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What is the Virtual School?

What is the Virtual School?

Norfolk Virtual School for Children in Care and Previously in Care is part of the Family Help and High Needs service. We are based within Norfolk Children's Services department.

Our role and what we do

Our team of advisers work with:

  • Children and young people
  • Schools and other educational settings
  • Social care teams and carers

to help improve the educational journey and outcomes for children in care, from early years to the end of Year 13. We also offer support and guidance to care leavers and the staff supporting them. 

This is achieved by:

  • Ensuring children have the best possible education to enable them to realise their potential 
  • Ensuring effective transition between school or other providers
  • Quality assuring all Personal Education Plans (PEPs)

Video overview of the Virtual School

Norfolk In Care Council asked for a short video giving information about the Virtual School. We worked with a young person who edited the script, composed and performed the music, provided the voiceover and was involved in every stage of the production. Watch the video overview of the Virtual School.

The role of the Virtual School Head

The Virtual School Head is Keeley White. The Virtual School Head is the statutory lead (Children and Families Act 2014) within the local authority. They have responsibility for ensuring that arrangements are in place to improve educational experiences and outcomes of children in care and young people. This includes those placed outside of the county.

The Ofsted inspection framework for local authority services to children in care has clear expectations of the information that will be available to inspectors. These expectations strongly influence both the organisation and work planning of the Virtual School.

Statutory responsibilities

  • Monitor attendance, track progress data and attainment for all Norfolk Children in Care
  • Manage the DfE Pupil Premium Plus Grant Funding and ensure this is used effectively to improve outcomes 
  • Ensure that all children have an effective high quality Personal Education Plan (PEP), linking the allocation of Pupil Premium monies to PEP targets effectively
  • Monitor school admissions and ensure:
    • Children are placed in a school which best meets their needs
    • That challenges resulting from changes of care placement or school are reduced
  • Provide challenge where necessary and holds stakeholders to account
  • Regularly report on the attainment of looked after children, through the authority's corporate parenting structure
  • Promote the importance of listening to and taking account of children's wishes and feelings about their education

Services offered by the Virtual School for Children in Care and Previously in Care

Statutory guidance for local authorities sets our new duties in respect of children previously in care. This to promote their educational achievement by providing information and advice.  

Statutory guidance for designated teachers sets out the responsibilities for designated teachers in respect of children previously in care.

For more information see our page on Support for children previously in care.

We offer information, advice and training to schools, early years settings and Post 16 providers as well as families and professionals supporting previously in care children and young people.  For more information on our offer of support please see our page on Our offer to schools and teachers.

Children with a social worker - Virtual School Head role extension

Promoting the education of children with a social worker

The Department for Education announced in June 2021 how local authorities should extend the current responsibilities for the Virtual School Head to include becoming a strategic lead for promoting the education of children with a social worker. This is a cohort that has been identified as a group of children who face significant barriers to education as a result of experiences of adversity and trauma, most commonly abuse and neglect. This is in addition to the existing statutory duties for looked after and previously looked after children.

Which children are included within the guidance?

Children with a social worker refers to:

  • Children who have been assessed as being in need under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 and currently have a social worker.
  • Children who have been assessed as being in need under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 and have previously had a social worker.
  • It covers all children who were assessed as needing a social worker at any time due to safeguarding and/or welfare reasons, which includes those subject to a Child in Need plan or a Child Protection plan.

The age range covered is from 0 - 18 years of age in all education settings.

While the Virtual School will not be working directly with individuals and families, we will be using our network within Norfolk to map provision and identify how we can contribute and build upon current support. We will be exploring opportunities to use our current knowledge to reduce the barriers to education for this cohort through sharing of best practice. We will be working with our partners both regionally with other Virtual Schools and nationally with the information provided by NAVSH (National Association of Virtual School Heads) to inform our planning.

We will continue to work collaboratively with our colleagues in the local authority, education leaders and beyond to promote the educational outcomes for children with a social worker and supporting our children within Norfolk to flourish.

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