When a child or young person is taken into care, they may have had a history of low or erratic school attendance. Attendance is directly correlated to high academic outcomes and therefore the attendance of looked after children in schools is monitored on a daily/weekly basis by the Virtual School.
Good attendance equates to 95% attendance or higher throughout the academic year.
Notification of absence
The residential staff or carer must notify the school and the child’s social worker immediately if the child does not attend school for any reason.
In any case where the child has been absent from school for more than 10 days, the social worker should liaise with the school, the child, the residential staff or carers and any other relevant person to address:
- the reasons for absence
- how to ensure the child returns to education as soon as possible
- whether and how the child can be helped to catch up on what they have missed
Where necessary, the Children Missing from Care Procedure must be followed.
The Virtual School are advised daily of attendance issues with Bracknell Forest CLA by Welfare Call. This will be communicated to the social worker and carer where appropriate by the Virtual School team.
The following absences would be considered authorised:
- absences due to sickness or ill health
- when a child moves into a pre-adoptive placement, time out of school may be necessary to prioritise bonding with the new family – this should be planned in advance and time-limited and a school start date should be planned
- post-adoption celebration hearings should be authorised
- other reasons for absence (such as bereavement, exceptional circumstances) may be authorised and schools will make individual decisions regarding such cases
- unavoidable causes such as bad weather conditions
- religious observance where applicable
- for an interview at a place of employment or different education provider
Where possible meetings and appointments which involve the child should be made outside of the school day. These include medical appointments, meetings with guardians/IROs. If it is not possible to complete these outside of the school day then the school will be expected to authorise the absence.
There is no entitlement and therefore it is not acceptable for a foster carer to take a child out of school for a holiday during term time. This will be recorded as an unauthorised absence.
Schools are not allowed to send a child home for part of a day – this is an illegal exclusion and should be challenged.
All requests for leave must be made in writing by the carer to both the Virtual School and then the child’s school as soon as they become aware of the need for absence.
All pupils of compulsory school age are entitled to a full-time education.
In very exceptional circumstances, it may be appropriate for a child to attend school in a part-time capacity as part of a re-integration package.
A part-time timetable must not be treated as a long-term solution. Any pastoral support programme or other agreement must have a time limit by which point the pupil is expected to attend full-time or be provided with alternative provision.
In agreeing to a part-time timetable a school has agreed to a pupil being absent from school for part of the week or day and therefore must record it as authorised absence.
The Virtual School should be involved if a part-time timetable is to be considered and a plan to ensure that the child is reintegrated into full time education must be in place.
Exclusion from school should be a last resort for looked after children, who are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of exclusion. Therefore it is important to work with the school and carers to intervene as soon as a child’s behaviour becomes a cause for concern.
Schools should co-operate proactively with foster carers or children’s home workers, the local authority that looks after the child and the Virtual School.
Where a school has concerns about the behaviour, or risk of exclusion, of a child looked after, it should, in partnership with others (including the local authority as necessary), consider what additional support or alternative placement may be required.
If a child is excluded (fixed-term or permanent), schools are required to comply with DfE guidance.
Where a looked after child is excluded from school, the child’s social worker must inform the Independent Reviewing Officer with responsibility for that looked after child.
Fixed term exclusions
The school must provide appropriate education for all looked after pupils who receive fixed term exclusions from the first day of exclusion (non-looked after pupils receive this support from the 6th day).
The school has a responsibility to communicate the reason for the exclusion to the residential staff or carer and the social worker. Whoever is the most appropriate one to do so will discuss this with the child or young person and the social worker will inform birth parents if required.
If a child is excluded, then the Virtual School should be made aware at the earliest opportunity to ensure that guidance is being adhered to.
Guidance states that schools should, as far as possible, avoid permanently excluding any looked after child.
When a looked after child is permanently excluded but is remaining with the same foster carer or residential placement, the social worker with liaise urgently with the Virtual School to find an alternative school placement. Appropriate provision must be provided by the excluding secondary school until a new placement is found.
Refusing to attend or truanting
School refusal is the refusal to attend school due to emotional distress. School refusal differs from truancy in that children feel anxiety or fear towards school, whereas truant children generally have no feelings of fear towards school but may feel angry or bored with it instead.
School refusal or truanting requires a holistic approach with home, school, social care and any other relevant professionals working together. If a child is refusing or truanting then the Virtual School should be made aware at the earliest opportunity.