children's commissioner

Children in care should only attend ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ schools, the children’s commissioner warned local authorities this week.

Anne Longfield, children’s commissioner for England, said in her latest Stability Index report that she will be writing to councils where a “significantly lower proportion of children in care are in these schools”.

Longfield said she will be seeking an explanation and a commitment from local authorities to secure better places for children in care.

Her report highlights that these vulnerable children are more likely to experience school instability if their school has a lower Ofsted rating.

One in five children in schools rated as ‘inadequate’ experienced a mid-year school move in 2017-18, compared to just one in 12 children in schools rated ‘outstanding’.

The report states: “The relationship between school instability and school quality is stronger than that which we found last year: rates of school instability have increased slightly among children in schools judged ‘inadequate’, but have decreased slightly among children in schools judged ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.”

Existing DfE guidance states that ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ schools should be prioritised when seeking a place for looked-after children in need of a new school.

The guidance says that, unless there are “exceptional evidence-based reasons”, then a looked-after child should never be placed in an ‘inadequate’ school.

With regards to schools that require improvement, evidence should be given that the school is providing high quality support to vulnerable pupil, guidance says.

Last year’s stability index revealed that thousands of looked-after children were being moved mid-year to schools more than 20 miles away from their previous school, leading to hundreds missing a whole term as a result.

Earlier this year, government data showed that GCSE grades among looked-after pupils have fallen while absence rates rose.