So what does an Education Specialist do
as part of an independent foster care agency?
It’s a really varied role! Primarily I liaise with foster carers, placing authorities and individual social workers, to promote educational achievement and provide assistance where difficulties are present.
Support at Education Meetings
As the Education Specialist it’s my job to support carers & Supervising Social Workers (SSWs) at education meetings. These include PEPs, EHCP annual reviews, professional meetings and some CLA (Children Looked After) Reviews. I am prepared to challenge school policies and sanctions when and where necessary.
As it is not possible to attend all PEPs etc, I have to prioritise. My criteria for attending PEPs is:
a) When concerns have been expressed about a child’s progress and/or behaviour in school.
b) When a child is new in placement with our carers I will try to get to their first PEP.
c) When a child starts a new school.
d) when a young person is in Y11.
Most meetings are now virtual but I still do travel to schools when necessary. This occurs on average, around once per month.
I collect and process all the children’s school reports. Attainment information, along with details from PEP reviews is recorded so we can monitor and track progress for each child, identifying any issues which may arise. I also liaise with relevant Virtual School Staff and/or other key personnel in school or the Local Authority to resolve issues, and seek support and additional intervention, often at a PEP review or a professionals’ meeting.
Training and Signposting
We have foster carer support group meetings in the different regions, and I attend these either virtually or in person. Ideally the Education Specialist should go to each region in person at least once during the year. I use these group events to run training sessions and update carers on any new educational initiatives. Recent sessions that have been held include ‘improving gross and fine motor skills’ and ‘girls with ASD’.
I also offer a virtual training session which covers the basics of education for CLA – this runs approximately twice per year. This is most helpful for new foster carers but is also a good refresher for existing carers too. The Education Specialist should aim to run virtual training sessions on different topics every year – open to all carers – e.g. Higher Education or Anxiety-based school avoidance.
A large part of what I do is providing educational guidance and advice to carers and SSWs, signposting them to resources. I follow up any educational issues highlighted by carers or SSWs and guide and steer them through what can be the ‘minefield’ of education.
I keep up to date with the latest educational legislation and practice so that I can disseminate this to carers and SSWs, attending relevant courses and conferences. As the Educational Specialist for FCC, some of the courses and conferences I have attended include – Go Higher West Yorkshire, Managing Anxiety by Young Minds, DDP, and Worcestershire Virtual School training.
I work with Virtual School Teams and social workers to help to resolve any school admission issues and help to facilitate smooth transfers to new schools. We want the least amount of disruption made to the child’s educational provision. I’m particularly involved when the situation means dealing with more than one Local Authority or when a child has special educational needs.
I will help to identify appropriate schools for children who need to change schools and can accompany carers on visits to schools to support them in choosing suitable educational provision. I may also liaise with Virtual School Heads and check out OFSTED reports depending on the circumstances.
If a problem in school has been highlighted either by the carer, SSW or one of the regional managers I will try to intervene as quickly as possible, contacting relevant personnel in school and/or Local Authority to discuss the issues and offer assistance in trying to overcome the problem.
When I am made aware of children’s achievements, both academic and non-academic, I will acknowledge them by sending out a personal “well done” cards to each child. We also share achievements in our FCC newsletter and at our team meetings. Every September, I collect GCSE and SATs results, record them on the tracker and ‘Y11 Educational Outcomes’ report and then send out congratulations letters with vouchers.
Twice a year I provide an education report for FCC senior management, which includes information on types of schools attended, number of children with EHCPs, attendance percentage, number of exclusions, achievements, number of children taking part in structured out of school activities and any good outcomes during the six months as well as plans for the next six months.
FCC’s Education Specialist: This role is held by a qualified teacher who has had many years’ experience working in the public sector. They are notified when children and young people join our foster care agency and they monitor children’s educational progress throughout the period of FCC care. The Education Specialist liaises with foster carers, placing authorities and individual social workers, promoting educational achievement and assisting where difficulties are present. There is no additional cost for this service. The FCC Education Specialist provides support across England.