This week the APPG for Looked After Children and Care Leavers published its report into the educational achievement of care leavers. The timing of this report is particularly interesting as it came out only two days before the Chair of the APPG, Edward Timpson MP, was promoted to Children’s Minister. His appointment, replacing Tim Loughton as minister responsible for looked after children, means that he will be in the interesting position of being in a position to promote the policy changes the report argues for.
The report, which uses TACT’s own ‘Aspirations’ research as evidence, makes a number of recommendations that are both sensible and achievable. Principal among these are that Virtual School Heads’ should be placed on a statutory footing, that a ‘Pupil premium Plus’ should be introduced and that Virtual Heads should control this premium.
The Virtual Head scheme has proved very successful in creating a role within a local authority that has responsibility for educational support for looked after children in that authority. It was trialled in a number of authorities, but take up has been piecemeal. TACT would support the function being placed on a statutory footing to help ensure that local authorities fulfil obligations. The pupil premium plus would extend the financial support available for looked after children placed within individual schools. One of the concerns TACT has raised about the current pupil premium scheme is that, without proper oversight, there was a danger that the pupil premium would be allocated to other areas of resource demand within the school. Because of this, we are pleased to see that the report recommends that the Virtual Head has oversight of the allocation of the pupil premium and pupil premium plus.
The language of the report is also important. It recognises that the poor educational achievements of children in care are not their own fault, or indeed a consequence of being in care, but due to the experiences and traumas faced before care. This can place young people at a disadvantage, so it is difficult to make up ground. Coupled with this are the uncertainties that can arise frorm being in care, particularly if also facing unwanted placement change. TACT’s Aspirations research found that young people in stable placements, with supportive carers and good social networks, can achieve just as highly as any other child.
So the new Minister finds himself in the position of having also written the forward to a report where he says ‘Education is key to…providing looked after children with the childhood they deserve. I hope that this report presents opportunities to help make that happen’. He will, no doubt, soon find out if more senior colleagues in Government agree.
TACT Executive Director of External Affairs
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