When a child goes into care, the local council (along with 'relevant partners', remember this point) become their Corporate Parent. That means that the Council is responsible for making sure they have the best possible care and that they’re safe, in the same way that a good parent would.
Corporate Parenting is enshrined in legislation, and the term is used to describe this responsibility, but the concept is wider than that; good corporate parenting stresses that Corporate Parents should have the same interest in and aspirations for children and young people in care (or leaving care) as we would for our own children. The term corporate parenting first appeared in legislation in the Children’s Act 1989, and has been amplified further in the Children and Social Work Act 2017.
But, did you know that schools, no matter what type or maintained or academy, are named in legislation as ‘relevant partners’ and are therefore also Corporate Parents? This includes teachers, other staff and governors.
As of 31st March 2019, in England, there were 78,150 children in care, who go into care for a variety of reasons. Government figures show that of the 78,150 children in care:
63% were as a result of abuse or neglect
14% were as a result of a dysfunctional family
8% were as a result of family stress
7% because of absent parents
3% due to a child's disability
3% due to a parent's illness
2% other reasons
Sadly, we know that nationally children and young people in care can have poorer outcomes than their peers, including in education. Corporate Parents should champion the rights of young people in care and care leavers. They should support the professionals working with them to help improve outcomes; and ‘narrow the gap’ between young people in care, and care leavers, and their peers.
So, what does being a Corporate Parent mean for school Governors? Well, it means that you are also responsible for their welfare and outcomes!
For a Governor, how to be a Corporate Parent can be difficult to understand and carry out. This is because you are not directly providing education to children, instead, you rely on teachers and staff in school for this. I liken your role to that of being a Corporate Grandparent, being one step removed from actually providing education, but still having a huge role in their up bringing. In this role you need to be assured that teachers and staff are doing the very best that they can for looked after children in your school.
Whilst the Virtual School Head oversees the education of all children in care in a council area, as a Governor you have a duty to make sure that education for children in care is good.
Here are my suggestions for how you can carry this out:
Understanding whether there are children in care in your school, and find out which member of staff has designated responsibility for the wellbeing of looked after children at your school;
Ensuring that the school has high aspirations for looked after children - what strategies there are to support them to do as well as other children;
Understanding if there is a gap in performance;
Finding out about the statutory obligations of schools towards their looked after children, and whether your school is meeting these;
Asking about training for school staff; is there a good understanding amongst teaching and pastoral staff of the particular issues that can affect looked after children?
Can this training be cascaded to Governors, to ensure you understand these issues?
Receiving regular reports at board meetings on children in care and challenge performance;
Asking about the careers advice provided and employment / work experience;
And by constantly asking: Would this be good enough for my own child?
Practical Corporate Parenting Programme is the property of Insight to Impact Consulting Ltd