Dudley Virtual School is a team of dedicated professionals who work collaboratively to improve educational outcomes for Dudley's children looked after (CLA) and children previously looked after (PLAC).
The Children and Families Act 2014 requires councils in England to appoint a Virtual School Head Teacher to discharge the local authority's duty to promote the educational achievement of its children in care. The Virtual School Head Teacher is the lead responsible officer for ensuring that arrangements are in place to improve the educational experiences and outcomes of the authority's children in care, including those placed outside the caring authority's boundaries.
The Ofsted inspection framework for local authority services to children in care has very clear expectations of the information that will be available to inspectors, and these expectations influence both the work of the Virtual School Head Teacher and the organisation of the Virtual School. The Virtual School Head Teacher is supported by a team consisting of:
- Deputy Head Teacher
- Lead Education Adviser
- Education Advisers
- Support Advisers
All children and young people in care to Dudley, and the settings they attend are supported by an Education Adviser.
The Virtual School
- Supports and challenge schools, carers and all relevant partners to ensure children in the care (CiC) of Dudley Council achieve the best possible educational outcomes and life chances
- Works collaboratively to ensure Dudley's CiC attend the best possible education establishments and are provided with the opportunities to progress and realise their individual potential.
- Supports effective delivery of Personal Education Plans and monitor their outcomes.
- Identifies specific areas of concern in a CiC’s education and ensure appropriate action is taken.
- Tracks and monitors attendance, exclusions, progress and personal achievements of CiC.
- Manages the Pupil Premium Plus funding for CiC and work with schools to ensure it is used effectively.
- Encourages, supports and celebrates young people’s successes and achievements. This includes the promotion of children's participation in out of school activities and projects.
- Provides advice and guidance to children, parents, carers, social workers, schools and others, as appropriate, around the education of CiC and previously looked after children (PLAC).
- Provides a range of joint and specific training opportunities to raise awareness of issues and concerns relating to the educational needs of CiC and PLAC.
All Children In Care (CiC) must have a care plan, of which the PEP is an integral part. The PEP (pre-school, to age 18) should be initiated as part of the care plan.
It is an evolving record of what needs to happen for looked-after children to enable them to make at least expected progress and fulfil their potential. This document is in an electronic form referred to as the e-Pep.
The PEP should reflect the importance of a personalised approach to learning that meets the child’s identified educational needs, raises aspirations and builds life chances.
The school, other professionals and the child’s carers should use the PEP to support achieving those things.
The quality of the PEP is the joint responsibility of the local authority to which the child or young person is in care to and the school. Social workers, carers, Virtual School advisers, designated teachers and, as appropriate, other relevant professionals work closely together to ensure every pep meets the quality assurance criteria.
All of those involved in the PEP process ensure the child is involved (according to understanding and ability) and where appropriate, the child's parent and/or relevant family member are also actively involved in the whole pep process.
Please refer to the PEP section of the statutory guidance for more information.
In Dudley we use ePep Online to record all the information needed for a PEP. ePEP online is a web based portal which provides the Virtual School, teachers, social workers and other named professionals access to the child's current and past PEPs.
All CiC have termly meetings to discuss the PEP, where a number of areas of the young persons education is discussed:
- Attainment and progress
- Targets are set
- Health and emotional well being
- Young person’s views
- Carer’s views
We expect that every child in care will have a current Personal Education Plan to support their education.
For a Child In Care (CiC), school can often be the only constant in their life. Research shows that pupils who attend school regularly achieve higher grades than those who do not.
We are committed to every CiC receiving a full time education appropriate to their needs.
Our Education Advisers
- monitors the attendance of CiC
- supports parents, carers and social workers in accessing appropriate educational provision for CiC
- supports carers, CiC and schools in achieving regular school attendance
- offers support and advice to carers, social workers, schools and pupils on all aspects of school attendance
Find out more on Absence and Attendance.
Pupil Premium Plus and Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP) are payments made by the government to help raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.
Dudley Virtual School are delivering Literacy support for our Children in Care, these interventions are available at home.
Storytime is one of the UK’s leading Kids magazines the magazines are delivered monthly, all year round, for all children in year 3 – 6. Storytime is a beautiful, fully illustrated magazine that is full of short stories, poems, and word games for children to explore.
Each Storytime magazine comes with five classic stories, one or two poems and sections such as Favourite Fairy Tales Around the World Tales Poems and Rhymes Myths and Legends Storyteller’s Corner Playbox, this includes puzzles, games and activities. The magazine caters for a spread of ages and abilities, they are a perfect opportunity to read to your children. Please contact your education advisor for more information.
The Virtual School Artslink is a programme in partnership with the West Midlands Virtual Schools Children in Care Foundation (WMCiCFoundation). This is supported by Arts Connect through their Partnership Investment Programme.
This Arts offer aims to ensure that all care experienced children and young people linked to a Virtual School in the West Midlands are able to access high-quality arts and cultural experiences. This includes both live activities and an extensive online offer to get arts and creativity happening at home.
Children and young people in care across the borough and the West Midlands region are encouraged to take part in out of school activities to help build personal and social skills, raise educational achievement and improve life chances. The Virtual School team have a dedicated Arts Ambassador who leads on Arts and Culture activities and events for our children in care.
The Cultural Entitlement offer has been integrated into the Personal Education plan to support our children and young people to extend their experiences. This will also help the Virtual School to plan and create activities and events based on the young persons interests and experiences.
The Virtual School Sports link offer is a programme also in partnership with the WMCiC Foundation. This programme is designed to complement and enhance the sporting activities offered in a CiC own educational setting or the local community in which they reside.
