Gwen is an experienced headteacher who was appointed to the post of Virtual School Headteacher in February 2016. Gwen promotes high aspirations for our children placed in care and works closely with colleagues both in schools and Social Care. The Virtual School Headteacher is a strategic role which highlights the importance of education and educational stability within every decision made about the provision or care of individual children. Gwen actively promotes the role and function of the Virtual School but also our shared accountabilities for improving outcomes for every single child in care to Worcester County Council. Gwen makes sure that the voice of the child is a priority within the Virtual School network and that LAC are heard across the whole education system.
The Education Co-ordinator ensures that the different responsibilities and functions of the Virtual School within Babcock Prime 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 Looked After Child. Individual casework will be undertaken by the different network leads. The Education Co-ordinator also line manages the PEP Co-ordinators.
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 The Virtual School. The PEP Co’s work closely with the school’s own Designated Teacher for Looked After Children 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.
The Babcock School Improvement Advisers regularly review Looked After Children as part of their work to address the gap in outcomes for vulnerable groups. Achievement, progress and the quality of provision for Looked After Children 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 Looked After Children.
Good attendance underpins strong education outcomes and the Babcock Education Investigation Team monitors the attendance of all Looked After Children. 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.
Where appropriate, every Looked After Child is entitled to attend a good local school. The Admissions Code prioritises the placement of Looked After Child 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 Looked After Child 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 Looked After Children. 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.
Looked After Children 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. Through Babcock Prime, The Virtual School has specialist careers advisers who provide advice for Looked After Children.
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.
One third of Looked After Children 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 Looked After Child means that schools may need to put accelerated learning programmes in place so that the gap between the outcomes for Looked After Child and their peers can be closed.
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 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.
The Senior Education Adviser supports the local authority in fulfilling its statutory duties and responsibilities to all vulnerable children (including Looked After and Previously Looked After) on matters relating to school attendance, inclusion, exclusion, Children Missing Education (CME), Elective Home Education (EHE), Alternative Provision and in-year fair access arrangements.
The main function of this role is to promote the educational achievement of previously looked after children (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.
The Business Support Manager contributes to the development of the Virtual School for Looked After Children, previously looked after children and Vulnerable Learners. The Business Support Manager liaises and co-ordinates bespoke training packages for schools and social care with Alternative Providers and organises Virtual School Conferences and Education Award events. he Pupil Premium+ budget for Looked After Children and Dedicated Schools Grant accounts and ensure agreed criteria is met before funding to schools or social workers is also managed by this role. The Business Support Manager is the Virtual School Clerk for the Governing Board.
IRO’s are experienced social workers who lead Looked After Children's reviews to assess the overall progress of individual Looked After Children 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.
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.