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Support and Guidance for Designated Teachers, Governors and Other School Staff


Welcome to the Devon Virtual School’s web pages for supporting children and young people who have previously been looked after.

This page details support and guidance for designated teachers, governors and other school staff.

A list of key terms used on these pages is available here.



Designated teachers

The Department for Education has produced information on the roles and responsibilities of the designated teacher.


Key responsibilities

Lead responsibility for raising attainment of looked-after and previously looked-after children on roll must rest with the designated teacher. Most of the support that DTs have always offered to looked after children – being a key point of contact, closely monitoring progress, addressing gaps in learning, ensuring that staff understand how best to support children who have suffered abuse and neglect, etc – is now applicable to previously looked after pupils. The main difference is that previously looked after children are not required to have a Personal Education Plan (PEP).

The DfE’s statutory guidance (February 2018) states that the most effective designated teachers have a leadership role in promoting the educational achievement of every looked-after and previously looked-after child on the school’s roll. This involves working with Virtual School Heads (VSH) to promote the education of looked-after and previously looked-after children and promoting a whole school culture where the personalised learning needs of every looked-after and previously looked-after child matters and their personal, emotional and academic needs are prioritised. Attainment data for looked-after and previously looked-after children shows that they do not perform as well at Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4 when compared to non-looked-after children.

Designated teachers should familiarise themselves with other relevant statutory guidance.
Children and Social Work Act
Equality Act
Children and Families Act


Key roles within the school

Designated Teachers should:

  • Undertake appropriate training.
  • Have close links with the SENDCo.
  • Communicate well with the families and carers of pupils who have had care experience. For example, sensitively ask the child’s parents/guardians for evidence of their previously looked-after status. Where clear evidence of their child’s status cannot be provided, designated teachers can use their discretion, they could discuss eligibility with the county’s Virtual School Head (VSH) to agree a consistent approach.
  • Be a central point of initial contact within the school. This helps to make sure that the school plays its role to the full in making sure arrangements are joined up and minimise any disruption to a child’s learning.
  • Take lead responsibility for ensuring school staff understand the things which can affect how looked-after and previously looked- after children learn and achieve and how the whole school supports the educational achievement of these pupils. This means making sure that all staff:
    • Have high expectations of looked-after and previously looked-after children’s learning and set targets to accelerate educational progress;
    • Be aware of the emotional, psychological and social effects of loss and separation (attachment awareness) from birth families and that some children may find it difficult to build relationships of trust with adults because of their experiences, and how this might affect the child’s behaviour;
    • Understand how important it is to see looked-after and previously looked-after children as individuals rather than as a homogeneous group, not publicly treat them differently from their peers, and show sensitivity about who else knows about their looked-after or previously looked-after status;
    • Appreciate the central importance of the looked-after child’s PEP in helping to create a shared understanding between teachers, carers, social workers and, 12 most importantly, the child’s own understanding of how they are being supported;
    • Have the level of understanding they need of the role of social workers, VSHs and carers, and how the function of the PEP fits into the wider care planning duties of the authority which looks after the child; and
    • For previously looked-after children, understand the importance of involving the child’s parents or guardians in decisions affecting their child’s education, and be a contact for parents or guardians who want advice or have concerns about their child’s progress at school.

Designated teachers are also likely to have a more day-to-day role in promoting the educational achievement of looked-after and previously looked-after children, either directly or through appropriate delegation. This can be achieved by contributing to the development and review of whole school policies and procedures to ensure that:

  • They do not unintentionally put looked-after and previously looked-after children at a disadvantage.
  • There is effective induction for looked-after and previously looked-after children starting school, new to the school and new to care.
  • There are effective procedures in place to support a looked-after child’s learning.
  • Particular account is taken of the child’s needs when joining the school and of the importance of promoting an ethos of high expectations about what s/he can achieve.
  • Transitions to the next phase of a child’s education are supported effectively to avoid children losing ground – e.g. moving schools from primary to secondary school or because of a change in placement or exclusion; thought is given to the future, careers advice and guidance, and financial information about where appropriate further and higher education, training and employment.
  • When enrolling at the school, parents and guardians of previously looked-after children are reminded that they need to inform the school if their child is eligible to attract PP+.
  • There are no barriers to looked-after children accessing the general activities and experiences the school offers to all its pupils (e.g. taking into account possible transport difficulties and the arrangements for looked-after children to attend meetings).
  • Previously looked-after children are able to discuss their progress and be involved in setting their own targets, have their views taken seriously, and are supported to take responsibility for their own learning.
  • Previously looked-after children are prioritised in any selection of pupils who would benefit from one-to-one tuition, and that they have access to academic focused.


