Schools

Social care review school proposals: What the DfE has said it will do

DfE only commits to a consultation on main school proposals from MacAlister review

DfE only commits to a consultation on main school proposals from MacAlister review

The government has published its response to last year’s landmark MacAlister review of children’s social care, but has only committed to consult on the main schools proposals.

The report has already been criticised for allocating just £200 million over two years for reforms, whereas the review called for £2.6 billion over five years.

And a lack of concrete pledges in response to the education recommendations is likely to prompt accusations that it has been watered-down.

Here’s what you need to know…

1. Make schools ‘corporate parents’

Proposal: In his review, Josh MacAlister said making schools corporate parents in England would “more accurately reflect the role that schools…play in the lives of children in care and those with a care experience”.

Response: The government said it would consult this month on “extending corporate parenting responsibilities to a wider set of public bodies”, and then again in the autumn “as necessary” on proposals for legislative reform. This will come when “parliamentary time allows”.

2. Make schools statutory safeguarding partners

Proposal: Last year’s review said schools should become “statutory safeguarding partners”, alongside councils, health services and police, warning leaving schools out at the moment meant the voice of education was “missing”.

Response: The government said it agreed education “needs to play a greater role in local safeguarding arrangements”. It will consult in the spring on how to “strengthen the role of education settings”.

Proposals “will include whether to clarify their roles and responsibilities within multi-agency safeguarding arrangements, and how they operate within the strategic and operational levels of partnerships”.

The DfE will then “use learning from this to help form proposals on whether and how to make education a fourth safeguarding partner through consultation in autumn 2023”.

If agreed, the government will “bring forward legislation when parliamentary time allows”.

3. Base ‘family help teams’ in schools

Proposal: The review wanted a new category of “family help”, based in community settings like schools, to replace “targeted early help” and “child in need” work.

Response: Ministers have pledged a £45 million pilot in 12 areas to implement new “family help” services, but made no firm commitment to putting them in schools

4. Let school staff foster children they teach

Proposal: The review warned the culture of care meant it was “often considered inappropriate” to ask a teacher or friend’s parent to consider becoming a specific child’s foster carer, adding that this “needs to change”.

Response: The DfE simply pointed to its existing fostering recruitment and retention programme, making no mention of teachers.

5. Hold virtual school heads to account for progress

Proposal: Virtual school heads have a duty to promote the educational achievement of children in care and manage their pupil premium funding, but the review found a “real lack of accountability”.

It said virtual school heads should be held to account for the progress 8 scores of children in care.

Response: The government made no mention of this, but did commit to consult “as necessary” in the autumn on “expanding the Virtual School Head role to include children in care and care leavers up to the age of 25”.

6. Use pupil premium on ‘well-evidenced’ programmes

Proposal: Schools receive extra funding for looked-after children through the pupil premium plus.

The review said virtual school heads should direct this funding “towards interventions that are well evidenced”.

Response: The DfE said it would “ensure pupil premium plus funding for children in care is spent on well evidenced interventions”. But they did not say how this would be achieved.

However, they will extend the “post-16 pupil premium plus style of funding” with a further £24 million between 2023 and 2025 to “address the cliff edge in educational support that children in care and care leavers face in 16- to 19-year-old education”.

7. Divert free schools cash to create state boarding places

Proposal: MacAlister’s review recommended that the free schools capital budget should be used to create capacity for looked-after children in boarding schools.

Response: The DfE said it had already extended its “broadening educational pathways” programme to “increase the number of children in care in independent and state boarding schools”.

But the response makes no mention of where the funding came from.

8. Replace young offender institutions with secure schools

Proposal: The review said young offender institutions and secure training centres should be “phased out” entirely within the next ten years and replaced with secure children’s homes and secure schools.

Response: There is no mention of secure schools in the government’s response.

9. Train all staff on mental health response

Proposal: Last year’s review said the identification and response to poor mental health issues should be a “core part of training programmes for any professionals working with children and young people that have involvement with children’s services”.

Response: The DfE said it would “review current levels of knowledge and skills” among those working in virtual schools.

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