Education of children in care gets further scrutiny

Holding hands

The first meeting of the Board of Governors of the Virtual School for children in care in Nottingham has taken place (4 December).

Made up of representatives from across the City, the Board will oversee the Virtual School which ensures ‘looked after’ children aged 4-18 get the support they need within mainstream education.

There are currently around 340 looked after children in Nottingham from school Years 1-11.

The Virtual School co-ordinates with social workers and teachers to ensure children have Personal Education Plans – which are an opportunity to listen to a pupil, record their hopes and worries, and clearly show their stated aspirations.

Governors will meet for the first time at Loxley House. The Board is chaired by Cllr David Mellen, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services at Nottingham City Council.

Cllr Mellen said: “Looked after children often have a tougher time in mainstream schools due to a range of vulnerabilities. This can affect their attendance, attainment and behaviour. The Virtual School does an excellent job of co-ordinating the Personal Education Plans of these children, but it is important that Board of Governors applies the same level of challenge and scrutiny as a regular school governing board.”

The Board consists of a Virtual Head Teacher, school improvement officers, Head of the Children in Care service, a mainstream head teacher, City Councillors, carer representatives and careers advisors. A youth representative of the Children in Care Council will also attend.

The Virtual School Board of Governors will report to the Nottingham City Corporate Parenting Board.

The Virtual School in Nottingham is a team:

  • led by an adviser who carries out the role of Virtual School Headteacher
  • of consultants who are qualified teachers with senior management experience within schools
  • which has experience of teaching across the school age range 3-19
  • which has experience and expertise in the areas of Special Needs provision and the qualification framework

The Virtual School’s actions:

  • Provide guidance, training and professional development on the educational needs of Children in Care (CiC)
  • Organise and lead network meetings for City school designated teachers to enable them to fulfil their statutory duties
  • Assist social care colleagues in identifying educational placements for CiC who are moving residential placement or are vulnerable to exclusion
  • Work with the admissions team around admission applications. To inform the Director of Schools and Families if a school is to be directed to take CiC where year groups are full and it is felt to be the best provision for them
  • Support schools to prevent the exclusion of CiC and to develop inclusive policies
  • Work with schools and social care to identify appropriate alternative education provision where pupils are vulnerable to exclusion or are not attending school
  • Collect and monitor CiC data. Identify where issues in regard to attendance, behaviour, attainment or progress are developing and work to improve them through signposting various activities such as tutoring, alternative provision, attending multi-agency review meetings, PEP meetings and annual review of statements of special needs where appropriate
  • Promote the achievement of CiC. As well as organising the Year 11 Achievement and Awards evening and supporting the Social Care Big it Up event the Virtual School provides certificates and rewards for CiC who have made progress in a variety of areas
  • Monitor and report on the completion of Personal Education Plans (PEPs) and audit their quality
  • Conduct annual review meetings with City schools to monitor provision for CiC
  • Provide reading and mathematics resources for pupils in Years 1, 3, 5 and 7 through the Letterbox Club
  • Manage, monitor and audit the use of government funding specifically aimed at CiC
  • Report and be accountable to the Corporate Parenting Board and Members for the achievement of CiC and the provision made for them by the Local Authority.

For more on the work of the Virtual School, visit:http://www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/article/23128/Educational-Support-for-Children-in-Care

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