Communication and information sharing

An area that can be sensitive when working with previously looked after children is information-sharing and confidentiality. The DfE guidance adds: “Designated teachers will want to satisfy themselves that the child is eligible for support by asking the child’s parents for evidence of their previously looked after status.”

Not all adoptive families necessarily wish to disclose their child’s adoptive status, and that is their choice. As children grow older, they will obviously develop their own wishes and feelings about this.
However, there are considerable confidentiality and safeguarding issues relating to this area. Some children might be at risk, for example, if their birth family learned their adoptive surname, or their school or home address.

A child’s adoptive, special guardianship or child arrangements status will need to be disclosed to the school if the school is to claim the PPP on behalf of their child and many do tell school about their child’s status. However, teachers might not always understand the implications of this.

It is important to be very clear about expectations, therefore, when speaking to parents about information-sharing. Being explicit about when, how and why information will be used or passed on will prevent problems and help parents feel more confident in communicating with school.


The role of the Virtual School

What they do
Their remit
Key contacts


Education Plans for Adopted Children (EPAC) and SGO version meetings

This is offered by the Virtual School as a way to improve collaboration between school, parents/guardians/carers, and other professionals and ensure that there is a clear plan for supporting a child’s educational outcomes. The meeting also provides an opportunities to share important information about your child and generates a record of this information that can be shared with key school staff that will work with your child. An EPAC meeting may be offered by school or can be requested by parents/carers. Review meeting will be agreed between parents/carers and schools, based on support needed and outcomes. The EPAC form can be found here, and the Special Guardianships version is available here [needs link]


Adopted and permanently placed (including special guardianship)
Include all children in guardianship and then differentiate between those who have had a care experience and those without. What can each group access?


Where to go for support

Virtual School
DT Network
The team produce a regular newsletter which guardians can sign up to receive using the link below:
There is a duty line for guardians to contact the team for advice and support which is staffed Monday-Friday 9-5
Tel: Mainline 01392 383000 option Fostering, option 5, SGO Duty.
There is also a Special Guardianship Facebook page for updates etc.
Adoption Team
PP+, EYFS version


Planning for transitions

Whether starting school, moving to a new school or moving on to a new class, transitions are very important for children and young people. They can be also be a challenging and anxiety-provoking time, particularly for children who are vulnerable owing to their early experiences, or those who have special educational needs and/or a disability that require understanding and support.

Babcock LDP Educational Psychology and Early Years Services have collaborated with Devon County Council to produce guidance for schools and settings to promote successful transitions across all phases of education. These guidance documents aim to support parents/carers, staff and other professionals in ensuring high quality transition practice across Devon.

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)

Further support and guidance is available on the SEND web pages.




Key responsibilities

Governors of a school have a responsibility to promote the educational achievement of previously looked after pupils.

The school’s governing body of maintained schools and the proprietor of academies must:

  • Designate a member of staff to have responsibility for promoting the educational achievement of previously looked-after pupils. This must be an appropriately qualified and experienced member of staff. A DT should be a qualified teacher who is working as a teacher at the school or a head teacher or acting head teacher at the school. Not all aspects of the role of the DT need necessarily be carried out by a single individual or by a qualified teacher.
  • Ensure the designated person undertakes appropriate training.


Questions to consider

  • Does the designated teacher have appropriate seniority and professional experience to provide leadership, training, information, challenge and advice to others that will influence decisions about the teaching and learning needs of looked-after and previously looked-after children?
  • How does the designated teacher role contribute to the deeper understanding of everyone in the school who is likely to be involved in supporting looked-after and previously looked-after children to achieve?
  • What resource implications might there be in supporting the designated teacher to carry out their role?
  • What monitoring arrangements might be appropriate to ensure that the role of the designated teacher is providing appropriate support for looked-after and previously looked-after children on the school roll?



