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Luton Borough Council

About Luton’s virtual school

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What is a virtual school?

Luton's virtual school is a service provided by dedicated professionals within the People directorate, whose work is to promote and coordinate educational support for looked after children and care leavers.

It is not a physical school but it brings together educational information about each young person as if they were in a single school so that:

  • progress can be tracked
  • support can be identified and offered
  • additional resources provided if necessary

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The virtual school offer

To improve educational outcomes (attendance, attainment and progress, and inclusivity) for all children with a social worker, by ensuring education settings and wider services understand the barriers to learning for this cohort and work collaboratively to overcome these barriers, creating a culture of high aspiration and high support.

For all children with a social worker, the virtual school will:

  • work in partnership with children’s services and education settings to champion the attendance, attainment, progress and inclusivity of this cohort
  • support education settings to narrow the attainment gap, so every child with a social worker can reach their attainment potential and achieve at least good progress
  • enhance partnerships between education settings and the local authority to help all agencies hold high aspirations and offer high support for these children
  • make visible the disadvantages that children with a social worker can experience
  • promote practice that supports children’s mental health, ability to self-regulate and engagement in education, recognising that attending an education setting can be an important factor in both helping to keep children safe from harm and long-term positive life outcomes
  • support education settings to become attachment aware and implement trauma responsive practices
  • help to make sure that children with a social worker benefit from support to recover from the impact of COVID-19

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Who we are and what we do

The team works with the other professionals to ensure that young people in care to Luton have the opportunities to reach their potential within their place of learning. These include:
  • education settings
  • social workers
  • carers
  • other professionals

The personal education plan (PEP) helps to focus everyone involved to provide support for the young person and to identify any gaps which need attention.

Open the tabs below to find out about each role in the team.

Open all

The head has a statutory responsibility to ensure that arrangements are in place to:

  • improve the educational experiences and outcomes for our young people
  • ensure that attainment is monitored and tracked
  • ensure that the educational experience of all looked after children by Luton is seen as a priority to everyone who has responsibilities for promoting their welfare

An education coordinator provides advice and guidance to those who have responsibility for a looked after child and previous looked after childred. The coordinator also:

  • has an overview of all casework
  • manages school placements for looked after children
  • deputises for the virtual school head when required

Advisory teachers work collaboratively with education settings, social workers and carers to:

  • promote educational achievement and attendance of looked after children
  • encourage effective inclusion
  • maximise positive outcomes

The teachers have specific responsibilities for data and reporting on the quality of electronic personal education plans (EPEPs).

Advisory teachers are:

  • Sandy Hamilton-Clarke
  • Mandy Chancellor
  • Jo Carter
  • Lyndsey Bithrey

Advisory education support workers work collaboratively with education settings, social workers and carers to:

  • promote educational achievement and attendance of looked after children
  • encourage effective inclusion
  • maximise positive outcomes

Senior admin provides support in all administrative areas of the school, coordinates the PEP system and analyses data.

Personal advisers provide education, employment and training advice for:

  • looked after children in years 11 to 13
  • care leavers up to the age of 25 years

Person advisers are:

  • Shakeel Chowdhery
  • Manju Odedra
  • Heather Meikle
  • France Herkes

The senior education psychologist provides advice, guidance and support on individual cases referred to her by the team or social workers.

Consultation and training is provided on attachment and trauma to young people and their carers and training is available for schools.

Specialist clinicians embedded within the Virtual School. We aim to support Looked After Children placed by the local authority where there is a concern for their mental health and there is an impact on their education

Statutory guidance for local authorities

The Department for Education has issued statutory guidance for local authorities about promoting the education of looked after children and previously looked after children.

It;s issued under section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970, which means we must be follow it, unless there are exceptional circumstances that justify departing from it.

Read statutory guidance

Promoting the education of children with a social worker project

The DFE has published non-statutory guidance which extends the role of the Virtual School head to include championing the education for every child with a social worker. Expand the pane for a full summary.

The DFE has published non-statutory guidance which extends the role of the Virtual School (VS) head to include championing the education for every child with a social worker.

Download full DfE guidance

The headlines

  • VS heads are to take on the strategic leadership role of  promoting outcomes of children and young people aged from 0 to 18 (CYP) with a social worker (SW), including those on a child in need plan or who have a child protection plan.
  • COVID-19 has increased barriers to education and it is essential CYP are supported to recover from the pandemic.
  • Funding of £100k grant will be issued to VSs to work with early years/schools/college and social care leaders to assist with educational progress.

VS aims

  • To enhance partnerships between education settings and local authorities.
  • To work with agencies to further understand and address disadvantages of this cohort of students.
  • To demonstrate the benefits of attending educational settings and ensure mechanisms are in place to offer advice and support to teachers and SWs to narrow attainment gap.

VS roles

  • To champion educational attendance and attainment.
  • To progress and make visible the disadvantages children experience to help all agencies hold high aspirations for them.

The VS should promote practice which supports engagement in education, whilst recognising that attendance is an important factor, to help ensure that children are safe from harm. They should aim to narrow the attainment gap.

VSs are NOT required to intervene directly with families or parents. They're not asked to track and monitor educational progress of individual children or provide academic or other interventions.

VSs should not respond to requests from parents to offer advice, intervention or support, and should not take responsibility for SEND children who do not require a SW.

As part of the guidance, the VS can consider adding capacity to educational settings and social care to champion children with a SW.

If your school currently runs any initiatives which support children who have a SW, or have previously had a SW, and you would like to develop these with the VS, please contact Matthew Sims, Head Teacher, at [email protected].

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