Supporting the Social, Emotional and Academic Needs of Looked After Children (Part Two)

Delegates attending this summer’s National Pupil Premium Conference enjoyed a plethora of insightful content across the two-day programme.

Attendees gained key updates from leading experts and practitioners in supporting pupil progression, improving the impact of interventions, developing high quality strategies to narrow the attainment gap, and, of course, overcoming the impact of Covid-19.

Among the many highlights from the first day was an insightful panel discussion entitled, “Sharing Key Insights for Supporting the Social, Emotional and Academic Needs of Looked After Children”.

The panel featured the following industry thought-leaders:

  • Carol Fuller, Head of the Institute of Education (IoE), University of Reading 
  • Patrick Ward, Virtual School Head for Lewisham, and Incoming Chair of the National Association of Virtual School Heads (NAVSH)
  • Darren Martindale, Service Manager, Vulnerable Learners and Virtual School Head, City of Wolverhampton Council
  • Andrew Martin, Lead Education Advisor, Secondary Phase, Virtual School, Herefordshire County Council
  • Christie Spurling MBE, Founder and CEO of N-Gage.

You can find the first part of our summary of this informative discussion, here.


What does N-Gage do to support young people?

Having been asked to provide some background about N-Gage and the work the organisation delivers, Christie explained that he spent his early life in care and had been excluded from school at the age of 14, and as a result he faced a number of challenges.

“We go into schools and work directly with pupils who are at risk of exclusion. We provide mentoring, one-to-ones, and small group work,” he said. He explained that N-Gage’s mission is to provide “absolutely the best support we can” when working alongside that group. The organisation has a “clear understanding” of where these children have come from, whilst mediating between the school, the young person and any other parties involved. Christie added that consistency is vital when working with young people, whilst trying to support them for as long as possible. “This is where I’m seeing head teachers use Pupil Premium – to keep young people engaged.”

Adoptive parents accessing support and coaching

The panel was asked by a member of the audience for recommendations on any services or training for adoptive parents around emotional coaching – as “this support seems to dip once the child has been adopted”.

Addressing the current landscape, Patrick explained the services and resources are the same, but “the issue is accessing them”. Regarding children in care, the head teacher at the virtual school has access to the Section 31 Pupil Premium grant, and therefore able to provide strategic funding for children in care. There can be a drop-off when a child becomes adopted and the funding goes directly to that school – “so it is a question of knowing that, and getting the support of your virtual school, to ensure that the funding continues to be spent strategically in the interests of the adopted child”.

Patrick added that the school’s designated teacher for children in care remains responsible for post-care children, and therefore should still be reporting on any outcomes: “I would recommend seeking the advice of your local virtual school to ensure the thinking of the school reflects the needs of your child.”

Darren said he has enjoyed success in his schools “by making certain resources available to adoptive parents, which have been extremely well used. Virtual heads should be able to advise schools on online training and the other resources available to adoptive parents”.

He added there’s been a “thirst” for resources from adoptive parents and many schools are organising forums for both carers and adoptive parents in order to provide “training, advice and support”.

Developing metacognition strategies

The panel was asked whether they have any advice on accessing training or developing metacognition strategies. Andrew explained that “a very quick win” is to get young people involved with music.

“It reinforces numeracy, it reinforces the sense of self confidence and progress, and actually will help you learn about how to learn something,” he said. Andrew went on to explain that if you have a young person who can teach another young person, then experiencing the “process of being a peer or mentor for other young people” will provide that person with “a metacognitive development opportunity as well”.

He later revealed that Hertfordshire County Council will be launching a tuition package focused on metacognition from September.

Darren added that if you’re yet to speak to your school virtual head about metacognition strategy, then “I recommend you do so” – whilst also advising those people to speak directly to their school improvement service and their educational psychology service.

“We have invested heavily in a metacognition programme called Turnabout, based on a series of structured, tactile exercises – non-linguistic, sequencing and problem-solving exercises,” he added. By utilising different methods and skillsets to solve problems, participants could “instinctively learn how they learn”. “That is one practical intervention that can help to develop skills that kids might have missed out on earlier in life,” he concluded.  


We will be hosting the Looked After Children and Care Leavers Forum 2021 on the 21-22 September. The online event will provide attendees with the opportunity to explore innovative ways of coordinating care to improve outcomes for children on the edge of care, children in care, and care leavers. View the speaking line-up, browse the full agenda, and reserve your place, here.