A new system that collects information about the attainment and educational progress of looked-after children is set to help children's services leaders improve how they target support and funding.
Launched at the end of March, the Children Looked After (CLA) Analysis Project has been funded jointly by the Department for Education, Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) and 147 local authorities who have signed up to use it.
It has the backing of ADCS and the National Association of Virtual School Heads, and will be run on behalf of councils by the National Consortium for Examination Results (NCER).
Here, NCER project lead Peter Richmond - who is also divisional manager, service improvement, at Halton Borough Council - explains how the system will work.
"The CLA Analysis Project measures the educational performance and progress of children and young people while in care at Key Stages 1, 2 and 4.
The reporting system is part of the substantial NCER Nexus analysis system used by the 152 authorities that are members of NCER - a community interest company owned by local authorities in England.
The system matches social care and education data from the 2016 SSDA903 national database (collating councils' returns on looked-after children) and National Pupil Database; and reports on some of the factors shown to make the most difference in improving the outcomes of children in care.
These were identified by researchers at The Rees Centre for Research in Fostering and Education at the University of Oxford and the University of Bristol in their 2015 study examining the relationship between educational outcomes, young people's care histories and individual characteristics.
The data will enable virtual school heads to write effective action plans and annual reports, providing a clear idea of their children's achievement and attainment compared with national trends.
It will also help virtual heads ensure Pupil Premium Plus funding - worth £1,320 annually per looked-after child - is spent effectively and provide evidence to the local authority or Ofsted of their effectiveness in improving educational outcomes.
The tool operates across local authority boundaries to ensure children placed in one authority and educated in another are included in the results generated."
Resource will help virtual school heads better manage pupil premium spending
By Alan Clifton, virtual school head in North Yorkshire
"This is revolutionary because for the first time it will give us ‘Progress 8' data for looked-after children, a measure introduced last year to better assess pupil progress in English and maths, as an alternative to the five A*-C grades.
Previously, attainment tables have measured just grade attainment, whereas we often want to look at a child's progress against their peers' attainment and not age-related expectations. Now virtual school heads will be able to get that information for looked-after children.
The system does this by putting into a single database pupil results and information about looked-after children drawn from council returns including results from SDQ data. It will enable virtual heads and children's services leaders to cut up the data by applying a range of filters, such as:
- Whether the child has been in care for more than 12 months
- If there has been a change in care placement
- For children with special educational needs
- Background factors, such as ethnicity, gender and age.
- The resource benchmarks your own local authority with the other 151 authorities in England for pupil progress from Key Stage 1 to 2 and Key Stage 2 to 4.
This will enable virtual heads to benchmark the progress of their children in care at a particular end-of-stage education point against those in other regions of the country.
We can then present this in a more sophisticated way than ever before when writing annual reports.
The data is retrospective, but it will influence how we use resources, particularly the Pupil Premium Plus.
Virtual school heads spend £74m of Pupil Premium money annually, and this should help us target funding to where it can make the biggest difference. We will be able to look for evidence that identifies needs for children across a school or the council, and then target funding to address that. Hopefully, this will enable virtual heads to target resources to improve the overall educational progress and attainment of looked-after children."
Outcomes for children looked after by local authorities at 31 March 2016, national statistics, DfE, March 2017
The Educational Progress of Looked After Children in England: Linking Care and Educational Data, The Rees Centre and University of Bristol, November 2015
Promoting the education of looked-after children, statutory guidance for local authorities, DfE, July 2014
Help for Children in Care to Achieve Better School Results, DfE, December 2012
Promoting the quality of life of looked-after children and young people, NICE and Scie, October 2010