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Regulations are in place to prevent children placed away from home
having their educational needs left to chance. Indeed, when
inspecting independent child care agencies, the Commission for
Social Care Inspection (CSCI) requires that “all educational
arrangements should be agreed prior to admission”.

In practice, however, there are different interpretations of
educational arrangements. Some inspectors interpret this as a
school, a special unit, or anything that resembles either.
Providers can maintain and develop their own “schools” and are, on
occasions, encouraged to do so.

Many providers insist it is what councils and CSCI still expect,
even though it would be alien to most good parents. It represents
an easier option than mainstream inclusion – structurally neat,
avoiding complications around funding, special educational needs,
and the unavailability of local schools.

Recently two large metropolitan authorities outsourced chunks of
their residential care to providers with their own schools, which
were successfully promoted as a selling point.

What does this say about the aspirations of these local authorities
and independents for looked-after children? Is this our modern
forward thinking care system, committed to social inclusion and
raising standards?

We are now witnessing the rebirth of community homes with
education, downsized, and with all the old attitudes, beliefs and
misconceptions about what these children are capable of.

Inclusive education practice, however, is not a “school”, a special
unit, or even a shed in the garden. We must not be fooled by how
well equipped or well run they are or deceived by the fact that the
Department for Education and Skills registered it and Ofsted
inspected it.

Until we start believing in these children, and design services
according to what they deserve and are capable of, we should not be
surprised that so many of them remain at the bottom.

Tim Walker is chief executive of the National Teaching and
Advisory Service for Looked-After Children and Children in
<25CF> See education special, starting on page 26

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