How the Education Forum grew and evolved

22 May 2017

Topic: Education, Local authority
Author: Graham Connelly

Members of the Education Forum

“It creates a supportive environment to discuss challenges, learn and develop networks.”

This quote is a member of the CELCIS Education Forum describing how being part of the Forum helps them to work with children who are looked after in education.

The history

The Forum began life as an informal network of practitioners, convened by Graham McCann, a Glasgow social worker, former residential home manager, and champion of the education of children in Scotland’s care system.

This was the period following the publication of Learning with Care (2001), a report based on visits by education and social work inspectors to children’s homes in ten Scottish local authorities. The inspectors highlighted generally poor arrangements for supporting the education of this group of looked after children and, among other recommendations, proposed that ‘a senior member of staff in each school should maintain an overview of looked after children’s progress,’ the first official reference to a ‘designated manager’ role. CELCIS is working with Scottish schools, and Education Forum members, to better understand how the role of the Designated Manager is being implemented and what supports and resources staff in this crucial role need in order to fulfil their duties.

CELCIS recently conducted a Scotland-wide survey of designated managers for looked after children and we'll report on the findings soon.

The Forum was centrally involved in the work of We Can and Must Do Better: Improving the Outcomes of Looked After Children, a Scottish Government programme of work undertaken between 2006 and 2009. The work included funding for local initiatives, a research project, and the development of training materials and guidance including the We can and Must Do Better website. Forum members suggested ideas for the programme and helped to direct the work. It's probably not too strong a claim to say that the level of detail now contained in the annual government report on education outcomes of looked after children resulted from discussion among Forum members.

The Forum today

The Forum is now supported by the CELCIS Education and Events teams. The structured programme offered to members has evolved into regular ebulletins and a format of two half day meetings and a full day conference annually. The Forum is for everyone involved in or interested in the educational experiences and attainment of children who are looked after. Our events help us to expand and strengthen this dedicated and inspiring network of professionals and over the next year we’re especially keen to reach Designated Managers to add to the support that they already receive from their local areas.

The Forum’s aim remains the same as it has always been: to bring together teachers, social workers, psychologists and others who have a special interest in improving the educational experience and attainment of looked after children. Forum members will continue to determine the agenda for meetings and the programme of conferences by the questions they raise and the observations they make based on everyday experience in working with looked after children in the education and wider children's services context.

If you've signed up to the Forum already then the next e-bulletin will arrive in your in-box in June, and this will include the dates of the half-day meetings in November and May, and the second Forum conference in February.

‘[The Forum helps me to] stay connected; stay up to date; develop knowledge and understanding on corporate parenting duties; steal good ideas.’ (Forum participant)

Visit the Education Forum page.

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