What is a Virtual School?

The Virtual School is a statutory service which exists to support and challenge all those involved in the education of children in care.  Presently we work with 529 compulsory school age and 99 pre-school children. It works closely with colleagues both in education settings and social care.

The Worcestershire Virtual School work directly with compulsory school age children up to the end of Year 11 and use the Personal Educational Plan (PEP) in order to raise standards and improve educational outcomes.  We also support Early Years students and have a network of staff supporting colleagues and agencies in these areas. Post 16 PEPs are still required however these are completed by the social worker without the involvement of the Virtual School.

Within Worcestershire Virtual School our main function and aims are

  1. to monitor and track the educational progress and achievement for every child in care of Worcestershire Local Authority via the use of the Personal Education Plan and the PEP process
  2. to challenge schools, settings and other professionals where provision is not good or where aspirations are not high enough
  3. to promote inclusion and equality of access for all Children Looked After which includes having robust procedures for all CLA to have swift access to a school placement, raising attendance and reducing exclusion
  4. our overall aim is to close the attainment gap between children looked after (CLA) and their peers by providing support and challenge to those involved in their education and care to ensure their needs are understood, appropriate interventions are put into place - we strive for accelerated progress and age-related attainment or better by suggesting and/or signposting to academic and mental health interventions to support this aim.

We strive to

  • create a culture of high educational aspirations with all partners
  • ensure CLA have access to a suitable range of high-quality education placements (avoid drift and delay in providing suitable educational provision)
  • ensure appropriate information about a child’s mental health, emotional well-being and SEND is available to their education setting so that appropriate and effective support can be provided
  • ensure that every CLA has an up to date, effective and high-quality PEP that focuses on education outcomes 
  • promote the physical, emotional and mental health and well-being of all CLA
  • consider and act on the views of children and young people 
  • support the preparation of CLA for adulthood and independent living 

Who are the Virtual School?

Within Worcestershire Virtual School the team is split into three section: In county, out of county and Early Years. Colette Maynard-Bond is the Virtual School Headteacher with Anne Griffin as Virtual School Education Co-ordinator who is the line manager for the Area Learning Advocates/ PEP coordinators, Anne leads on Children Missing Education, attendance and exclusions for CLA.  Additionally, we have Andrea-Brew Smith and Crystal George-Laurentus as our Business Support Officers.

For students who are attending schools within Worcestershire their Virtual School representative is a PEP co-ordinator and within the team we have:

Paula Hemming who covers Kidderminster and Tenbury

Jill Peplow: Redditch and South Bromsgrove, Wythall and Rubery

Sam Purser: Malvern, Pershore, Evesham and North Bromsgrove

Fiona Eades: Worcester and Droitwich

For our out of county students they will have an Area Learning Advocate, who are Kerry Lawrence and Steve Judd.

Our Early Years Area Learning Advocates are Sara Haigh and Mary Jenkins.

Within Worcestershire Virtual School we also have a Looked After Child Advisor who is Jade Busby. She provides advice and information to parents and schools for previously looked after children who attend Worcestershire schools. In addition, Jade also leads on interventions.

We are all Worcestershire Children’s First employees and you can make contact with us via our Lync number or individual email addresses.  

The generic email for the team is: virtualschool@worcschildrenfirst.org.uk 

Telephone: 01905 844913

Expectations of the Virtual School for other services

The expectation from the Virtual School is that all professionals have a continuous dialogue with their PEP coordinator or Area Learning Advocate so that the student is supported in the best possible way. We need to be informed of any issues regarding education and home placement.

We expect school and social workers to complete their sections of the PEP three days prior to the PEP date.  Both PEP completion and processes are covered in other tutorials.

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.