Realising the potential of Children in Care

What Ofsted said....

In June 2017 Ofsted rated our Children’s Services as ‘good’

This puts our children’s services among the top 30 per cent in the country and recognises that we have made substantial improvements since our previous inspection, despite some difficult challenges along the way.

Importantly it also recognises the hard work of our amazing Children in Care and Care Leavers, the work of VSK and partner services/ professionals in improving academic and wider outcomes as well as providing opportunities to have fun and share their voice.

  • Educational outcomes for children looked after are improving at key stages 1, 2 and 4. The virtual school uses personal education plans well to enable pupils to get the right support for personal and social development and academic progress.
  • Managers and staff ensure the active participation of young people in service improvements, such as in the new pathway plan and in the recruitment of staff.
  • The attendance of all children looked after up to the age of 16 is 90%. No children looked after are permanently excluded. Robust approaches by the inclusion and attendance officers of the virtual school, together with improved curriculum arrangements, have contributed to the decrease in the numbers of those experiencing fixed-term exclusions over the previous year to January 2017.
  • The careful monitoring of the progress and achievement of children looked after by the virtual school has resulted in a decrease in the differences in achievement between children looked after and their peers at the different key stages. Several supplementary and highly appropriate arrangements, such as activity days, buddying and participating in fostering workshops, improve the confidence, self-esteem and resilience of children.
  • Sound use of the Pupil Premium funding and other additional payments have contributed to improving the outcomes for children looked after. For example, it is used to fund appropriate tuition. English language support and ‘school ready’ projects for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are provided, alongside literacy and numeracy development programmes and projects that improve the emotional and social well-being of pupils. Personal education plans show clearly how well the Pupil Premium is used, directly related to the needs of the pupils. Plans focus well on pupils’ attendance and identify activities that will benefit their academic progress and social development. However, targets are not precise enough and plans do not show pupils’ views about their progress, achievements and aspirations. They also do not contain meaningful contributions from foster carers towards supporting pupils.
  • The three Children in Care Councils, separated into children of primary school age, children of secondary school age and young people aged over 16, are well established. Children’s views regularly inform the corporate parenting panel, service development and commissioning activity, through a range of engaging participation events.

Quotes from the Looked After Children’s Inspection (August 2013)

  • Significant achievements have been made to improve outcomes for children and young people. For example, the reorganisation of services for looked after children into four locality teams and better collaborative working arrangements with key partner agencies are evident in the process being made by the council. The council has made a substantial financial investment into services for looked after children despite its widespread budgetary constraints. The development of VSK has clearly had an impact on reducing fixed term or permanent exclusions and improving attendance, achievement and attainment. This is evidenced in the educational progress children and young people are now making.
  • Health outcomes for looked after children and care leavers have improved since the last inspection and are now adequate. Information sharing is improving and is leading to more consistency in health provision for looked after children. Health needs of children who live out of authority are monitored through VSK. This works effectively with looked after children nurses in other authorities to ensure that health assessments are completed in a timely way.
  • There is improving performance in dental checks and review of health assessments. Significant work has taken place to improve the timeliness and take-up of health assessments and initial dental consultations. This has included undertaking visits to the child’s placement and telephone consultations. A named looked after children’s nurse with specialist skills to support 16+ male UASC living in Millbank assessment centre provides continuity for these young people.
  • Educational outcomes for looked after children are adequate. As a result of the development of the VSK there have been improvements in the achievement of looked after children since the SLAC inspection in 2010. There is an upward trend in attainment at the end of Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4. More looked after children reach Level 4 in English at the end of Year 6 and gain five A* to C grades in the GCSE examinations, including English and Maths. However, results in Key Stage 2 Maths were low in 2012 due to pupils leaving the authority just before the SATs. Most looked after children make average progress from their starting points and few make good progress. Support Workers from VSK make a strong contribution to pupils’ accelerated progress, particularly in primary schools. Designated Teachers receive a good range of training especially in how to meet the learning and emotional needs of looked after children. The Headteacher of VSK gives a good and strong leadership to this service. His determination to give the best possible education to all looked after children has resulted in an effective restructure and expansion of the staff team. VSK effectively monitors and supports looked after children placed in out of county placements. The Headteacher with his senior leadership team provides a good level of challenge to schools. They collect information about all looked after children and hold schools to account for how they meet their learning and emotional needs. The outcome of this is improvements in achievement and attendance and a reduction in the number of looked after children having fixed term or permanent exclusions from school. One Headteacher said “it is not fair to call it the virtual school because schools get real support from real people when we need this.” VSK has recently introduced an awards ceremony to celebrate the achievements of looked after children. This is very popular and carers and the children greatly value the recognition that this gives to their hard work and commitment to learning.