Worcestershire currently has 700 children in care aged between 0 and 18 with nearly 500 registered on the Virtual School roll. Throughout England the educational performance of looked After Children (LAC) lags well behind that of their peers. This is the same in Worcestershire. The Virtual School aims to help raise the attainment of these children by supporting their education and through improving provision in the schools LAC attend.
Schools and other education providers are accountable for the educational outcomes of the individual Looked After Children who attend their school. Schools and Early Years providers receive Pupil Premium Plus funding to help meet their responsibilities and 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 LAC 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 that they often need additional support during transitions to make sure that their learning and progress is maintained.
Whilst most schools may not have a Looked After Child on roll, or may only have a small number of students 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 LAC 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 Looked After Children. 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.
What is the Virtual School?
The Virtual School is not a building nor does it provide direct teaching or intervention programmes. It has three core functions:
- To monitor and track the educational progress and achievement for every child in care to Worcestershire Local Authority
- To challenge schools, settings and other professionals where provision is not good enough or where aspirations are not high enough.
- To promote inclusion and equality of access for all Looked After Children 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 on track with their learning.