Applying for a school place for a child looked after

It is important to keep things as stable as possible for every child looked after.

Try and maintain school places to ensure continuity of learning, friendships, and pastoral support from their school.

If this is not possible, you should work alongside the Virtual School to identify appropriate educational provision.

As social worker, you should always complete any required school application forms; this shouldn't be done by foster carers.

The following advice will help you with the process.

You may need to find a new school place for a child in care if they're:

  • starting school in a reception class
  • at the stage of moving from infant to junior, primary to secondary school education
  • being moved a significant distance to a new care placement, 
  • to be moved from their current school on a permanent basis for safeguarding reasons.
  • being placed for adoption
  • Contact the virtual school inclusion officers
  • Consider the age and key stage of the child

Year 2 and Year 6 children will be taking SATs

Y9,Y10,Y11  children will be doing their GCSE options (the same options may not be available in a different school)

Any school move in KS4 (Y10/Y11) needs to be approved by Assistant Director Children and young people. Complete the KS4 move document.

  • Consider the school's Ofsted rating

You must always consider the current Ofsted judgement of the school.

Statutory guidance states that good or outstanding schools should be prioritised and children in care shouldn't be placed in schools with an inadequate Ofsted rating.

If you are considering a school judged as 'requiring improvement' you must contact virtual school who will ensure that there is evidence of high quality support to its looked after children; enabling them to make maximum progress.

  • Consider the location of the placement and transport arrangements

Once a foster placement has been identified, the social worker should notify the Virtual School Inclusion officer who will research schools in the area.

If the local school is not suitable for any reason you need to consider the transport arrangements.
Is the carer able to transport the child to school? 

Is the child at an appropriate age to travel independently on public transport? 

For a move within Cumbria

The Virtual School Inclusion Officer will approach the school identified directly, following discussion and agreement with social worker and carers.   

For moves out of Cumbria to another LA

Following communication with the social worker the VS Inclusion Officer will liaise with the Admissions Team/Virtual School in the LA where the child has been placed and follow the required admission process in that LA.

For the majority of out of county placement there will be the requirement for the social worker to complete the in-year transfer form.  The VS Inclusion Officer will source the appropriate form.

There is no budget available from the Virtual School to cover transport costs.

  • Information needed by new school

It's important that the child's new school has access to all of the relevant information about the child.

This is likely to include:

  • Social care background (social worker)
  • reasons for the school move (social worker)
  • current school details 
  • current attainment 
  • current attendance
  • information about any exclusions
  • SEND and pastoral needs

The Virtual School Inclusion officer will be able to support you in managing any school application.

There are key dates to be aware of when applying for school places:

For an in year transfer contact the Virtual School Inclusion officer who will liaise with Cumbrian schools directly or the local authority where the child is placed.

If a child is undergoing a statutory assessment for special educational needs, you should make every effort to keep them in their current school until the assessment has been finalised, and the appropriate type of provision has been identified. (This may take up to 20 weeks.)

If a young person has an Education Health and Care Plan contact the Virtual School Inclusion Officers for advice and guidance on how to proceed.

  1. When there are concerns about stability of any care/school placement, there must be a professionals planning meeting which at a minimum must include - virtual school team representative, IRO, SW and any other relevant professional. All should be informed of the outcome of the meeting through the minutes.
  2. The meeting should consider:
    - What support is required both in school and placement to ensure the placement doesn't break down?
    - Who is going to provide the support and by when?
    - How will you know if it's working and contingencies if not?
  3. If placement/school is likely to break down, what alternative placements are available? Will this require a change of school?
    - What does the placement need to offer to meet needs including education needs?
    - Will they best be met by the child /young person staying in the same school with transport?
    - What are the implications of moving school in terms of the curriculum offered?
    - What are the social/emotional needs of the child / young person in school
    - Consideration of SEND and implications of any move, particularly to an out of county placement as other local authority offer different provision e.g. a child / young person in a mainstream school in Cumbria may only be offered a special school place in their local authority. 
  4. The social worker should attend the meeting having met with the young person, talked about the possible breakdown and the need for a professionals meeting so that they can share their wishes feelings and preferred options.
    The social worker must discuss the potential move with the Virtual School so that the Virtual School representative can bring information about what schools may be available, their suitability and the curriculum available. 
  5. If the Young Person is at Key Stage 4 i.e. in Year 10-11 (aged14-16 years), a school move cannot take place without signed agreement from the Assistant Director Children and Families. Agreement is gained by completing the approval for a school move at KS4 form which is submitted to the Assistant Director.  This form must be uploaded onto ICS along with the minutes of the professionals planning meeting.