In this Section we are going to consider all the elements that are needed to ensure a school is ‘CLA Friendly’. In preparing this we have not only looked at what the research tells us but most importantly we have drawn upon the experiences of some of the most skilled practitioners within the field. As a result the ideas and suggestions presented are not just theory, but practical strategies that we know can work successfully in busy schools.
The pyramid diagram shows the key building blocks for schools, working at three levels which will be discussed in three separate sections:
1. The whole school systems and practice - this section
2. Preventative approaches: what should be done for every CLA - next section
3. Responsive strategies to support the CLA who are presenting more challenges - subsequent section
Together these will lead to CLA Friendly schools. We understand that at this stage you may not have all of the different ‘blocks’ in place but we hope that it gives you a plan to work to developing many of these.
1.1 TRAINING AND AWARENESS FOR ALL STAFF
A knowledgeable and skilled staff team lies at the heart of any successful, caring and supportive school. A school can only be as good as the people that run it. Therefore for a school to become an effective CLA school all the adults within it should have a level of training that is matched to their contact with individuals. It is essential that to different degrees every adult is informed of some of the elements that are included within this resource. This point is reinforced through much of the government and national level guidance that has been published over the last few years. For example NICE Guidance on Attachment (2015) recommends that:
“….training courses for teachers of all levels on:
• How attachment difficulties begin and how they can present in children and young people
• How attachment difficulties affect learning, education and social development understanding the consequences of maltreatment, including trauma
• How they can support children and young people with attachment difficulties.”
It is important to note that this type of training also could be of value in supporting the needs of a broad range of pupils who are vulnerable, such as Children in Need; post adoption; children from homes where parents have mental health or addiction problems and pupils with ALN. Ideally, three levels of training should be available in all schools:
|Level one||Basic awareness of the needs of all CLA, the trauma they may have experienced and
how they can effectively manage vulnerable children and young people as they come
into contact with them at school.
|Level two||More detailed training for all teachers who have direct responsibility for CLA.|
|Level three||In depth training for any senior leaders with CLA responsibilities, designated teachers
of CLA and support staff who will be working closely with individual children and
Support staff within the LA such as your EP or LAC coordinator would be more than happy to advise and support you with implementing this.
1.2 THE DESIGNATED TEACHER FOR CLA
The designated teacher for CLA has a central role to play in ensuring the positive wellbeing and happy experiences for a CLA as a pupil in their school. Their role is complex with a number of key functions. These include:
- Keeping accurate and comprehensive records about all children and young people in their school who are in care or adopted;
- When a new CLA arrives at the school, ensuring a smooth and welcoming induction for the child and carer, noting any specific requirements, including care status;
- Ensuring that a Personal Education Plan (PEP) is completed, as soon as possible (at least within 10 days if a child is entering care on an emergency basis or 20 days if a child is entering care in a planned way);
- Maintaining an up-to-date PEP, setting out how they will be supported in school;
- Acting as an advocate for the CLA within the school;
- Providing a key person who can advocate for the CLA and to whom they can go to for support;
- Allocating a safe place in school, for example a room where a child or young person can go if they are distressed;
- Attending CLA reviews and providing written information;
- Encouraging CLA to participate in extra-curricular activities and out of hours learning, where feasible;
- Ensuring speedy transfer of information between individuals and other relevant agencies and to a new school, if and when, a CLA transfers; and
- Seeking urgent meetings with relevant parties where a CLA is experiencing difficulties and/or is in danger of being excluded.
- Having had specialist training on attachment difficulties to help them understand and manage pupils competently;
- Knowing how to manage data protection and confidentiality;
- Maintaining an effective referral system with other agencies;
- Ensuring all staff at their setting receives relevant information and training;
- Acting as an advisor; and
- Ensuring confidentiality for individual children and only shares personal information on a ‘need to know’ basis.
1.3 GOVERNOR SUPPORT
There is an expectation that school governing bodies will also take an active role in supporting their CLA. Ways in which this should be achieved are:
- Nominating a governor who links with the Designated Teacher for CLA, to receive regular progress reports and provide feedback to the governing body. (These reports should not include any names of individual children for child protection and confidentiality reasons). This role is important in acting as an advocate for CLA;
- Ensuring all governors are fully aware of the legal requirements and Guidance for CLA;
- Ensuring that there is a named Designated Teacher for CLA;
- Liaising with the Head Teacher to ensure that the Designated Teacher is enabled to carry out her/his responsibilities in relation to CLA;
- Supporting the Head Teacher, Designated Teacher for CLA and other staff in ensuring the needs of CLA are met; and
- Reviewing the effective implementation of any school policies relating to CLA, preferably annually and at least every three years.
School policy for looked after children – Governing bodies should, with the headteacher, establish the policy for looked after children for the school and regularly monitor the policy and its implementation in the school. The policy must comply with the requirement:
- to designate a member of staff with responsibility for promoting the educational achievement of children who are looked after in the school
- to ensure that the designated person undertakes appropriate training.
The policy should include as a minimum:
- arrangements which the school has in place for the admission of looked after children
- monitor attendance, assessment and achievement data of looked after children in the school on an individual or collective basis
- catch up arrangements when the gaps in the child’s knowledge and education are identified
- encouragement with the child’s engagement with after school clubs, the school council or additional revision sessions
- arrangements to access a safe haven or school based counselling if required
- arrangements to ensure Personal Education Plans (PEPs) are completed and the multi-agency review meetings can be attended
- application of exclusion as a sanction and the use of alternatives to fixed term exclusions (such as community service) or to a permanent exclusion (such as a managed move)
- arrangements for when a child leaves the school as a result of a placement move or at a natural leaving point
- reference to the policy and named designated person for looked after children in the school prospectus.
