educational trajectories. As with England, overall results have improved but results have also improved for non-LAC, meaning that the attainment gap has not closed and at some Key Stages it has widened:

  • Of the 427 care leavers who had their 19th birthday during the year ending 31 March 2014, 193 were
    Not in Education Employment or Training (NEET), 45% of this group. Welsh Government 2015a.
  • 29% of young people leaving care had no qualifications at all compared to 1% of the non-CLA
    population, Mannay et al (2015).


As indicated above it has been known for many years that CLA have less good outcomes than those not in the care system: a finding that is the same internationally as well as nationally. At the same time it has been clear that it is not the case for every CLA. Recently there have been two important studies completed that have helped us to better understand which factors impact most negatively on outcomes. What has been the most interesting finding from the research is that we now know that the longer a child is in care the better the outcome. 33.4% of young people who had been in the care system for more than 6 years got 5 A*-C GCSEs whereas this fell to 20.5% if CLA had been in the system for less than 18 months Mannay et al (2015). So it is not being in care per se that is the problem: it is some of the associated factors.

Why do CLA do less well than their peers? The factors that the research tells us can adversely impact on the
outcomes for CLA:

Throughout this resource we shall look at some of these in more detail to ensure that those factors that are within our control as educationalists, are addressed to the maximum extent possible.

 The role of all those who work with CLA

We need to have very high expectations of all those professionals in education settings who will come into contact with our CLA:

✓ Ensure that any CLA is supported sensitively and that confidentiality is maintained;

✓ Be familiar with the CLA and respond appropriately to requests for information to support the completion of PEPs and other documentation needed as part of review meetings;

✓ Respond positively to a CLA’s request to be the named person that they can talk to when they feel it is necessary;

✓ Contribute to the requests for information on educational attainment and needs made by the designated teacher for CLA, as fully and promptly as possible;

✓ As with all children, ensure that no CLA is stigmatised in any way;

✓ Provide a supportive climate to enable a CLA to achieve stability within the school setting;

✓ Have high aspirations for the educational and personal achievement of CLA; and

✓ Positively promote the wellbeing of CLA.

This resource is based on Children looked after friendly schools, which was commissioned jointly by Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf local authorities utilising PDG LAC funding.  The content was developed by Andrea Higgins, Academic Director and Programme Coordinator in Cardiff University’s School of Psychology, working closely with Hannah Bevan and Jess Jones, LAC Education Coordinators from Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil.