Agenda item

The Attainment of Looked After Children

To receive an overview of the educational outcomes and progress of the children in the care of North Tyneside Council

Minutes:

The Sub-Committee received an overview of the educational outcomes and progress of the children in the care of North Tyneside Council.

 

The Council as Corporate Parents had a statutory duty to promote the education of looked after children in the care of North Tyneside Council. They also had an extended remit to provide advice and information to schools and families relating to the education of previously looked after children (who had achieved permanence through adoption, special guardianship or a child arrangements order).

 

The Virtual School sat within the Raising the Health and Education of Looked After Children Team (RHELAC) and together with health colleagues closely monitored the holistic needs of looked after children. The Virtual School had a small team of teachers that provided support, mainly in schools, to help pupils fill gaps in their knowledge and give them a boost in preparation for exams and assessments. Over the last few years psychological support had been developed through educational psychologists and counsellors to help pupils manage their mental health needs that could sometimes be a barrier to learning.

 

The Virtual School Head managed the Pupil Premium Plus for looked after children and this partly funded the support available within the team and the funding was used to provide ICT equipment, fund extra tuition or fund educational visits. Schools also received a direct allocation of £1200 per looked after child each year to provide additional support in school.

 

The Virtual School closely monitored the progress and attendance of looked after children through their Personal Education Plans and the termly data collection from schools. The Virtual School had a performance officer who analysed the presenting data and identified any gaps in provision and held schools to account when pupils did not appear to be making enough progress.

 

The looked after children in the early years foundation stage OC2 cohort (in care for more than twelve months) outperformed both looked after children nationally and their non-looked after peers in North Tyneside.

 

Whilst there were only four children in this cohort, they all passed their Phonics test. They also had a higher average point score than the other cohorts. This was the second year 100% of the OC2 cohort had passed their Phonics Check. The Team had invested in a Reading Recovery teacher who had supported the pupils that met the criteria and provided intensive support in reading and writing. This enabled the pupils to make accelerated progress and catch up with their peers.  The evidence base around Reading Recovery was very strong and the Council would continue to use this approach. 

 

The seven pupils in the Key Stage 1 cohort also out-performed their non-looked after peers in Reading, Maths and Science but three did not meet the expected standard in writing which had impacted on the Reading, Writing, Maths (RWM) achievement. Looked after children nationally had lower writing scores and writing had been an area of focus for many years. This was a combination of poor fine motor skills from neglect in their early life, poorer vocabulary and a lack of experiences to write about. The Team now had an occupational therapist within the Team and it was hoped that she would support with handwriting. The Reading Recovery Programme also supported with writing and hopefully those that had benefitted from this intervention would see further improvements in the future.

 

The Key Stage 2 Cohort only included four children that had been in care for more than twelve months (as of March 2019). This made statistical analysis difficult. 50% of the OC2 cohort achieved the expected standard in Reading, Writing and Maths which was higher than looked after children nationally.

 

The National Consortium for Examination Results NCER data for the Key Stage 4 cohort had too many gaps currently to be included due to the numbers in independent residential provision that had not been uploaded to the system yet.

 

The Key Stage 4 cohorts were always significantly larger than the other cohorts due to the number of adolescents entering care. 33% entered care during Key Stage 4, making it difficult to fill knowledge gaps in time for the exams.

 

Whilst the number achieving ‘the Basics’ at Grade 4+ was lower than previously, 22% only missed by one grade. The changes in the GCSE grading system had made it much harder for pupils to meet the Grade 5+ benchmark that schools were now judged on. Targeted work was being undertaken with Key Stage 3 pupils to fill gaps in their mathematical knowledge.

 

This year’s cohort had 25% with an Education, Health and Care Plan which also impacted on the outcomes. The National Association of Virtual School Heads had analysed some of the national data and had found that the new Maths and English GCSEs were much harder to achieve for looked after children with identified Special Educational Needs (SEN).  Since the changes in 2016 the outcomes for looked after children had declined.

 

The Key Stage 5 post-16 cohort took many different routes to employment. Three looked after children completed A Levels this year and all of them achieved the grades they required to go to university. Others achieved well by taking a vocational route at Tyne Met and Newcastle College and there were an increasing number securing apprenticeships within the council. The Government had announced some Pupil Premium Plus for looked after children in Further Education but the Team were awaiting further news about this.

 

Overall the Team were very proud of the achievements of looked after children this year. The younger pupils had demonstrated that being in care did not necessarily need to be a barrier to achieving. The Early Years Foundation Stage and Phonics outcomes were higher than pupils who were not in care and at Key Stage 1 in Reading and Maths, this was also the case. Although the cohort sizes were small, this was still an impressive achievement.

 

The Team recognised that the Key Stage 4 cohort provided the team with more challenge and although the outcomes were not as high, many missed achieving the Grade 4s by only one grade. The new higher Grade 5 benchmark would be a challenge for those that had missed significant parts of their education prior to entering care and any instability at home or school impacted on progress.

 

A Member asked how the Team were evidencing the work and the Virtual School Head reported that the data system enabled the analysis to pull out the cohort and look at them against a larger cohort and to see how the children performed against the cohort nationally. 

 

Members welcomed the achievements of the looked after children and it was confirmed that they entered a variety of different employment areas after school.

 

  

The Chair thanked Officers for the informative report and for attendance at the meeting.

 

It was agreed to note the contents of the report.

 

 

 

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