Caring for all children in our schools is enshrined in the Every Child Matters five outcomes. Yet there is a group of youngsters who on average achieve well below the national expectation and whose health and welfare is often a concern to children's services. Numbering some 60,000 children nationally, their corporate parent is the local authority and they are referred to as "children in care". Their life experiences point to exclusion rather than inclusion. Improving their lot is the subject of pilot schemes in 11 local authorities and new legislation passing through Parliament.
The Warwickshire pilot, featured in the September 19 issue of The TES, is a scheme whereby a virtual school tracks, records and supports the progress of 500 pupils - a task made more difficult when they are educated out of the authority. When the Children and Young Persons Bill 2008 passes into law, every authority will be required to have a virtual school that will ensure these children are cared about as well as for, and that professionals are ambitious for them. Each child must also be engaged in decisions about their education.
Governors, too, need to be ambitious for these children, who are sometimes traumatised by events within their own family, their experience of several foster homes or frequent changes of school. The result is that their needs are complex and their attitudes and behaviour may be less than exemplary. So how can governors take the lead?
They can ask how many children on their school roll are in care? Do governors receive a regular report on these children? Is there a member of staff with specific responsibility? Does the child protection governor know how they are progressing? Does the school liaise with other agencies to support children in care? Does the school share good practice with other schools and the local authority? Such questions require answers for the sake of these children.
Carol Woodhouse, Convener of the Axe Valley Governors' Group, Devon.