Virtual School - Parents/Carers

As carer for our CLA; you play a significant role in enhancing their educational progress and achievements. 

It is important that you build good relationships with staff in school that have an active role in your CLA's education, particularly:

  • The class teacher, 
  • Designated Teacher 
  • Pastoral staff such as learning mentors.
  • Parents Evenings - Attend parents evening and any information events such as options evenings or careers evenings
  • Information sharing - Share any information with staff that may impact on your CLA's attendance or engagement in education
  • Learning Expectations - Support your CLA with homework and other school learning expectations
  • Ready to Learn - Make sure your CLA arrive at school on time, attends school regularly and is ready to learn
  • Routines - Bedtime routines and evening routines are vital
  • Organisation - Support your CLA to develop organisational skills and independence such as organising their school bag the night before 
  • Preparation - A good breakfast is essential and also a good time to prepare for the school day ahead by discussing what might be happening that day
  • Time to talk - Take an interest in your CLA's school experiences and make time to talk about what happened at school each day and share their learning
  • Aspirations - Encourage your CLA to see the value of learning and talk to them about their aspirations
  • Behaviour Policy - Make sure that you are familiar with the school behaviour policy

Follow the steps below if you have concerns about your CLA's education, this should help resolve things quickly so that a situation doesn't get any worse

  • Talk to staff - The first step is to talk to your CLA's class teacher or form teacher.  It will be best to make an appointment so that they have time to listen to your concerns
  • Agree actions - Agree some actions at the meeting and arrange a follow up meeting so that progress can be discussed
  • Extra support - If things are not resolved or improving you can escalate the matter.  This would be meeting the head teacher in primary school or the Designated Teacher or head of year in secondary school.  You should also let the CLA's social worker know
  • Contact the Virtual School - The social worker should contact the Virtual School for advice
  • Virtual School support  -The Virtual School will contact the school's Designated Teacher and work with the school to work towards a long term solution

It is important that everyone involved works together to find the best solution and get the best outcome

Many CLA come into care with a history of poor attendance or behaviour issues.  This is due to:

  • Education/school experience  prior to becoming CLA - parents may not have prioritised education 
  • Parents due to their own issues may not have got their children to school regularly or on time.  This sets up a poor habit of attendance and punctuality for CLA
  • Irregular school attendance whilst living at home due to parent own issues getting in the way of school/education
  • Poor punctuality to school is a common problem for many CLA
  • Lack of firm and consistent boundaries from parents who may have let CLA remain at home when they should have ensured that they attended school 
  • Parents not addressing behaviour or working with school to support improvement
  • Parents own experiences of education - some parents did not benefit from a good and consistent education themselves and do not see the importance for their children

Following being in care, attendance issues can continue for the following reasons:

  • CLA may have moved school many times due to breakdown of foster care placements
  • Contact with birth parents and family being disrupted as they move around to different placements
  • Feeling a lack of stability with the current placement
  • Lack of self-esteem

The reasons above can all result in CLA having gaps in their learning and falling behind their peers.  They may find it difficult to participate in lessons and may present challenging behaviour due to feeling helpless and overwhelmed with their situation.

  • 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. Virtual School contact page link needed
  • Policies and guidance - Schools must have regard to the guidance, exclusion from maintained schools, academies and PRU's in England Exclusion guidance 2017

Virtual School staff are here to help by providing the following:    

  • Regular monitoring of attendance with all schools who have Cumbria CLA on roll - this ensures that any CLA who is not attending regularly is identified quickly so that support can be put in place
  • Regular liaison with Designated Teachers and schools for early identification of attendance or behaviour issues - Achievement teachers and inclusion officers speak to Designated Teachers regularly about CLA in their school
  • Where Pupil Premium is useful to help and support attendance and/or behaviour then it will be targeted through the Personal Education Plan (PEP) - carers are part of the PEP process
  • Where there is a history of poor behaviour and/or attendance or attendance drops below 90% the Inclusion Officer will arrange a multi-agency meeting and include the carer in the process

As the Corporate Parent, the Council recognises the importance of school attendance in enabling our children looked after to reach their full potential and benefit from uninterrupted school attendance. 

Cumbria County Council managers will only agree that our children looked after should be absent from school, in exceptional circumstances, unless they are ill or require other urgent attendance at key appointments.

Holidays in term time for CLA can only be agreed by the AD Children and Young People and Deputy DCS

A holiday is a wonderful experience for our CLA as many of them have not had a holiday prior to being in care.  However, we would ask carers to plan their holidays for CLA in school holiday periods.  

Many of our CLA have had disrupted school attendance and are behind their peers, so taking time off will have a negative impact not only on their learning but also on maintaining their friendships.  

Please see the Cumbria school term dates for further information.

Things that foster carers might want to ask school at a PEP or other meeting:

  • Does s/he need extra support with learning? If so, what is or can be done? 
  • Have her/his needs been taken into account in class seating plans? 
  • Is s/he managing transitions well within the school day? If not, what support is being given?
  • Are there extra-curricular activities s/he could or should be attending? 
  • Does the curriculum content and delivery take into account that s/he is looked after? 
  • Is s/he managing socially and emotionally during lunch and break time? 
  • Have they made good relationships with staff and pupils?
  • Is s/he engaging appropriately in the work? Do they need any additional support?

Information about PEPs

If your CLA has an Educational Health Care Plan.

Practical Tips for Caring for Primary CLA (PDF 617KB)

Practical Tips caring for Secondary CLA (PDF 616KB)

The Virtual School provides training opportunities for anyone working with CLA or Previously CLA. 

If you have a specific training need regarding a CLA or Previously CLA please contact the Virtual School

Useful Information can be found below:

Attachment Styles and their Impact On Learning and Behaviour

Find out information about the Children in Care Council