Recently, as a Trust, we attended a HMI update about Looked-after children and how their performance was significantly behind that of their peers and I was struck by how significant the gaps were and how this widens throughout secondary school. It spurred me to on to review what we were doing as a Trust and whether we were failing in our duties to ensure that all children in care were secondary ready.
The first thing that struck me was the low numbers of children we had within our schools, although we are a small MAT, there were extremely small numbers in school. I saw a lot of synergy here with schools who struggle to with small numbers of Pupil Premium children and how this can challenge schools to deliver rich and effective support for children. We now have a revised policy and procedure which includes a governor champion who must send a report back to the Trust every term and a refocused designated teacher practices for working with Looked-after children.
It also made me think that we have a duty as schools to work more closely together to ensure provision is effective and training is pertinent to the people involved. Through joint practice development we should make our designated teachers more effective and help them with the sharing of resources.
I also thought that as a group of schools we should look for opportunities to provide enrichment where children can come together to learn and to double check that we are prioritising our enrichment activities for Looked-after children. I was horrified when I reviewed access to these by Looked-after children across our trust to see that none of them had taken this up. So what were we doing wrong? Had we unwittingly created barriers for these children or had we failed to engage the carers in these opportunities?
I read a piece of research which stated that if carers acted as educational tutors with high quality support from schools, children would make three times the amount of progress. This brings another imperative for us as a partnership, to make sure we are bringing the carers of Looked-after children together, and providing extra support to them to ensure they are able to understand their children’s needs and have the skills to support them. Small numbers shouldn’t be a barrier if we coordinated support, together we would be able to provide a better provision for our children.
I also found a fantastic website (www.attachmentawareschools.com) about attachment awareness and how schools can download a review tool to identify areas to develop the school. There are many children, not just Looked-after children, who have attachment difficulties and we could use this tool to improve our educational provision for all children.