The Role of the Designated Teacher and School Governor

The Role of Designated Teacher

Schools and other settings must have a Designated Teacher, who is ideally a member of the senior leadership team with appropriate seniority and professional experience to provide leadership.

The Designated Teacher is responsible for championing the educational needs of looked after children and care experienced children in their school and, in the case of looked after children, ensuring they have good quality PEPs. They should be the main author of the PEP within the school.

The Designated Teacher should have training opportunities and sufficient time away from timetable commitments to fulfil their role. This includes attending the Virtual Schools’ Designated Teacher Training which occurs termly.

The Designated Teacher should be the central point of contact regarding Looked After and Previously Looked After Children within the school.

Designated Teachers should also help raise awareness in the parents of Previously Looked After Children of the importance of making the school aware of their status so that they can offer the enhanced support they are entitled to. For more details on support for Previously Looked After Children please see the Previously Looked After Children section of our website.

The most effective Designated Teachers have a vital role in promoting the educational achievement of every Looked After Child and care experienced child on the school’s roll.

The role of the Designated Teacher includes:

  • Acting as an advocate for Looked After Children
  • Taking the lead responsibility for helping school staff understand the difficulties affecting Looked After Children and how positive systems of support can help to overcome them.
  • Promote a culture of high expectation amongst all staff in the school.
  • Be a source of advice for staff.
  • Make sure the young person has a voice in setting learning targets.
  • Ensuring their personal, emotional and academic needs are prioritised
  • Developing and monitoring systems for liaising with carers, social workers, health professionals and the Virtual School
  • Support carers and communicate regularly with them carers.
  • Monitoring the educational progress, attainment and attendance of all Looked After Children and Previously Looked After Children
  • Lead on the development and implementation of each child’s Personal Education Plan (PEP).
  • Intervening if there is evidence of individual under-achievement or absence from school
  • Liaising with the member of staff responsible for monitoring children on the Child Protection Register, ensuring all Looked After Children in school are safeguarded
  • Making sure that Looked After Children are prioritised in one-to-one tuition arrangements and that carers understand the importance of supporting learning at home
  • Feedback to the governors at least once a year.

This also involves encouraging a whole school culture by making sure that all staff:

  • Have high expectations and set targets to accelerate educational progress;
  • Are aware of the emotional, psychological and social effects of loss and separation) from birth families (attachment and trauma awareness) and that some children may find it difficult to build relationships of trust with adults because of their Adverse Childhood Experiences, and how this might affect the child’s emotions and therefore their behaviour. For more information see our Attachment Aware Schools section.

The school's Designated Teacher for Looked After Children should be aware of the Pupil Premium Plus+ budget that the school receives and be able to demonstrate how effectively it has been utilized for each child. A summary, without the ability to identify individuals, will be visible on the school's website.

The Designated Teacher and Parents and Carers

The Designated Teacher should make themselves known to parents and guardians as someone they can talk to about issues affecting their child’s education.

Parents and carers should be encouraged to participate in discussions about their child’s support needs and strategies to meet identified needs, including how pupil premium plus+ should be used to support their child.

The views and wishes of parents and guardians should be respected at all times.

The Role of the Governing body

This page sets out what the school governing body collectively will need to do in order to fulfil its duty under section 20 of the 2008 Act and the Regulations.

According to the designated teacher for looked-after and previously looked-after children: statutory guidance. The governing body of a maintained school and the proprietor of an academy must ensure that an appropriately qualified and experienced member of staff (hereafter referred to in this guidance as the ‘designated teacher’) undertakes the responsibilities within the school to promote the educational achievement of looked-after and previously looked-after children on the school’s roll.  

  • The governing body should ensure that the Designated Teacher is a member of the teaching staff with appropriate seniority, professional experience and status to provide leadership, training, information and advice to others that will influence decisions about the teaching and learning needs of children in care.
  • Where the Designated Teacher is not a member of the senior leadership team, a member of the team should be designated as a champion of LAC issues to work closely with the Designated Teacher.
  • In a larger remit schools may decide to have more than one Designated teacher.
  • The governing body must ensure that the designated teacher (for Looked After and Previously Looked After Children) undertakes appropriate training.
  • As a minimum, governors must consider an annual report from the designated teacher which contains the information described in the guidance.
  • The governing body and school leadership team should consider the report and act on any issues it raises so as to support the designated teacher and maximise the impact of the role.

Keeping the Governing body informed

  • It is suggested by the Virtual School that the Designated Teacher provides regular reports to the governing body. Flexibility on this process is understandable due to the changing nature/ number of children and complexity of issues. At the very least it is suggested to be an annual report
  • The governing body can also keep up to date on anonymised issues relating to Looked After and Previously Looked After Children via the head teacher’s report to the full governing body where numbers of children in care and related issues can be raised as vulnerable and disadvantaged learners.
  • In some cases schools include this information in the Designated Safeguarding Lead’s report to governors.
  • One full governing body meeting a year should consider the Designated Teacher’s statutory report to the school governing body and minute any resulting actions.

Admission requirements

Regulations made under the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 require admission authorities to give looked after children highest priority in their admission arrangements. Outside the normal admissions round, local authorities may direct other admission authorities for any maintained school to admit a child in their care to the school best suited to his or her needs. Such action must be taken in the best interests of the child.

See the admissions section of our website here for more information

Useful resources and further guidance

This is not an exhaustive list but includes key documents at the time of publishing this guidance which schools and governing bodies are likely to find most useful or need to be aware of.

Gifted and talented looked after children

As a group, looked after children achieve significantly poorer outcomes than all children. However, looked after children are no different from their peers and some may display special gifts and talents. No assumptions should be made about their abilities simply because of their looked after status.

Behaviour concerns – guidance for looked-after and previously looked-after children

Education settings should always be considerate of a child’s looked-after or previously-looked after status, alongside the needs of the whole school.

Where there are behaviour concerns with a looked-after child the Virtual School should be informed in order to support improvement. 

Adverse experiences, including abuse and neglect can impact on a young person’s behaviour and ability to learn, therefore the design and implementation of school behaviour policies should allow for this.

When applying the school’s behaviour policy, schools should:

  • Be considerate of the looked-after child’s current circumstances and possible previous trauma that may be affecting the child’s current behaviour and development: The allocated social worker can provide relevant information.
  • Try to deal with poor behaviour using positive and supportive strategies, based on trauma informed approaches.
  • Offer some flexibility when selecting and delivering sanctions/consequences, particularly when using isolation and exclusion.
  • Consider the use of individualised graduated responses.
  • Make additional efforts to work with parents/carers to support the school in handling the child’s behaviour, working together to address any concerns at home and school.
  • Consider triggers that may have led to the behaviour

Mental Health and Wellbeing

Looked-after children and care experienced children are more likely to experience the challenge of social, emotional and mental health issues than their peers. With a multitude of research studies carried out in the UK and abroad over the past 6 decades shows that the mental health of looked after children is poorer than that of the general population. This can impact on their behaviour and their education.

Designated teachers are not expected to be mental health experts; however, they have an important role in ensuring they and other school staff can identify signs of potential issues and understand where the school can draw on specialist services, such as CAMHS and educational psychologists.

Designated Teachers should work with the Virtual School to ensure that they, and other school staff, have the skills to identify signs of potential mental health issues, They should also understand the impact trauma, attachment disorder and other mental health issues can have on Children in Care and Previously Looked After Children and their ability to engage in learning. All school staff should know how to access further assessment and support where necessary, making full use of the SENCO and local authority support team where applicable. For more information and resources see the Attachment Aware Schools page of this website.

Further guidance on Wellbeing