The government has expanded a pilot programme to support looked-after teenagers and care leavers beyond the age of 16. The number of authorities involved in the scheme has now nearly doubled.
Following an evaluation of a six-month pilot involving 30 local authorities in 2021/22, the Department for Education this week confirmed that it is continuing the pupil premium plus scheme from September 2022 until July 2023.
An additional 28 local authorities are now involved, making 58 in total, and a further £5 million has been committed.
The pupil premium is grant funding provided to schools to support the attainment of disadvantaged pupils from reception to year 11. Pupil premium plus is for the same age range specifically for pupils who are looked after or leaving local authority care.
The original post-16 pupil premium plus pilot ran from October 2021 until the end of March 2022 with an allocation of £900 per pupil – less than half the £2,345 per pupil for those on the scheme aged up to 16.
Research carried out by the University of Oxford’s Rees Centre was published by the DfE before Christmas. It found that the pilot strengthened relationships between virtual schools heads, colleges and social workers, and resulted in tailored interventions such as work to boost attendance of youngsters and provide enrichment activities to motivate them.
The report recommended the DfE commission a longer-term evaluation. It urged it to extend the pilot to all local authorities, extend funding beyond the age of 18 for those still in or newly entering education and extend provision beyond further education colleges to include years 12 and 13 in schools and those on apprenticeships or employment programmes.
It also called for the DfE to make the role of FE lead a statutory one to work in the same way as the designated teacher role in schools, and help FE leads to access secondary school data to support planning for those students.
The DfE said it was carefully considering the report’s findings and has not yet enacted all the recommendations. But it said the evaluation “highlights the positive impact of the £3 million funding across the 30 pilot sites”.
The pilot extension would help it to “further develop effective practice and bolster the evidence on how best to improve outcomes for looked-after children and care leavers in 16 to 19 education”.