When a child comes to live with you, one of the first things you may have to think about is their education. This may mean finding a nursery or school, or supporting them to continue their education in their current school.
Early years education
All 3 and 4 year olds in England are entitled to15 hours a week of free pre-school education for 38 weeks of the year. This free education can be provided by nurseries, childminders, playgroups, pre-schools and children’s centres.
Some two year olds also qualify for free early education. This applies if you are in receipt of certain benefits or the child is ‘looked after’ by the local authority or has left care under a Special Guardianship Order, Residence Order or Child Arrangements Order. Further information on eligibility criteria can be found here.
Finding a school
Contact your local council for a list of schools in your area. You can also find details of local schools by going to the gov.uk website. Get as much information as you can about schools which are near you so you can think about which school might suit your child. You may want to visit the school and read its prospectus and most recent Ofsted report. In reality though there may not be much choice available if local schools are already full. If you are not offered a place at your preferred school you have a right of appeal.
Children who are looked after by children’s services, children who have been adopted from care and children who have left care under a Special Guardianship Order, Residence Order or Child Arrangements Order must be given priority in schools’ admissions criteria. If this applies in your case make sure you mention it in your application.
Disability and special needs
A high proportion of children living in kinship care have a disability, additional needs or specific learning difficulties. All schools have a duty to adapt the curriculum to meet the needs of individual children. If your child learns more slowly or in a different way to other children, the school can set different work or try different teaching strategies.
If you are concerned about your child’s progress or you think they may have special educational needs (SEN) contact the SEN coordinator (SENCO) in your child’s school. Schools and colleges must do as much as they can to provide extra support for their pupils/students with SEN.
From 1st September 2014, there have been changes to the way children and young people who need more help are supported in England. Statements and Learning Difficulty Assessments (LDA) have been replaced by Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans. An EHC plan sets out your child’s needs and how they should be met. You may be able to get a personal budget for your child, if they’re eligible for an EHC plan. This will give you more say on how money is spent on your child’s needs. Find more information here.
Contact a Family has a national advice service which covers all aspects of education for children with special needs.
Difficulties at school
If a child you are bringing up is experiencing problems at school, for example difficulty in making friends, or if you suspect they are being bullied, you should bring this to the attention of the school. Most schools take bullying seriously and will have policies for tackling the problem. They may also be able to provide counselling or mentoring for the child. You may also want to disclose to the school what has happened in the child’s family that may be affecting them.
ACE Education has information on its website about what to do if your child is being bullied and you feel the school is not taking the problem seriously. ACE also provides information on other education-related issues including admissions and appeals, attendance and exclusions.
You may also find it helpful to look at Contact a Family’s guide to dealing with bullying. Although primarily aimed at the families of disabled children it contains useful advice for anyone whose child is being bullied.
Pupil Premium Plus
The pupil premium is additional money given to schools in England to raise the attainment of eligible pupils. Schools qualify for this funding for every child who is in receipt of free school meals. From April 2014, looked after children, children who have been adopted from care and children who have left care under a Special Guardianship Order, Residence Order or Child Arrangements Order attract Pupil Premium Plus funding (£1,900 per child in 2015/16).
This reflects the fact that these children are likely to have experienced loss and trauma which can have a lasting impact. Schools have a vital role to play in providing support to raise their attainment and address their wider needs. The funding is not ring-fenced and is not for individual children, but schools must publish details of how they are using the money and the impact that it is having on pupil achievement.
If your child is eligible for the Pupil Premium Plus you should inform the school, as they may not be aware of the child’s status. Eligibility needs to be recorded in the January school census for the school to receive funding in the following financial year.
You may well find yourself having to help your child with homework. There are many websites that are able to help you by providing information and examples for all subjects and levels. Try BBC Schools for resources to support both primary and secondary curricula.
Financial support for further education
The 16-19 bursary fund provides help for education-related costs to 16 to 19 year olds who are in further education or training in England.
Under this scheme, some vulnerable students are eligible to receive a bursary of £1,200 a year. This group includes those who are disabled, on Income Support, young people in care and care leavers. Find further information here.
Other students facing financial difficulties may be awarded a bursary at the discretion of their school, college or training provider, who will set out details of how the scheme will operate locally.
Students living in Wales may be eligible for an Education Maintenance Allowance instead of the 16-19 bursary.
Financial support for higher education
A student applying for financial support to attend university in England is assessed on the basis of their parents’ household income even if they don’t live with them, unless they are classed as an independent student. A parent is defined as a natural or adoptive parent, so it doesn’t include any other type of carer.
The young person is treated as ‘independent’ and financially assessed on their own income where:
• they are estranged from their parents, or
• their parents have both died, or
• they were looked after by children’s services for 3 months ending on or after their 16th birthday.
The ‘independent student’ category is decided on a case by case basis, depending on the particular circumstances of that family.
Further information about student finance can be found here.
Care leavers going into higher education are entitled to specific financial support, including a £2000 bursary. For more information about support for care leavers in higher education see the HE Handbook for Care Leavers produced by the Who Cares Trust.
A young person who has been under a Special Guardianship Order, but was previously looked after by the local authority, has a right to advice and assistance from children’s services to make their own arrangements when moving into independent living. This can include financial support.
If you would like to get some advice on education, you may want to contact one of the organisations below. Alternatively, please contact our confidential advice service.
ACE Education Advice
Advice Line: 0300 0115 142 Monday-Wednesday 10am-1pm term time only
ACE provides a comprehenive range of advice and information on education issues. Advice and information covers state funded education in England only.
Helpline: 0808 800 2222
Bullying UK (part of Family Lives) gives advice and support to pupils, parents and teachers on ways of dealing with bullying at school.
CAF is the only UK-wide charity providing advice, information and support to the parents of all disabled children. Additionally, CAF operates a national advice service for special educational needs (SEN).
Coram Children’s Legal Centre
Free information and advice on all legal issues relating to children and young people. There are a range of factsheets and ‘how to’ guides on the webite. Should you have clarifying questions, their helpline number is available at the end of each factsheet. The helpline is available Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm.
Helpline: 0845 478 6345
Education Otherwise gives support and information to families whose children are being educated out of school or who are considering home-based education. There are local groups, individual contacts and information leaflets.
Helpline: 0808 800 2222 7.00am – midnight
Family Lives offers advice and support on all aspects of family life including children’s education. It also runs courses for parents and produces books and leaflets.
Independent Parental Special Education Advice (IPSEA)
Advice Line: 0800 018 4016
IPSEA is a national charity providing free legally based advice to families who have children with special educational needs.
Information Advice and Support Services Network
The IASS Network offers information, advice and support for parents and carers of children and young people with special educational needs.
You can ask for details of your local service from your child’s school or Local Authority. You can also find details about their services, and contact details for your local service on their website at: www.iassnetwork.org.uk.
Parents for inclusion is a self-help organisation giving information, advice and support on education matters to parents of children with special educational needs. It has parent support groups and can help a parent prepare their representations or case for an appeal.
Telephone: 0207 923 5500
Place2Be is an integrated school-based service, offering swift access to counselling and other services. Place2Be supports pupils with emotional and behavioural problems who often miss out on receiving adequate help from statutory services.
Telephone: 01223 366052
The aim of Red Balloon is the recovery of bullied children. It provides an ‘intensive care’ full-time education for children who are unable to go to school because they have been severely bullied or who have suffered trauma.
Parents Helpline: 0808 802 5544 Monday-Friday 9.30am – 4.00pm
Young Minds Parents’ Helpline provides a service for any adult worried about the emotional problems, behaviour or mental health of a child or young person.