All school staff

Schools can have a vital role to play in helping young people and children who are adopted and permanently placed through providing specific support, raising attainment and addressing their wider needs. However, for many complex reasons, school life also has the potential to create anxiety and stress for adopted and permanently placed children and their families.


Supporting children to settle into school

Getting started

Transitions and change can be very difficult for children and young people who are adopted or under special guardianship. Additional preparation to become familiar with the school environment, routines and key people in school may be useful in helping children and young people to feel safe in their new school.

Keeping the child in mind

Consider supporting the development of a relationship with a ‘key adult’ in school. A key adult performs a different role to the class teacher or learning support. Instead, through getting to know the child and regular ‘checking-in’ – and perhaps a little protected time, over time – the relationship can provide an ‘emotional safety net’ and the opportunity to further develop trust and belonging in the school setting.
If necessary, in order to promote a sense of safety and security, transitional objects and/or visual cues can be used to help the child gain a sense that they are being kept in mind by parents and/or the key adult in school when they are not physically present.
There are a number of interventions and approaches that enhance a key adult relationship (e.g. Thrive, ELSA, Attachment-based mentoring – see Appendix 3).
Transitions to new classes and between schools may lead to high levels of anxiety. It is important for schools to consider how we can we help make these transitions as smooth as possible.

Joining a new school

  • Where possible, plan for the transition, working collaboratively with adoptive parents or guardians, ensuring that appropriate information is shared
  • Consider additional visits, introducing a few key staff at a time
  • Depending on the needs of the child, it may be helpful to consider timing of drop off and pick up, particularly if separation anxiety is high /and or the child presents as hypervigilant in busy situations
  • It may be that the child or young person benefits from having a transitional object from their adoptive parents or guardians to help them to still feel connected to their parents/ guardians whilst in their new school

Class transitions

  • Staff to be particularly aware of the potential sensitivity to loss and difficulty with endings that children who are permanently placed may experience – it can be valuable if a level of relationship with the previous teacher is maintained so that the child can experience being ‘kept in mind’.
  • Additional opportunities to build up a relationship with the new member of staff in advance of the transition may be helpful
  • If support staff are to also change, it may be helpful where possible to stagger these changes to ensure that the child has some consistency until they begin to develop a familiarity with the new staff (or the new support staff might visit prior to the change of class)
  • A transition book to look at over the summer break with photographs jointly taken of the new classroom, seating etc. to increase a sense of familiarity
  • Consider how the child or young person can begin to develop a sense of belonging and connection with their new classroom and/or teaching staff, for example leaving a picture or piece of work with a new teacher or in a workspace


Developing positive relationships with adoptive parents and special guardians

The experience of adoptive parents and special guardians

Children may have been placed with their adoptive parents or guardians at a pre-school age or parents may approach the school shortly after a child or children have been placed with them. These parents may just be developing an understanding of the impact of any additional needs that their child or children experience. Unsurprisingly, adjustment to an ‘instant’ family can also be challenging in itself.
Adoptive parents or guardians may have missed usual pre-school and induction experiences. They may not always know what to expect from schools or what schools may expect of them.
It is important to remember that children and young people can present very differently in different environments. It may be that a child or young person’s behaviour at home is very different from what is seen at school. This makes close home school communication essential in developing a coordinated approach to support the child or young person.

Home-school partnership

Good home-school communication typically involves:

  • An agreed plan for an appropriate level of communication that meets the needs of the parents and is manageable for staff
  • A clear plan about which staff will be the point of contact for parents
  • A home-school book sharing positive aspects of the day to be shared with child at home
  • A means of sharing when things don’t go well. Email is often used for ease and to prevent the child having to hear the adults discussing what has gone wrong and/or the parents being told in front of other parents at the end of the day.

Whatever system is in place, ask: Do the parents feel that their feelings and views are being heard?

