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What is a Virtual School?

What is a virtual school?

Worcestershire Virtual School currently has approximately 700 children in care aged between 0 and 18.

The Virtual School is not a building or does it provide direct teaching or intervention programmes.

It has three core functions:

  1. to monitor and track the educational progress and achievement for every child in care of Worcestershire Local Authority
  2. to challenge schools, settings and other professionals where provision is not good enough or where aspirations are not high enough
  3. to promote inclusion and equality of access for all Children Looked After which includes raising attendance and eliminating exclusions

The Virtual School champions the needs of all Children in Care and is made up of a network of professionals both within the core local authority and Babcock Prime. These individuals bring professional expertise alongside knowledge of the children they work with. Their role is to work alongside schools and social care professionals to make sure that our most vulnerable children can access the education they deserve and identify the different areas of support needed for each child to stay engaged with their learning.

Virtual School inspection

In June 2019 the Virtual School was inspected as part of the Local Authority Children’s Services inspection, the findings are as follows:

Children and young people make good educational progress in care. Those who do not attend school have prompt access to suitable, good-quality registered alternative provision. Children’s progress is closely reviewed through personal education plans which have well-written targets, and this is an improvement since the last inspection. Urgent action is taken if children are missing from education or if their attendance reduces.

Schools and other education providers are accountable for the educational outcomes of the individual Children Looked After who attend their school. Schools and Early Years providers receive Pupil Premium Plus funding to help meet their responsibilities  to deliver the best possible education for children placed in the care of the local authority. Ofsted will also check the progress and attainment of Children Looked After as part of every inspection process.

Children placed in care will have experienced turbulence and disruption in their lives and will usually require a range of additional support and backing to achieve their full potential. They may also move school more frequently than their peers. This means they often need additional support during transitions to make sure  their learning and progress is maintained.

Most schools may only have a small number of pupils who are currently in care, it is important that all schools are aware of their statutory responsibilities, how they should work in partnership with the local authority and can draw upon the support of The Virtual School. The Virtual School is a core statutory function of every local authority and the Virtual School Headteacher holds overall responsibility for the education outcomes for every Child Looked After regardless of their age, stage or the setting they attend.

There is much work to do to raise achievement and to improve the life chances of our Children Looked After. This can only be done by working together in partnership, sharing responsibility and involving everyone. The child is at the heart of all our work and their voice must also be heard in this process.