The Role of the Virtual School promoting the education of previously looked after children taken from the statutory guidance for local authorities February 2018

The role of the Virtual School Headteacher for previously looked-after children is to promote their educational achievement through the provision of information and advice to their parents, educators and others who the Virtual School Headteacher considers necessary.
Virtual School Headteachers must discharge their duty from the point at which the child becomes eligible for free early education, which is currently the start of the term following a child’s second birthday, and conclude when s/he has completed the compulsory years of education.
The duty relates to previously looked-after children who are in education in the area served by the Virtual School Headteacher irrespective of where the child lives. This avoids the need for education settings to work with more than one Virtual School Headteacher and prevents cross-border complications.

Virtual School Headteachers, in conjunction with the Director of Children’s Services, should decide the extent of their offer to parents, early education providers and schools but as a minimum, the Virtual School Headteacher must:

• respond to parental requests for advice and information – e.g. advice on school admissions in their area. Where appropriate, the Virtual School Headteacher should sign-post parents to other services that can offer advice and support;

• respond to requests for advice and information from providers of early education, designated teachers in maintained schools and academies, and providers of alternative provision in their area in respect of individual children supported by the local authority. In particular, the Virtual School Headteacher should develop/ build on existing good working relationship with designated teachers for previously looked-after children in their area; and

• make general advice and information available to early years settings and schools to improve awareness of the vulnerability and needs of previously looked-after children. This should include promoting good practice on identifying and meeting their needs, and guidance on effective use of the PP+.

However, it is important to note that the local authority and Virtual School Headteacher are no longer the corporate parent for previously looked-after children and the Virtual School Headteacher role in relation to these children reflects this. Virtual School Headteachers are not expected to monitor the educational progress of individual children or be held to account for their educational attainment. Any intervention in the education of a previously looked-after child must be with the agreement of the person(s) who have parental responsibility for the child. They, like all parents, are responsible for overseeing their child’s progress in education.

Virtual School Headteachers will want to satisfy themselves that the child is eligible for support by asking the child’s parents for evidence of their previously looked-after status. For children adopted outside England and Wales, the child must have been looked after by a public authority, a religious organisation or other provider of care whose sole purpose is to benefit society. Where parents are unable to provide clear evidence of their child’s status, Virtual School Headteachers will need to use their discretion. In such circumstance, Virtual School Headteachers should discuss eligibility with the designated teacher at the child’s school to agree a consistent approach.


What might providing information and advice look like?

• Providing advice and information to frequently asked questions online.

• Providing advice to individual parents/ carers and schools where they have a query.

• Advising schools on how they can support previously looked after children to improve behaviour to help avoid exclusion becoming necessary.

• Advising schools on how to best use Pupil Premium to support previously looked-after children.

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