1. Czone
  2. Inclusion
  3. Education of children in care

Education of children in care

Looked-after children, as defined by the Children Act 1989, are either:

  • in the care of a local authority; or
  • are provided with accommodation by a local authority for a continuous period of more than 24 hours

We use the term ‘children in care’ to include all children that are being looked after by a local authority. Some of them may live outside the local authority area.

Read detailed guidance from the government on: Looked-after children and children in care | GOV.UK

The Virtual School supports the education of children in care. It is not a building and children and young people do not attend. They remain the responsibility of the school where they are enrolled.

We work in partnership with the child or young person's educational setting and their social worker, parents and carers. We support them to fulfil their potential at all stages of their education. This gives them the best opportunity to be successful in their adult lives. 

What the Virtual School offers

  • We support children from pre-school up to age 19 (or age 25 for those still in full-time education).
  • We provide advice and information on the education of children who were previously looked after by a local authority.
  • We have extended duties to take a strategic role in improving the educational outcomes of children with a social worker.

How to access support

Any school with a looked-after child on roll has a named Virtual School caseworker. Caseworkers are the first point of contact for advice on any aspect of the education of children in care. Contact us for details of the caseworker for a particular school.

You can also contact us for advice about previously looked-after children, or children with a social worker.

How to contact the Virtual School

Our office is open during East Sussex term time, Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm.

Phone: 01323 464 630

Email: csvirtual.school@eastsussex.gov.uk

Post to: Virtual School for Children in Care, Hailsham Resource Centre, Dunbar Drive, Hailsham BN27 3UW

How the Virtual School is structured

Virtual School head

The head is responsible for promoting the educational achievement of all children and young people looked after by East Sussex County Council.

Governing body

The Virtual School has a governing body which is chaired by the Head of Looked After Children Services.

Schools have a legal duty to select a member of staff who is responsible for supporting looked-after children. This person is known as the designated teacher for looked-after and previously looked-after children.

Designated teachers are the first point of contact for teachers and other professionals. They advise other school staff on how best to support children who have experienced trauma and loss.

Contact the Virtual School to find out who the designated teacher is for a particular school.


The Virtual School offers free online training for designated teachers. We recommend it is repeated every 3 years.

Contact the Virtual School to enquire about training opportunities.

All looked-after children in schools must have a personal education plan (PEP). This is a record of their educational progress.

The plan:

  • celebrates their achievements
  • considers their needs
  • plans and reviews interventions

It should be reviewed at least 3 times per year, in autumn, spring and summer. The views of the child or young person and their key adults must be central to the planning.

Personal education plan (PEP) forms

PEP form [324.0 KB] [doc]
Complete this form for children aged under 16 years. It includes a pupil premium grant referral form. 

Post-16 PEP form [219.7 KB] [docx]
Complete this form for young people aged 16 and over.

PEP exemplar [310.5 KB] [doc]
An example of what information to put in a PEP form.

Free training

The Virtual School offers free online training on PEPs. Please get in touch to find out about upcoming training opportunities. 

Exclusion of looked-after children is an absolute last resort. The Department for Education states that education is an important protective factor for these children. See: School exclusions | GOV.UK

School provides a safe space for children to access support. They are visible to professionals and can realise their potential.

Children who are not in school are vulnerable to harm. Exclusion can also place a strain on care placements. This can lead to the child losing their home. 

Suspensions and exclusions can be prevented through:

What to do if you are considering exclusion

Discuss your concerns with your Virtual School caseworker so that appropriate support can be put in place.


Read the statutory guidance on School suspensions and permanent exclusions | GOV.UK

This explains what to consider before deciding to exclude pupils who have a social worker, including looked-after and previously-looked after children.

East Sussex County Council also offers supplementary Exclusions guidance.

Inform the Virtual School

The Virtual School should be included in all correspondence about suspension or permanent exclusion of a looked-after child.

If it is not possible to avoid suspension or exclusion, you must email csvirtual.school@eastsussex.gov.uk with the following items attached:

Changing schools

A change of school, except at usual age of transfer, should be avoided if possible. Authorisation for any change must be agreed by the Virtual School head. 

Discussions about changing school should involve the child's current school, social worker and carers, as well as the Virtual School.

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