1.4 STAFF WELLBEING
The day-to-day challenges for any teacher or support assistant are immense, regardless of whether they work in a ‘ dream’ school of perfect, motivated and able students or they are in a school that is ‘failing’ with high numbers of pupils that present extreme behavioural challenges. We now understand that a key contributor to the success of a school is positive staff wellbeing. In a school where this a priority and the emotional climate could be described as vibrant, then pupils are happier, more settled, less disruptive and achieve better outcomes. Clearly this has to be one of the important building blocks for a school that aims to be CLA friendly. Factors that can help with the promotion of this are:
1.5 TRACKING AND MONITORING SYSTEMS
The importance of close tracking of performance and outcomes of pupils is well understood and documented. In the case of tracking and monitoring CLA progress at a school level, the purpose is:
- To provide an overview of progress and achievement over time;
- To inform planning as part of the PEP process;
- To accurately identify interventions needed to build resilience;
- To identify strengths;
- To identify any areas where progress is slower and so enable early intervention;
- To support dialogue with learners to improve learning;
- To help staff to review their practice in order to support learners; and
- To enable an analysis of the progress of CLA across the school and so inform actions and interventions that may be needed at a strategic level.
The type of data that needs to be utilised for CLA is the same as for all pupils, but the difference is to ensure that the full picture is ascertained, updated and reviewed much more frequently so that early action is a priority.
1.6 EFFECTIVE USE OF PDG LAC AND OTHER SOURCES OF ADDITIONAL FUNDING
Welsh Government is committed to improving the outcomes for CLA. To support schools and LAs in trying to achieve this goal they have invested money that is specifically allocated for this purpose. The Pupil Deprivation Grant (PDG) is their principal means for this. The system for allocating the grant has varied year on year in that it has gone directly to LAs or schools or more recently the Education Consortiums. It has previously been based on numbers of children looked after aged 4-15 years as identified by the Social Services SSDA data from the previous year. However, currently allocations vary in different localities and recently has included CLA, Adopted children, SGOs and CAOs (Child Arrangement Orders) and RO (Residency Orders).
This means that schools have resources that they can dedicate to supporting the CLA within their care that will help to fund many of the strategies, and recognised examples of good practice, proposed within this document. A CLA Friendly school would ensure targeted and planned spending that is focused on enhancing provision at a strategic level, as well as for individual CLA linked to agreed PEP targets. It is anticipated that it could include implementation of preventative interventions such as boosting literacy
and numeracy outcomes; supporting the development of friendships; enhancing wellbeing relationships or promoting engagement in positive activities, as well as at the responsive level to more effectively tackle challenges such as the introduction of a key adult.
The Sutton Trust-Education Endowment Foundation Teaching and Learning Toolkit is a resource now widely used by schools when making decisions about how to best support disadvantaged pupils, providing very useful evidence about what is (or isn’t) the most effective and value for money. The Welsh Government also has two very useful documents on their websites:
1.7 CLA FRIENDLY APPROACHES TO ADMISSIONS, ATTENDANCE AND EXCLUSIONS
All pupils should attend school regularly and consistently. Minimal periods of non-attendance should only be sanctioned in genuine or exceptional circumstances. For CLA the evidence indicates that this does not always apply for reasons that are beyond their control. To respond to this there is an urgent need for all schools to adopt CLA Friendly policies relating to timely admissions, attendance and exclusions.
Too often CLA spend extended periods following a placement move waiting for a new school to agree to their admission which compounds the challenges and difficulties a CLA faces at what can be a very traumatic time for them. This is against the current regulations, as CLA and previously children looked after should be ranked first in the oversubscription criteria for all schools where applications for admission exceed the admission number for the school. The School Admissions and School Admissions Appeals Code (2013) states that it is essential that children who have no school place should be found one quickly.
Once a CLA is allocated a place, schools, in particular the Designated Teacher and the CLA governor should put in processes that ensure a CLA is actively welcomed into the school.
The school needs to be mindful that the child can often be arriving after an extremely upsetting and traumatic experience. They may have left behind a strong group of close friends and teachers with whom they had good relationships. At a secondary level, they will certainly have disruptions in their coursework and the options available to them.
Preparing for CLA coming into schools - What can work in schools?
- A school that has a positive and caring ethos, welcoming children from the outset;
- Someone in the school who has responsibility for individual children, to make them feel special;
- A good pastoral team that works together;
- A school should know the key information about a child before they arrive at school / being prepared. In particular being aware
of the strengths as well as needs;
- A planned introduction to the school; and
- Foster carer to be allowed to support young children as they settle in – as this reduces separation anxiety.
The current guidance in Wales states that as far as possible schools should avoid excluding CLA other than in the most extreme circumstances. If exclusion is considered to be a possibility it is essential that the Head Teacher contacts the LAC Education Coordinator for their LA immediately in order everything possible can be done to avoid the exclusion. The LAC Education Coordinator will also ensure that the foster carer and social worker know what their role, and responsibilities are, and where to go for any advice and support. The Coordinator may also be able to work with the school, consider any additional assessment and support
to help address the problems more positively and constructively than by exclusion. Finally they can discuss appropriate actions rapidly should exclusion be unavoidable.
As high levels of attendance are crucial, a CLA Friendly school will make sure that within any policies and practice on attendance in place at school, CLA are an identified vulnerable group with an emphasis on an early and rapid response to address any drop in attendance.
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.