Guidance for schools on raising outcomes for vulnerable children

The Department for Education has published findings of how professionals who work with vulnerable children can better identify children in need, understand the impact of their traumatic experiences, and what schools and social care can do to help these children benefit from a positive experience of education that opens up future opportunities.

New data shows that that in 2016/17 one in 10 state school pupils had a social worker within the previous six years of their life, and data published early in the year showed that the average GCSE attainment for these children is nearly half that of other pupils.

The publication provides teachers and social workers with advice to help improve attendance, behaviour and wellbeing, such as adjusting how they manage vulnerable children’s behaviour and adapting how they speak to the child.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: "It’s a measure of a good society how we treat children who are most in need of our support. If we truly aspire for all children to succeed, whatever their background, we cannot ignore the stark reality of the poorer outcomes for this group of children who have already been through more than we would want our own children to experience.

"There is no reason why we should have a lower aspiration for a child in need of help or protection than we do for their peers. Whether it is making sure a child has a consistent and trusted member of staff or taking the time to speak to a child the morning after they have witnessed domestic abuse, I hope this practical advice can help those leaders in schools and social care, alongside our hardworking teachers and social workers, understand how we can collectively do to more to support these children. Together, we can help them have greater opportunities to fulfil their potential."

The department heard from over 600 school and social care professionals about how they support children in need of help and protection in education.

The vast majority of these children already receive support in school, but by better understanding their needs and backgrounds, this support can be better targeted.

The interim Children in Need of Help and Protection review shares a new bank of extensive good practice that professionals have identified to support children to thrive in education and achieve better outcomes.

The findings highlight effective ways to achieve this, including training for professionals to recognise the lasting impact of trauma and adversity on children’s school attendance, learning, behaviour and wellbeing.

Better information sharing and multi-agency working between schools and other local agencies on the child’s family circumstances is recommended.

The report also says recommends better inclusion in school and making proportionate adjustments to promote better outcomes, such as managing behavior.

The most common factor in children needing help and protection from social care is domestic abuse, which was identified in more than half of social workers’ assessments last year.

The findings highlights how one initiative, Operation Encompass, has helped children exposed to domestic abuse, with police swiftly alerting a school safeguarding lead of an incident by the next morning. School staff will then speak to the child that day and decide how to best support the child, such as giving them time to calm down or not reprimand them for being late or missing homework.