Foster Carers & Residential Staff

The role of the carer is paramount in supporting the education of looked after children. Carers should ensure that the child has appropriate access to learning and is encouraged to make best use of it and fulfil their potential.  Though not always explicitly stated in the placement agreement this should include:

  • working closely with the child’s school or other educational placement.
  • taking an active interest in the child’s homework.
  • encouraging a child to value learning.
  • supporting a child’s attendance at school.
  • advocating for the child’s individual needs.

The REES Centre, based at The University of Oxford, carry out research about the role of foster carers and the education of looked after children.

The Fostering Network also have resources on their website.

In particular, their London Fostering Achievement work is of interest. 

The Designated Teacher

All schools must have a designated teacher, who is ideally a member of the senior leadership team. The designated teacher is responsible for championing the educational needs of looked after children in their school and ensuring they have good quality PEPs.  They should be the main author and champion of the PEP within the school context.

The designated teacher is often the main point of contact for looked after children in schools and they will usually attend care team meetings and reviews. In some larger schools parts of the role may be delegated to a pastoral member of staff such as a head of year or a mentor.

The Personal Education Plan (PEP)

A foster carer / residential carer should be included in the PEP meeting. The PEP is central to improving educational outcomes for looked after children. When used effectively, it is a tool to gather views of school, home and from the child or young person in order to identify strengths and barriers and put in place a plan of action to help support the education of a looked after child.

The Statutory Guidance provides more detail about what makes a high quality PEP.

The Pupil Premium

The Pupil Premium Plus for looked after children is currently £1900. Pupil Premium Plus must be managed by the Virtual School Head to improve the attainment and progress of looked after children.

The Virtual School Head, working with education settings, should implement pupil premium plus arrangements for looked after children in accordance with the latest DfE Conditions of Grant and any supplementary departmental advice issued, such as the document relating more specifically to the Virtual School Head’s responsibilities.

There are many best practice reports available including:



The Education Endowment Foundation Toolkit is also very useful in helping to identify strategies that are most effective. 

SDQs – Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires

The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) is a brief behavioural screening questionnaire. Local authorities are required to submit the scores of the carer version but there is also a version for young people (over the age of 11) and schools to complete. The triangulation of all three responses gives the most accurate picture of a looked after child’s mental health and well-being. There is also a link emerging between SDQ scores and educational outcomes, making them more significant for Virtual School Heads.