Corporate Parents: the role of a school governor in improving outcomes for children in care

Today, (17th February 2024) is Care Day, the world’s biggest celebration of children and young people with care experience.  At Shaping Governance we help Corporate Parents to understand their important role,  and understand how they can be better parents for the children in their care.

But what is a corporate parent?

When a child goes into care, the local Council (along with 'relevant partners', remember this point - its important) becomes their Corporate Parent. That means that the Council is responsible for making sure they have the best possible care and that they're safe, in the same way that a good parent would.  Corporate Parenting is enshrined in legislation, and the term is used to describe this responsibility, but the concept is wider than that; good corporate Parenting stresses that Corporate Parents should have the same interest in and aspirations for children and young people in care (or leaving care) as we would for our own children. Corporate Parenting first appeared in legislation in the Children's Act 1989 and amplified further in the Children and Social Work Act 2017.

But, did you know that schools, no matter what type or whether maintained or an academy, are named in legislation as 'relevant partners' and are therefore also Corporate Parents? This includes teachers, other staff and governors.

In 2021, in England, there were 80,850 children who go into care for a variety of reasons.

  • 66% abuse / neglect
  • 22% acute family distress (illness/death/dysfunction)
  • 3% child disability
  • 3% parental illness or disability
  • 5% absent parents
  • Only 1% are in care because of their own behaviour.

So, what does being a Corporate Parent mean for school Governors? Well, it means that you are also responsible for their welfare and outcomes!

For a Governor, how to be a Corporate Parent can be difficult to understand and carry out. This is because you are not directly providing education to children, instead, you rely on teachers and staff in school for this. I liken your role to that of being a Corporate Grandparent, being one step removed from actually providing education, but still having a huge role in their upbringing. In this role, you need to be assured that teachers and staff are doing the very best that they can for looked after children in your school.

Whilst the Virtual School Head oversees the education of all children in care in a Council's area; as a governor, you must make sure that education for children in care is good.

Here are my suggestions for how you can carry this out:

  • Understanding whether there are children in care in your school, and find out which member of staff has designated responsibility for the wellbeing of looked after children at your school;
  • Ensuring that the school has high aspirations for children in call  - what strategies there are to support them to do as well as other children;
  • Understanding if there is a gap in performance;
  • Research how your Council champions children in care and care leavers - is this through a Coporate Parenting Board?
  • Researching the statutory obligations of schools for children in care, and whether the school is meeting these;
  • Asking about training for school staff; is there a good understanding amongst teaching and pastoral staff of the particular issues that can affect children in care;
  • Can this training be cascaded to Governors, to ensure you understand these issues?
  • Receiving regular reports at board meetings on children in care and challenge performance;
  • Asking about the careers advice provided and employment/work experience;
  • And by constantly asking: Would this be good enough for my own child?

Find out about how we support Corporate Parents to be more effective in our Practical Corporate Parenting Programme

Practical Corporate Parenting Programme is the property of Insight to Impact Consulting Ltd trading as Shaping Governance

©Insight to Impact Consulting Ltd 2017-2024


Posted in Shaping Governance.