Education during the Covid-19 pandemic and transitioning back to school

To understand more about fostered children’s experiences of education during the pandemic, we launched a rapid response survey (from 18 - 30 June 2020) for foster carers and fostering services across the UK. The survey results have helped provide an understanding about both the educational experience of fostered children during lockdown and their needs as they transition back to school.

About the survey 

The survey received 487 foster carer responses representing 870 fostered children and young people from across the UK. We received 48 responses from fostering service members of staff. In addition, we were able to gather the thoughts and feelings of a small group of children and young people about their experiences of education and thoughts about returning to school appended to the report.  

Read the report


Key findings from the report 

  • 487 foster carers, representing 870 fostered children and young people, responded from across the UK and 48 responses from fostering service members of staff;
  • Foster carers reported that 78 per cent of their children were not attending school when schools were open to key worker and vulnerable children only;
  • The frequency of contact from educational providers about individual children’s needs varied. While carers told us that 32 per cent of children’s educational providers contacted them once a week, 14 per cent had not contacted carers at all;
  • Virtual schools are local authority bodies with oversight of the statutory duty to promote the progress and educational attainment of children and young people who are or who have been in care so that they achieve educational outcomes comparable to their peers. 62 per cent of foster carers in England said they had not received any support from their local virtual school during the covid-19 pandemic.  
  • 74 per cent of foster carers said they were unaware of any special arrangements in place to support looked after children when they return to school.  
  • We asked foster carers what they thought were the top three most important forms of support needed for all children when they return to school. They chose:  
    • Extra tuition including one to one tuition (selected by 58 per cent of respondents). 
    • Flexible and individualised transition arrangements (selected by 39 per cent of respondents). 
    • Mental health support (selected by 38 per cent of respondents).  

The following recommendations will be necessary to support the transition back to school and beyond as the impact of Covid-19 on children’s education will be much more long-term. 

Key recommendations from the report 

  • Governments must ensure all schools have adequate funds, guidance and resources to: 
    • put mental health and wellbeing at the forefront of transition planning 
    • increase one to one and small group learning support 
    • increase provision for children with special and additional learning needs 
    • respond flexibly to individual children's needs when making transition arrangements. 
  • Schools should consider a change in approach to prioritise meeting children’s emotional and social needs as well as their educational needs to engage all children in the transition back to school. 
  • Schools must recognise the importance of the foster carer role in the team around child and consult with foster carers fully in the transition planning and beyond for their child as they are well placed to assess their needs.  
  • Virtual schools, or bodies with similar responsibilities, need to fully engage with all the children they are responsible for. Their role will be vital in the transition back to school. 

How we have used the evidence 

  • In July 2020 we shared these findings with key stakeholders across the UK.
  • In March, after schools returned again following lockdown, we used this evidence to write to the key officials in England (including Sir Kevan Collins, Education Catch-up Commissioner for England) and Wales evidencing why the needs of children in foster care must be prioritised when they transition back to school.