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Children who enter the care system enter at different times during their education journey. There is support available to care experienced young people at each stage of their education.

Primary and Secondary Education

For young people in primary and secondary education there is a range of support available including:

Designated Teachers

Designated Teachers are responsible for the educational achievement of children in care in that education provision. They will work with other staff in the school to ensure that each young person in care is achieving. The Designated Teacher will also work with other professionals including social workers and the Virtual School Head to ensure each young person has the right support in place.

Virtual School Heads

Virtual School Heads are responsible for the educational achievement of all looked after children in the local authority and provide support to schools and carers. The VSH has responsibilities relating to Personal Education Planning irrespective of the age of the child. They are also responsible for the management of the Looked After Pupil Premium (often described as Pupil Premium Plus, PP+) for children in reception to Year 11, and for the Early Years Looked After Pupil Premium. The Pupil Premium Plus does not have to be spent on academic outcomes; it can help support children to learn and develop their interests in other ways, like music lessons or participation in sport.

Personal Education Plans

Each young person in care will have a Personal Education Plan (PEP). The PEP forms part of a child’s care plan and is reviewed twice a year. The PEP sets out what needs to happen to make sure that a child achieves at school. Young people in care may have to leave class to attend their PEP meetings, however, this should be avoided where possible and meetings should happen outside of scheduled classes.


Further education

Lots of children in care and care leavers go on to further education. This may be to retake GCSEs to help them go on to university, to study shorter vocational courses or do apprenticeships. Care leavers are entitled to a further education bursary to help them with the costs of studying at college and alongside the bursary there may also be support available from the local authority.

Each local authority has a local offer for care leavers, in the local offer is a section on education that will outline the support available.

Some young people leave care between 16 and 18, at the age when they are likely to be in further education. Leaving care can be a very stressful time. It can be very difficult to keep focussed on college commitments when living independently for the first time. There will be support available for young people at college, this may be in the welfare team or from a designated member of staff.

As a child in care or care leaver, your social worker and the Virtual School will be able to support you to get the right support in place for further education. If you’re not sure about what course to take, our Propel website can help you to explore your options.


Higher education

Many care leavers go on to higher education, although for some young people this happens later in life. For care leavers under 21 years old the local authority will be there to support you into higher education. For those returning to higher education between the ages of 21 and 25 years old, the local authority may be able to support you – you will need to request an assessment of need from your leaving care team to identify what support may be available to you.

All universities have a designated member of staff for care experienced students, usually up to the age of 25. Our Propel website identifies who the designated contact is at most of the higher education provisions in England.

Care leavers under 21 and those who receive support following an assessment of need will be entitled to a £2000 education bursary from their local authority. In addition, care leavers will be entitled to the maximum support from student finance. Each university also offers different support packages for care experienced students, these could include financial bursaries or support with year-round housing.