Virtual School Headteacher
The Headteacher’s role is to ensure clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction of the Virtual School in supporting Worcestershire Local Authority in the corporate parenting role. The Headteacher also leads and manages the work of the Virtual School and has an overview of all the achievements of children and young people in care in Worcestershire, support pupils, schools and staff.
More specifically the Virtual School Head (VSH) ensures that there are effective systems in place to:
- maintain an up-to-date roll of its children who are looked after and monitor their education placement, attendance and educational progress
- inform Head Teachers and Designated Teachers (DT) in schools if they have a child on roll who is looked after by Worcestershire Local Authority
- ensure every school has a Designated Teacher for child/ren Looked After, who is a qualified teacher
- ensure that social workers, Designated Teachers, schools, carers and Independent Reviewing Officer (IROs) understand their role and responsibilities in initiating, developing, reviewing and updating the child and young person’s Personal Education Plan (PEP) and how they help meet the needs identified in that PEP
- ensure the educational achievement of children looked after by the authority is seen as a priority by everyone who has responsibilities for promoting their welfare
- ensure children are in receipt of suitable, full-time education unless there are exceptional circumstances which have been agreed in conjunction with the VSH
- ensure all children and young people who are looked after have an up to date, effective and high quality PEP that focuses on educational outcomes
- report regularly on the attainment and progress of children looked after through the Virtual School Governing Body
Interim Virtual School Headteacher: Colette Maynard
The Education Co-ordinator ensures that the different responsibilities and functions of the Virtual School are working together effectively and targeted where they are most needed. The Education Co-ordinator has daily oversight of a range of information which is used to identify any areas where additional support is required. The Education Co-ordinator will also advise schools and other professionals on more complex cases or issues relating to a Child Looked After. Individual casework will be undertaken by the different network leads. The Education Co-ordinator also line manages the PEP Co-ordinators.
Personal Education Plan (PEP) Co-ordinators (PEP Co's)
The four PEP Co’s are allocated to specific schools and settings across each area of the county. They make sure that every looked after child has an up-to-date Personal Education Plan (PEP) which includes individual education targets set by the child’s school. Information on every aspect of a child’s progress is recorded within the PEP and monitored regularly by Virtual School. The PEP Co’s work closely with the school’s own Designated Teacher for Child Looked After who must make sure that the PEP is fully implemented at school level and that there is open accountability for the use of Pupil Premium Plus to improve outcomes for that particular child.
Area Learning Advocates (ALA): Worcestershire Children First
In partnership with schools and social workers, Area Learning Advocates are responsible for overseeing the Personal Education Plan (PEP) process, analysing progress and the appropriateness of pupil premium usage in relation to impact on outcomes. They act as an education advocate for our Out of County children and are a key point of contact for a wide range of schools and settings. The Area Learning Advocate ensures that any barriers to success are challenged, thereby promoting a culture of high aspiration for every individual child in Local Authority care to improve and maximise educational opportunities and outcomes.
Worcestershire Children First Area Learning Advocates provide out of county support:
Previous Looked After Children (PLAC) Adviser: Worcestershire Children First
The main function of this role is to promote the educational achievement of previously child/ren Looked After (Adopted, Special Guardianship, Residential Order, Care Order) through the provision of information and advice to their parents and educators. The adviser will ensure the educational attainment of children previously looked after is given a high priority in schools, early years settings and alternative provision.
The adviser will ensure that any barriers to success are challenged thereby promoting a culture of high aspiration for previously looked after children.
Business Support Manager
The Business Support Manager contributes to the development of the Virtual School for Children Looked After and Previously Looked After Children. This role also helps support the organisation of conferences and the Education Award events. The Pupil Premium budget is also the responsibility of the Business Support Manager. The Business Support Manager is the Clerk to the Virtual School Governing Board.
School Improvement Advisers
School Improvement Advisers regularly review Looked child/ren Looked After as part of their work to address the gap in outcomes for vulnerable groups. Achievement, progress and the quality of provision for child/ren Looked After will be a focus for contact visits regardless of the setting or status of the school. The identification and sharing of Best Practice is also a key element of this work within schools. A useful self-evaluation framework has been designed to help schools assess how well they are meeting their own responsibilities for child/ren Looked After.
Attendance, Hard to Place and Exclusions
Good attendance underpins strong education outcomes and the Investigation Team monitors the attendance of all child/ren Looked After. Where there are concerns, the Education Investigation Team will follow up on individual cases, working closely with the school, PEP Co’s and social worker, through drawing up attendance action plans. Individual attendance plans will be put in place where attendance falls below 90%. These plans will become a core element of any review meeting relating to that child and overseen by the IRO. This team also brings strong advocacy for those children who have more complex needs. They work closely with schools and settings to bridge transitions where children may need specialist placements or more intensive programmes of support.
Hard to Place and Exclusions
Admissions to school
Where appropriate, every child/ren Looked After is entitled to attend a good local school. The Admissions Code prioritises the placement of child/ren Looked After over and above other applicants. Schools cannot refuse entry and are expected to make reasonable adjustments to meet a child’s specific needs. School stability is also key to improving education outcomes but sometimes a child/ren Looked After will need additional support to settle into a new school particularly if there are other transitions in their lives. The School Admissions Team track school moves and help to secure education stability and equality of access for child/ren Looked After. The Local Authority retains an overview and regularly reports to both Ofsted and the Regional Schools Commissioner where there may be concerns about equality of access offered by some schools. More information on the School Admissions Team.
Child/ren Looked After are over represented in statistics collected for all 16 to 18 year olds who are not in Employment, Education or jobs with training (NEETs). Too often poor outcomes arise from a disrupted education or poor attendance with environmental factors impacting on the child rather than the child’s own potential to achieve. The Virtual School has specialist careers advisers who provide advice for Looked After Children.
Careers Advice and Guidance
Early Years (EY)
Very young children placed in care will attend a range of Early Years settings and a small number will also have disabilities or Special Educational Needs (SEN). The introduction of the Early Years Pupil Premium will now help with earlier identification of SEN and fund additional interventions to address specific needs. EY settings can also access additional funding specifically for children with SEN via The Inclusion Supplement Funding contributing further to the child’s individual development support. The Virtual School draws upon a range of expertise to help create new EY places and support for providers to better understand the additional challenges faced by the youngest of our most vulnerable children. The Early Years PEP is used to secure the best provision and tailored support for individual children. It is important that early years providers are familiar with the PEP and can access additional funding and support through contacting Babcock Prime EY advisors who work as part of the Virtual School network.
Special Education Needs and Disability (SEND)
One third of child/ren Looked After have Special Educational Needs and many others will have fallen behind in their education requiring more help. The recognition of the additional challenges faced by child/ren Looked After means that schools may need to put accelerated learning programmes in place so that the gap between the outcomes for child/ren Looked After and their peers can be closed.
Independent Reviewing Officers (IRO)
IRO’s are experienced social workers who lead child/ren Looked After reviews to assess the overall progress of individual child/ren Looked After and ensure that they receive appropriate support. IRO’s act as advocates and provide continuity for the child holding all professionals to account for the quality of their work with and on behalf of, that child. More information on Independent Reviewing Officers.
Virtual School Governing Body and Governance
The Virtual School, like any other school, has a governing body who hold the Virtual School network to account for its’ effectiveness and impact on student outcomes. The Governing Body is chaired by the Lead Cabinet Member for Education and Skills and reports to The Corporate Parenting Board which is a statutory body made up of elected members. The Corporate Parenting Board holds overall responsibility for all Children in Care to Worcestershire County Council. More information on Corporate Parenting.