Corporate Parenting


A teacher said to me last week that we (in education) seem to have to play, more and more, the role of parents as well as educators.  I had to point out to this person that that is exactly what we have to do – especially for some of the most vulnerable children in our communities. 

One of the duties I have as Head of Education is to ensure that we meet the educational needs of Looked After and Acccommodated Children.  The duties are set out in Through care and after care

1.1 Local authorities have a duty to prepare young people for ceasing to be looked after (“throughcare”) and to provide advice, guidance and assistance for young people who have ceased to be looked after over school age (“aftercare”).

There are around 11,000 children and young people looked after by local authorities in Scotland, of whom about 1,500 are over 15 years old. About 1,200 young people aged 16 or over cease to be looked after each year.

The concept of corporate parenting is set out in Looked After Children and Young People: We Can and Must Do Better:

1.4 Local authorities have a role as corporate parents to these young people, particularly those who cannot return to their families. This means that the local authority should look after these children as any other parents would look after their own children.

1.5 The role of corporate parent is not restricted to the social work department of the local authority but applies to all departments and agencies, who should recognise their own responsibility to promote the welfare of looked after young people and ensure that their needs are adequately addressed by each department.

We have named contacts in each of our schools who have responsibility for tracking and being the link for other services in relation to Looked After and Accommodated Children but I’m not convinced that our commitment extends much beyond that.

The reality in schools that such children are often some of the most challenging to educate.  Without a significant mind shift – mine included – I don’t think we will properly take on our corporate role as parents.

I wonder of there would be anything to be gained from meeting all of our secondary age Looked After and Accommodated Children with a view to gaining their perspective on how education has fulfilled its parenting role and how it might get better?

Secondary School Guidance Systems


Throughout my career I’ve been impressed by a succession of outstanding Guidance Teachers. Without fail they are driven by a commitment to support and help children and to solve any crisis which comes their way.

However, (you were waiting for that) does the system which has been in place for so many years – certainly throughout my career – need to change? “But surely it has changed – just look at how structures have changed with faculty heads, first line guidance structures, tracking and monitoring, inclusion teams, etc, etc?”

I would concede that superficial changes have been made and maybe that’s been enough. But I’ve been reading For Scotland’s Children again there are a number of things in that report which we should be considering – and upon which we should make a judgement.

It’s really to do with targeting services – in a time when resources are under pressure and schools need more and more support to meet the needs of vulnerable children and families can we continue with the existing dominant Guidance model which characterises most of our secondary schools?

For Scotland’s Children challenges us to target services:

“Each children’s services plan should set out how two main aims will be achieved:

  • Providing excellent universal services for all
  • Targeting additional services to meet need and reduce inequalities.”

The recent report into Guidance and Pupil  Support in Schools identified two models of Guidance:

Two models of organising guidance/pupil support emerged from the case studies: one, we have referred to as an ’embedded’ approach, and the other relies on the deployment of specialist guidance/pupil support staff. The primary and special school case studies all embedded pupil support within the school, its ethos, policies and practices. Primary and special school teachers all viewed pupil support as an integral part of their professional role and an integral part of learning and teaching. In contrast, guidance/pupil support in the four secondary school case studies relied on different variations of a ‘specialist model’  8.2.4

What is interesting is that the researchers found no evidence to suggest that one model was better than another:

“There is no evidence from this study than one way of organising guidance/pupil support was more or less successful than any other. Pupils and their parents were equally satisfied with the model they had experienced. We found no association between approaches to guidance/pupil support and absence levels or attainment.”8.2.9

Nor was there any evidence to show that changing the model of guidance/pupil support necessarily encouraged more pupils to discuss their problems/issues of concern with guidance staff, but that it merely redistributed the caseload to more and different members of staff.

The Report noted that Guidance/pupil support is costly:

Although providing a cost and benefit analysis is beyond the scope of this current study, it is evident that many teachers believe that guidance/pupil support is making increasing demands on schools and teachers’ time at the expense of valuable teaching time. The value for money of alternative approaches to guidance/pupil support needs exploring. 8.3

The last sentence in this bullet point under implications of the report needs to be properly considered. My own gut feeling is that we should be considering more of an ’embedded’ structure more akin to primary or special schools as oppsed to a ‘specialist’ model. I don’t believe that all pupils need a dedicated Guidance Teacher, nor do I think that PSE should be delivered as a separate subject – it should be embedded in the curriculum. All pupils should have a link with a teacher – and there are numerous ways in which this can be acheived thgough the development of  systems where all pupils have an entitlement to support when required.

The report considers Generalist Versus Specialist Teachers and found that pupils were equally satisfied with each.

In  my next post I’ll explore some alternative models which might enable us to target our resouces more effectively upon those pupils who are the greatest need.