We promote the educational achievement of previously looked after children (post-LAC) in Dudley by providing information and advice to:
- Any person that has parental responsibility for the child
- Providers of funded early years education, designated teachers for previously Looked after Children in maintained schools and academies
- Any other person the authority considers appropriate for promoting the educational achievement of relevant children
The scope of the Virtual School was expanded as from September 2018 there are now new duties for children previously looked after (PLAC). The Virtual School offer advice and information regarding the education of children living in Dudley MBC who were previously in care and are now subject to an adoption, special guardianship or child arrangement order. As the Virtual School do not have parental responsibility for these children, they would not be entitled to monitor these pupils and the duties do not extend to taking on case work or actions. However, we aim to empower all our parents with the advice, information and expertise that we have gathered whilst supporting our children in care to ensure that all the children in our remit can fulfil their potential in school.
Adoption UK is the leading charity providing support, community and advocacy for all those parenting or supporting children who cannot live with their birth parents. They connect adoptive families, provide information and signposting on a range of adoption-related issues and campaign for improvements to adoption policy and legislation at the highest levels. With over 8,000 members, they provide a strong, supportive community and are the largest voice of adopters in the UK.
A range of online educational and well being resources to support children in care
The Department for Education announced that from September 2021, Virtual School Head Teachers will be strategic leaders who promote the educational outcomes of children with a social worker. This is to provide a local champion for children with a social worker in every local authority in England. This will ensure that more focus is placed on children with a social worker, targeting support earlier on in these young people’s lives and helping improve how they engage with education.
This will build on the existing role of a Virtual School Head Teacher, who will help champion and improve the educational outcomes for children in or on the edge of care, enhancing relationships between schools, colleges and local authorities so that pupils receive support from professionals that will help them develop and progress throughout their time in education.
The extension of the role of Virtual School Head Teacher delivers on a key recommendation of the Government’s Children in Need review in 2019, which looked at what further support children in need of help and protection may require. The enhanced role will also be central to ensuring that the Government’s education recovery package reaches and benefits children with a social worker, with Virtual School Heads able to advise on the best use of the Recovery Premium to meet their needs and how access to the National Tutoring Programme can improve their outcomes.
The Virtual School Head Teachers extended role will include additional responsibilities, such as increasing awareness among schools, colleges and social workers, of how education plays a crucial part in the care of these children, improving the visibility of support services for children with a social worker and ensuring Virtual School Head Teachers champion this group in local authority planning.
The guidance on promoting the education of children with a social worker:
- defines the cohort of children in scope
- explains what the extended role involves
- provides direction on how to partner with education settings to improve children’s outcomes
The additional role of the Virtual School Head Teacher does not require the Virtual School Head Teacher to provide direct intervention, help and support for individual children with a social worker or their families. This guidance does not change existing duties for looked-after and previously looked-after children, and should be read in conjunction with statutory guidance promoting the education of looked-after and previously looked-after children.
If you are new to care you may have many questions, the Dudley children in Care site will help you understand what care is and what is happening to you, as you come under the care and protection of Dudley Council. It will also provide you with information and guidance, ranging from the types of care to health and your future.
The Virtual School is passionate about and committed to developing the role of the designated teacher in school.
All school governing bodies are required to ensure that an appropriately qualified and experienced member of staff (the designated teacher) undertakes the responsibilities within the school to promote the educational achievement of children in care. They must also ensure that they undertake training to carry out this duty.
The designated teacher is responsible for championing the educational needs of children in care in their school and ensuring they have good quality PEPs. They should be the main author and champion of the PEP within the school. The designated teacher should maintain high expectations of children in care and have the time to understand their needs.
The Virtual School offers professional development to designated teachers as well as the opportunity to network and exchange knowledge, understanding and good practice with other designated teachers. Please visit our training and events page for more information.
Aspire 2 University
Aspire2University (A2U) is a progressive programme targeting ‘children and young people’ in the care system from Year 7 onwards. Working in partnership with Virtual Schools from five local authorities within the West Midlands, A2U has been successfully running at Wolverhampton University since 2015.
One of the main aims of the programme is to promote awareness and understanding of the opportunities that university can offer. The young people are targeted via their Key Stage two outcomes, The A2U’s participants have the opportunity to embark upon their journey towards a potential future in Higher Education from an early age; ‘catch ‘em young.’
The partners work together to
- removing barriers to learning and progression
- releasing and raising aspirations
- increasing knowledge and promoting understanding of HE
- supporting to keep on track
There are four strands to the programme:
- Outreach – visits to University
- Enrichment – Holiday/out of hours activities
- Mentoring – Group and/or one-to-one from undergraduate students
- Tutoring – supporting core subjects
Unifrog is an online platform linked to our secondary schools to help provide our CiC and other students with impartial and independent advice on the full range of post-school options.
Once CiC have explored their interests and compared the full range of pathways available to them, Unifrog provides one place for the young people to draft all materials needed for applications such as CV’s or Personal Statements.
Unifrog is the one-stop-shop for destinations, allowing students to explore every university course, apprenticeship and college course in the UK plus other around the world opportunities such as European and US undergraduate courses They can make applications using Unifrog and receive feedback from teachers along the way.
Barnardo’s provide one to one support to young people through direct intervention.
The worker will deliver therapeutic and practical based support to help young people with the following challenges related to their mental and emotional health, wellbeing and education:
- Stress of exam years
- Mental Health Challenges
- Support to re-engage with education
The worker will work with KS3 and KS4 young people.
Dudley Virtual school recommend www.kooth.com for free mental health support for 11-25 year olds. Kooth is an online counselling and emotional well-being support service for children and young people available. There is no referrals required, the young person simply logs on and signs up to the service, internet access is required.
This is a targeted programme for Year 10 and 11 young people to support their Career planning and aspirations for education and training. The Learning Mentor links on a one-to-one basis.
ePEP Online login for professionals
We have a number of guidance documents available for further information: