Attendance and Exclusion for children looked after

Virtual School Inclusion Officers work with schools, social workers, other professionals and carers to improve attendance and minimise or reduce exclusions so that CLA have access to all learning opportunities and have the best chance of success.

The Virtual School has robust procedures in place to monitor and support the best attendance of all its CLA.  

  • Regular monitoring of attendance with all schools who have Cumbria CLA on roll
  • Regular liaison with DT's and schools for early identification of attendance issues
  • Where Pupil Premium plus is useful to help and support attendance then it will be targeted through the Personal Education Plan (PEP)
  • Where there is a history of poor attendance or attendance drops below 90% the Inclusion Officer will address the issues through a multi-agency action plan
  • Exclusion rates - The exclusion rates for CLA are consistently higher than average.  
  • Past Experiences - The past experiences of CLA can impact on their behaviour and this needs to be remembered when considering how best to support the CLA with their learning and implementing school behaviour policies.
  • Impact of exclusion - CLA are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of exclusion and head teachers should as far as possible avoid permanent exclusion.
  • Who can exclude? - Only a head teacher can exclude a student either fixed term or permanently.
  • 'Informal' or 'unofficial' exclusions - 'Informal' or 'unofficial' exclusions such as sending a pupil home 'to cool off' are unlawful regardless of whether they occur with the agreement of parents or carers.  
  • Managing an exclusion - Any exclusion must be formally recorded. 
  • Who can help? - If you are aware of a CLA that has been sent home from school without school following the formal exclusion process then contact the Inclusion Officer for your area.
  • Policies and guidance - Schools must have regard to the guidance, exclusion from maintained schools, academies and PRU's in England Exclusion guidance 2017
  1. Education/school experience prior to becoming CLA
    - Irregular school attendance whilst living at home
    - Poor punctuality to school
    - Lack of firm and consistent boundaries from parents
    - Parents own experiences of education
  2. Inflexible School Behaviour policy - Schools using policies that are not flexible enough to respond to the needs and the causes of CLA's challenging behaviour.
  3. Previous disruption to school attendance - CLA may have moved school many times due to breakdown of foster care placements; consequently they may have gaps in their learning and may have fallen behind their peers. They may find it difficult to participate in lessons and may present challenging behaviour.
  4. Personal issues -  loss of a parent, parental drug and alcohol issues, contact with birth parents, type of placement, stability of foster placement, Special educational needs, learning difficulties, lack of self-esteem, poor social skills

Strategies to improve attendance and reduce exclusions

  • Training - Staff can access training from the Virtual school.
  • PEP - A good quality PEP that reflects the voice of the child and has a multi-agency approach that seeks to meet social, emotional and academic needs
  • Raise aspirations - Raise aspirations of looked after and previously looked after children by offering lots of opportunities for children to develop their strengths and talents including involvement in school activities outside school hours. 
  • Achievements - Social workers and carers need to take a proactive interest in the child's school life including achievements in school, supporting homework and attending informal activities such as plays, concerts, social events and sporting activities.
  • Communication
    - There should be frequent contact between, carers, schools and social workers to foster high aspirations and expectations of what CLA can achieve.
    - Ensure that all professionals working with the children are operating in a coherent way, placing a high priority on school attendance, wellbeing and achievement.
  • Information sharing
    - The child's social worker and virtual school should be informed swiftly if there are any concerns about attendance or behaviour
    - Many children do not want to be identified by their peers as CLA, information should be shared discretely on a need to know basis. 
  • Behaviour Policy - School should have a behaviour policy and consider whether it is flexible enough to respond to the needs of CLA's challenging behaviour in the most effective way.
  • Policies and Procedures - Ensure that the needs of Children Looked After and previously looked after children are specifically addressed in school development planning and clear in school policies and procedures.
    - CLA/Previously CLA often have complex needs and would benefit from a flexible approach to school systems and procedures.  
  • Meetings - Encourage other professionals to hold statutory meetings/reviews out of school hours so that there is no disruption to learning due to the CLA leaving lessons.
  • Key Adult - Provide a consistent key adult in school for the child to have regular, easy contact with. This would work best if it was an adult that the child likes, trusts and respects. 
  • Rewards - Use positive rewards for improved attendance and punctuality. Set realistic targets to achieve the rewards, avoid sanctions and punishment. 
  • Peer mentoring - Consider peer mentoring. This provides a supportive social relationship for the child with a person of their own age
  • Counselling - Counselling is offered by many schools. Working through some of the complex factors that affect school attendance can be helpful.
  • Unmet Needs -Where attendance or behaviour is an issue, consider if there are gaps in learning, developmental delay, unmet special educational needs which may necessitate a statutory assessment for an Education Health Care Plan.

 The following documents are a useful source of information: