Local practice examples
This summary tells us what works in improving educational outcomes for looked after
children and young people (LACYP), on the basis of a systematic review of the research
literature and analysis of key data. It aims to provide evidence that will help
service providers to improve services, and ultimately outcomes, for children, young
people and their families.
The review was carried out by the University of Bedfordshire on behalf of the Centre
for Excellence and Outcomes in Children and Young People’s Services (C4EO). The
data analysis was conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research
Looked after children and young people are those whose educational experience and
achievement is directly affected by the nature and quality of current policy and
practice. The research confirms the value that young people attach to consistent
educational support, ideally from a stable placement, for their education. They
are especially concerned about the way in which information about them is shared.
Foster, residential and kinship carers provide the day-to-day care and support required
by looked after children and young people in order for them to attend and achieve
their potential at school. Evidence about their experience is more limited, but
continues to emphasise their need for comprehensive information about education
at the time of placement, and access to appropriate expertise and support should
problems emerge. Their contribution also needs to be viewed in the context of what
is known more widely about good practice in supporting placements.
Managers, including virtual school heads manage and coordinate policy and practice
relating to the education of looked after children and young people. Evidence suggests
considerable progress has been made in this area. Monitoring of looked after children’s
education, together with better communication and co-ordination of practice between
professionals, helps ensure that young people do not become ‘lost’ to the system
and local trends can be identified.
Looked after children education services or teams have played an increasingly important
role in providing direct services such as tutoring, collecting data and providing
advice and training to other front-line professionals such as designated teachers.
These teams appear to work well and have a positive impact on the educational progress
of looked after children and young people. More systematic evaluation of their work
would be beneficial.
Social workers co-ordinate care planning for looked after children and young people,
which includes personal education plans (PEPs). This is a key role, and carers report
that the input of social workers in liaising with other professionals can be extremely
valuable. On the other hand, shortages and changes of social worker is a frequent
complaint and can result in social workers becoming somewhat marginal to the educational
experience of looked after children and their carers.
Specialist front-line professionals may be involved in a number of ways in providing
education support or access to additional educational opportunities, including music,
sport and arts-based activities. These activities have flourished in recent years
and are viewed very positively by young people and their carers.
Birth parents and families continue to have an important role in the lives of looked
after children and young people, including their education. Unfortunately we have
little information about how this works out in practice.
Policy makers in government departments are engaged in introducing new policy and
implementing and reviewing the effectiveness of existing policy. Their role has
been crucial in heightening awareness of the educational needs of children and young
people in care and in creating an infrastructure through which these needs can be
The quality of national data on the placements, care careers and some educational
outcomes relating to looked after children and young people has improved and makes
an important contribution.
However, this data does not capture the more complex processes involved in working
with looked after children and young people, and the many different ways in which
policy and practice is impacting on their educational experience and outcomes. Published
research at local, regional and national level is critical to providing a more comprehensive
The research base relating to the education of looked after children and young people
has increased considerably over the past decade.
The quality of national data concerning looked after children’s educational placements
and outcomes has improved and there is a growing body of information regarding the
impact of national and regional initiatives. However, there are weaknesses and there
is a need for: