New legal duties for schools concerning previously looked after children
The Children and Social Work Act 2017 (CSWA) attracted significant media attention because it will make sex and relationship education compulsory in all schools. It was also the cause of debate within Local Government because of issues around social care.
What did not receive as much media attention were the new duties regarding previously looked after children for schools – where a 'previously looked after child' refers to a child that was in care but immediately after being in care became subject to an Adoption, Child Arrangement, or Special Guardianship Order.
The CSWA imposed these duties by amending the Children Act 1989:
Local Authorities must 'make advice and information available…for the purpose of promoting the educational achievement' of previously looked after children in their area. They are also given a broad power (but not a duty) to 'do anything else that they consider appropriate with a view to promoting the educational achievement of previously looked after children in their area. At least one employee must be given this responsibility.
Maintained schools must 'designate a member of the staff at the school (the 'designated person') as having responsibility for promoting the educational achievement' of previously looked after children and 'ensure that the designated person undertakes appropriate training and has regard to any guidance issued by the Secretary of State'. The Secretary of State also has power to provide regulations to specify the qualifications that staff must have. Further, governing bodies must also have regard to any Code of Practice. For Academies the same provisions applied in that new funding agreements must make these same provisions and funding agreements made before the changes are to be interpreted as if they did apply.
The provisions are not yet in force but it is good for schools to be aware of these changes, in order to prepare for them.