This section describes what the Virtual School is and what we offer, in terms of legal requirements and how we operate.
If you’re one of our children, young person or a care leaver and want a more practical page on what the Virtual School means for you and your education, look at the Your Service section, which has a page called My Education.
What is a Virtual School?
The Virtual School for children looked after (CLA) is a core service within Slough Children First. It is not a physical building that children attend, but is a team of education specialists who are here to ensure that children looked after and children who have left care are supported and achieve their full potential at their real schools.
The service provides advice, training and support to children and young people in care as well as teachers, school staff and governors, education support services, social workers, residential key workers, parents and foster carers.
The service monitors the educational provision and progress of all children and young people in the care of Slough Children First. The aim of the service is to enhance life chances of children looked after, by aspiring for them and being their education advocate through promotion of achievement and equality of opportunity.
There are approximately 200 Slough children looked after. All of these children will have experienced distress, loss and trauma which may have an effect on their development and education.
Who we are
Cherie Sears is the Virtual School Head, she has ultimate responsibility for ensuring that arrangements are in place to improve the educational experiences and outcomes of the authority’s CLA, including those placed out-of-borough. The Virtual School Head should also ensure the educational attainment and progress of CLA are monitored and evaluated as if those children attended a single school. Cherie can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07710 153662.
What we do
Pupil premium plus (PP+)
Children looked after are one of the groups of pupils that attract PP+ funding. This is additional funding provided to help improve the attainment of CLA and close the attainment gap between them and their peers. Local authorities receive a PP+ grant allocation based on the number of children looked after for at least one day and aged 4 to 15 at 31 August. Virtual Schools have flexibility in the use of PP+ funding in order to maximise its impact for individual CLA as well as the whole looked after cohort.
Personal education plans (PEPs)
All CLA, whether or not currently in education (pre-school to age 18) must have a personal education plan (PEP), which is an integral part of their care plan. For children aged 16 -18 this forms part of the pathway plan. The PEP is an evolving record of what needs to happen for a looked after child to enable them to make expected progress and fulfil their potential.
The Virtual School Head should ensure that all children looked after by the Trust, wherever they are placed, have an up-to-date, effective and high-quality PEP that focuses on educational outcomes.
The Trust uses the ePEP system, a secure database which records and files PEPs for Slough CLA.
Designated teachers and social workers will only have access to the children on their caseload to maintain confidentiality at all times. Early years settings and further education colleges are not required to have designated teachers, but in early years settings this responsibility will usually be assigned to the lead practitioner for safeguarding. Across further education colleges, this responsibility is held by different members of staff; usually the course tutor or key worker for the young person.
When a young person comes into post-16 education, there is no longer statutory funding. The Virtual School looks for avenues of funding educational costs in joint partnership with social care. We also:
- Offer training to local colleges on attachment/personal education plans (PEPs).
- Arrange tuition/source courses for young people who are in education and those that are NEET.
- Advocate on behalf of the young person to secure a place at sixth form/college/university as well as employment, training or apprenticeships.
- We have a statutory duty to carry out PEPs twice a year (more in complex cases). The social worker or personal advisor need to arrange these meetings with all those who need to attend.
- Offer advice and signpost around careers, student finance related to employment, education or training.
- Coordinate between young people services and social care to reduce the number of young people not in education employment or training.
- Work in partnership with other professionals and provisions to generate new opportunities for our young people.
- Contact point between education establishments and social care to ensure continuity and consistency.
- Advocate for young people during any disciplinary issues.
Please contact Nathan Richardson if you have any queries on email@example.com or on 07925 893740.
Adopters and Special Guardians
We also provide advice and guidance to schools and families of adopted children who were previously in care.
If you are an adoptive parent or special guardian and you have queries regarding education or the pupil premium please contact Ewen Godfrey on firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07806 431710.