Children with a social worker

From September 2021, Virtual School Heads nationally are being asked to become strategic leaders for the cohort of children who have been assessed as being in need under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 and currently have a social worker and those who have previously had a social worker.

It covers all children who were assessed as needing a social worker at any time due to safeguarding and/or welfare reasons, which includes all those subject to a Child in Need plan or a Child Protection plan. This includes children aged from 0 up to 18 in all education settings.

The strategic leadership of Virtual School Heads using their knowledge and expertise from promoting the educational outcomes of looked-after and previously looked-after children, Virtual School Heads will become the strategic leader who champion the educational attendance, attainment and progress of children with a social worker.

This means that they will help to:

  • make visible the disadvantages that children with a social worker can experience, enhancing partnerships between education settings and local authorities to help all agencies hold high aspirations for these children.
  • promote practice that supports children’s engagement in education, recognising that attending an education setting can be an important factor in helping to keep children safe from harm.
  • level up children’s outcomes and narrow the attainment gap so every child can reach their potential. This will include helping to make sure that children with a social worker benefit from support to recover from the impact of COVID-19.

How Nottinghamshire will be working with education settings

  • Virtual School Designated Teacher network meetings have been extended to Designated Safeguarding Leads to facilitate opportunities for schools to support each other and share good practice around looked-after children, previously looked-after children and children with a social worker
  • Virtual School training offer focused on supporting vulnerable groups in school extended to Designated Safeguarding Leads. 2023-24 Virtual School Training offer:
  • Using national data monitoring attendance and exclusions for vulnerable groups and make consultation available for schools, education settings and MATs to explore approaches and strategies to increase attendance and reduce exclusions

Resources and signposting

  • Regularly attending school, education or college is vital for children’s educational progress, for their wellbeing, and for their wider development. Children and young people become more vulnerable when they are not in education every day. Children of statutory school age should be in education 25 hours a week. Read our Guidance for children on reduced timetable [PDF].
  • Behaviour communicates an unmet need and behaviour is how children/young people communicate their emotions. Relationship based and restorative approaches are most effective for supporting children’s emotional regulation. See the Understanding Behaviour in Schools Toolkit.
  • Children with a social worker are more likely to experience social, emotional and mental health issues than their peers. Many schools have a senior mental health lead for making links with mental health services. See Local resources to support mental health.
  • Some children with a social worker may have a Special Education Need or Disability (SEND). Education settings are under a duty to use their best endeavours to meet the educational needs of children with SEND. See Nottinghamshire SEND local offer and SEND policy [PDF]
  • Promoting the Education of Children with a Social Worker [PDF]

Upcoming events

The DSL Lead Focus Meeting Autumn 2023 offers safeguarding updates from the Nottinghamshire Safeguarding Children Partnership NSCP and an opportunity for questions and answers. To book your place, visit The East Midlands Education Support Service (


Virtual School advice and guidance line for professionals and families for promoting the education of children with a social worker:

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