The Durham Virtual School - supporting our looked after and previously looked after children and young people
Our Virtual School promotes the education of looked after children and previously looked after children and young people.
See our Durham Virtual School (for looked after children and young people) - support for educating children at home page for support with online learning if you have chosen to keep your child at home.
Our Virtual School offers support and guidance to:
- Looked after children and care leavers up to the age of 25.
- Parents and carers of looked after children, previously looked after children and care leavers.
- Schools and other organisations providing education for looked after children, previously looked after children and care leavers.
Our aspirations for our children are that they:
- attend a school which best meets their needs
- attend school regularly
- make progress and achieve similarly to their peers based on previous assessments
- receive the same support from their foster carers as they would from a good parent
- have a voice that positively impacts on the services they receive
- have stability in care and their education placement
- receive good advice and guidance to make sure they can progress into further education, employment and training and, where appropriate, university
- receive recognition for their achievement and have their successes celebrated
The Virtual School is not a physical building that children and young people attend.
The role of the Virtual School is to promote the educational achievement of looked after and previously looked after children. We support schools and education settings so that they can support looked after and previously looked after children to enjoy school, engage with it and achieve. We are a team of specialists who understand the needs of children and young people in care.
We work with schools, other educational settings and partners to make sure that all looked after children and young people and those previously looked after:
- are placed in a school which best meets their needs
- have a high quality plan for their education - this will be a Personal Education Plan (PEP) for those who are looked after
- make good progress and attainment
- receive additional support in overcoming any challenges or barriers that impact on progress
- are supported by Pupil Premium Plus
- make a good transition into post-16 education or training.
The role of the Virtual School Head for looked after children
All councils have to appoint a Virtual School Head to be the lead responsible officer for making sure that arrangements are in place to improve the educational experiences and outcomes of looked after children, including those placed out of county.
The role of the Virtual School Head for previously looked after children
The role of the Virtual School Head for previously looked after children is to promote their educational achievement through the provision of information and advice to their parents, educators and others who the Virtual School Head considers necessary.
The Virtual School Team is led by the Virtual School Head and Deputy Head
The Virtual School Head and Virtual School Deputy Head provide the strategic direction and operational lead for the virtual school in improving outcomes for looked after children through:
- championing their educational needs
- ensuring access to full-time education, appropriate to their needs
- tracking and analysing their progress
- facilitating access to appropriate interventions and support
- monitoring and challenging school admissions, achievement, attendance, personal education plans, exclusions
- finance and budget control including quality assurance of pupil premium plus
- working with headteachers to address areas of underachievement
- quality assurance of the PEP process
- providing training for carers, designated teachers, other services and governors
- Virtual School self-evaluation
- reporting to the Corporate Parenting Panel and to the sub group which provides the governance for the virtual school
- engaging with children and young people in care
- working with health and social care teams
- working with Virtual Head Teachers on a regional and national basis to resolve issues between schools and authorities
Every child in our care who is of statutory school age has an allocated caseworker who acts as an advocate for them through:
- ensuring a high quality PEP is in place
- ensuring that pupil premium plus funding is used for maximum impact
- ensuring their voice is heard
- monitoring their progress and achievement
- implementing appropriate academic or social and emotional intervention and therapeutic support
- arranging academic inclusion according to need
- leading the statutory assessment process and review for those who have special educational needs
- liaising with their carers and schools to remove any barriers to learning
- guiding the care team on educational decisions
- monitoring their progress as they move to post 16 provision through links with wider services and providers
The wider team
The work of the virtual school is supported by the following teams:
- Educational Psychology Service
- Children's Occupational Therapy
- Full Circle
- Speech and Language Therapy
- Education Development Service
- Early Years Foundation Service
- Durham Young People's Service
- Improving Progression Team
- DurhamWorks (DurhamWorks on Facebook)
Find out more information on Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and our Local Offer.
Governance is provided through the Corporate Parenting Panel, with the sub group of this committee acting as a management committee to challenge and support us.
The Children and Social Work Act 2017 extended the role of the Virtual School Head and Designated Teachers to promote the education of previously looked after children. The statutory guidance Gov.uk: Promoting the education of looked-after and previously looked-after children details the additional responsibilities of virtual schools to promote the educational achievement of previously looked after children and comes into force September 2018.
The 2018 guidance defines previously looked after children as those who are no longer looked after by a local authority in England and Wales because of:
- a special guardianship order
- a child arrangements order
The government provides pupil premium plus funding to schools for those previously looked after children identified on the January census. If there is uncertainty about whether a child meets the eligibility criteria, please contact the Virtual School Head. This funding is intended to be used to support schools in improving the educational achievement of previously looked after children. Head teachers identify the best use of the funding to support both individuals and the whole cohort.
Other children who were adopted from 'state care' outside England and Wales are entitled to the advice and support but do not attract Pupil Premium Plus funding. 'State care' is care provided by a public authority, a religious organisation, or any other organisation whose sole or main purpose is to benefit society.
At Durham Virtual School we will:
- Respond to parental/carer/guardian requests for advice and information about education such as on School places and admissions, appropriate and effective use of pupil premium plus, School attendance, Exclusion of pupils, SEND including Durham Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Information Advice and Support Service, access to therapeutic support, Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and our Local Offer. This may include signposting to the designated teacher and referring to the school complaints procedure.
- Respond to requests for advice and information from schools and other educational settings, including early years provision link to early years provision and alternative provision with regards to individual children and whole school approaches to support previously looked after children.
- Support schools and settings including early years providers with, and signpost to, advice, information and training to increase awareness of the vulnerability and needs of previously looked after children. Provide guidance on the effective use of pupil premium plus.
In line with the new guidance, at Durham Virtual School we will provide advice and guidance to the parent/carer of any previously looked after child who attends a Durham school regardless of where they live or where they were adopted or left care.
As a virtual school, we are not required to monitor the educational progress and achievement of previously looked after children, and are not accountable for this. However, with the agreement of the person with parent responsibility, we may intervene in the education of the child to support them to achieve and make progress.
Durham Virtual School is a team which support schools to support looked after and previously looked after children to be happy at school, to engage with it and to achieve.
Guidance for other Virtual Schools seeking to place a child in a County Durham school
Our schools have high numbers of looked after children on their rolls. Durham Virtual School offers advice and support to other Virtual Schools to ensure every child is placed in a setting which best meets their needs and to resolve any concerns or issues.
Please contact the virtual school head or deputy head directly before agreeing a school placement.
Procedures, protocols and practice for in-year school transfers for looked after children
Guide for schools:
- PAC-UK: Meeting the needs of adopted and permanently placed children - a guide for school staff
- Adoption UK: free information downloads
Guide for parents/carers:
- Adoption UK: Meeting the needs of adopted and permanently placed children - a guide for parents and carers
Statutory guidance for Local Authorities 2017:
Attachment and Early Trauma Awareness:
- Attachment Aware Schools: The importance of attachment
- Bath Spa University: attachment in school
- Attachment & Trauma Network
- Gov.uk: Online education resources for home learning
- Fiction Express: All looked after children in County Durham in Years 2 through to Year 8 have been provided with login details. If you do not have these, check with your social worker or you can contact us directly.
- Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) - resources for children and young people, parents and carers, and professionals
Support for carers, guardians and adopters
- ACEducation has released videos to help you support your child through the changes caused by Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic:
- Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families: Coronavirus supporting young people's mental health
SEND and Inclusion course directory
The SEND and Inclusion courses page includes details of courses currently available. The courses are mainly for school staff but parents, child care providers, health workers can also book onto these courses if appropriate.
- Durham Virtual School
- 03000 267 800