Information-sharing about children’s experiences and needs

It is essential to spend some time with parents to consider the scope of information-sharing about the child with others. Understanding aspects of a child’s early life can help school staff make sense of any difficulties they experience. Information about birth family is useful to know as well as contact arrangements and any ‘tough’ anniversaries as these may affect emotional wellbeing and behaviour of children. It is also useful to gain a picture of a child’s strengths and needs from parents and perhaps any particular triggers that cause their child stress, as well as activities that they find calming.

It is also useful to consider the child’s understanding of their life story. Children may never mention their early life or adoption but if they do it is useful to know in advance what and who they may talk about and the language that they use when describing people, places and events.

Sensitivity to how information is shared and who this is shared with is really important and focusing on a ‘need to know basis’ – with the staff who come into regular contact with the child – is often a good place to start.

Two information gathering sheets are shared below – a general information sheet a which, depending on the age and needs of the child or young person, it may be appropriate for them to be involved in creating the Information Sheet that is to be shared with all staff
The second version is for more specific consideration of key cccc


Day-to-day classroom considerations

We know that children and young people who are adopted or under special guardianship often present very differently at home and at school. This can be confusing and at times can cause tension between home and school as both try and make sense of the child’s experiences. Finding a way to work closely together is important as adopted children can be really tuned in to any conflict of ideas or breakdown of trust or relationship, increasing their anxiety levels.

Getting to know adopted children and sharing what you find out is really appreciated by parents. Use the agreed home-school communication system to share successes and also patterns of behaviour even if they appear relatively ‘low level’. It helps build up the wider picture of how the child is doing.


Be sensitive to aspects of the curriculum that are not inclusive of adoptive families, those with special guardianship, or children’s experiences. Reflect the diversity of family experiences in the class and also in the wider school environment. In particular, be mindful of:

  • family trees and family history
  • autobiographical work including memories, timelines, baby photos
  • growth and development
  • sex education, drug education, personal safety, the law
  • genetics
  • changing in front of other children
  • celebration dates including birthdays, Father’s and Mother’s Days etc
  • themes or literature which include loss and loneliness


Changes to routine and expected happenings may be particularly hard for children and young people who are adopted or under special guardianship. Even very small changes e.g. to the routine of a lesson, can cause great anxiety to some children.

We find that behavioural incidents often occur when trusted staff members are absent or there is a change to the routine.

Make plans to support children if there are going to be changes to routines e.g. school visitors, supply teachers, school trips, and anticipate the impact on the child. Some children may just need additional reassurance, others may need more preparation.


Maintaining relationships can be really hard for children and young people who are adopted or under special guardianship. Some gravitate towards much younger children whereas others feel safer and more comfortable with adults. This can become more critical during adolescence when young people are exploring their sense of identity and establishing their social groups.

A helping hand to both make and keep friends is often required and may well be the most important intervention to support young people. This might include:

  • Encouragement to become involved in groups or clubs that involve co-operation as these offer a safety net of adult mediation and/or supervision
  • Increased supervision during unstructured times
  • Time to listen to their worries, concerns and experiences and validate their feelings
  • Quick support to help children make amends if there has been a falling out
  • Teaching social skills; such as personal space, turn-taking and sharing with lots and lots of opportunities for practice
  • Targeted interventions such as the Circle Of Friends approach, ELSA (Emotional Literacy Support Assistant) materials, and there are a range of other social skill focused interventions


Making sense of children’s difficulties, developmental trauma and attachment needs

Children and young people who are adopted or under special guardianship may experience a range of emotional and relational needs that can result in behaviours that can, at times, make teaching and parenting them a real challenge. School staff may be likely to observe them to have difficulties that suggest that their emotional level of understanding is not in line with their chronological age.

However, whilst it is vital for school staff to be aware of the potential impact of children and young people’s life experiences, it is also important to recognise that each individual’s story will be unique as will be their response to this.

Where there are additional concerns regarding children and young people’s Special Educational Needs it will be important for school staff to discuss these with the designated teacher and the school’s Special Educational Needs Coordinator. It will be important for parents to be involved and additional advice and support sought from appropriate sources, including the Post-adoption Social Worker team and Educational Psychology as appropriate.

Can this guidance be condensed? Where is it hosted on the Babcock website? Are there linkable documents?