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What is The Virtual School

1. What is The Virtual School

The Virtual School in Buckinghamshire is not a physical building that children attend, but is a team of education specialists who are there to ensure that Looked After Children and children who have left care are supported and achieve their full potential at school. We are a part of Buckinghamshire County Council.

We have high aspirations for children in care, and support and challenge all those involved in their education through close collaboration across the authority; our team of 20 experienced educational staff work directly with schools, social workers, foster carers and the young person in order to improve their educational achievements.

There are approximately 500 children in care from Buckinghamshire. All of these children will have experienced distress, loss and trauma which may have an effect on their development and education.

Information for carers and educational settings

All looked after children must have a care plan, of which the Personal Education Plan (PEP) is an integral part.

Information about Personal Education Plans (PEPs)

If you are aged 16-25 and in care, or have been in care for at least thirteen weeks since the age of 14, the Virtual School can support you.

Support for young people aged 16 or over

Adopters and Special Guardians

We also provide advice and guidance to schools and families of adopted children who were previously in care. 

If you are an adoptive parent or special guardian and you have queries regarding education or the pupil premium please contact our 

Post Order Education Worker

Email: thevirtualschool@buckscc.gov.uk 

Telephone: 01296 387047

Local Offer

Information about our offer to SEN children is available on the Buckinghamshire Family Information Service (BFIS).

View the BFIS Local Offer area

2. Early Years

The Ofsted Early Years Annual Report 2015 stated;

“While it is encouraging that outcomes for children from disadvantaged backgrounds are rising in line with their peers, there is no sign of the gap narrowing in any substantial way. Early education can make a fundamental difference to life chances, but only if the child receives high quality early education at a young enough age".

We support children, carers and other professionals in ensuring access to high quality Early Years provision, which is vital to improving the educational progress of children in care. 2 year old Early Years Education funding is available for all children in care. This allows up to 15 hours of funded pre school provision.

Applications for 2 year old Early Years funding can be made on line here 

Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP) Funding

We distribute this funding to pre school/nursery settings. Working together, we consider how this funding can best be used to support each child in care and enable them to achieve their educational/developmental targets.

Further details on Early Years Pupil Premium Funding

3. Advice for carers and educational settings

Supporting your child in school

In primary education the assessment system is constantly changing and often varies from school to school so we will help you to understand this process.  Moving schools at any stage can be quite a daunting process so we can offer your child additional support if required.

Options can be chosen in Year 8 or 9 depending on schools, with the Key Stage 4 courses starting in Year 9 or 10.  Assessments can occur at any time of the year and thus pupils should never be taken out of school in term time.

Pupils of any age will benefit from their parents or carers taking an active interest in their school work and encouraging them to read and improve their learning at home. 

Post 16 options should be considered in Year 10 and applications should be made in Year 11.

We recognise that the education system is constantly changing so please feel free to contact us for any help or advice.

The Impact of Early Trauma on Children’s learning

There are approximately 500 children in care from Buckinghamshire. All of these children will have experienced distress, loss and trauma which may have an effect on their development and education.

How do we Recognise the Problems?

  • Emotionally they may be less mature than their peers and have attachment difficulties. They may be over anxious to please Others may be withdrawn.
  • For some, leaving their primary carer can be especially difficult.
  • Neglect, abuse, trauma or pain may   result in severe defiance, aggression, controlling behaviour, attention seeking, lying, stealing, and much more
  • Snack/meal times may be traumatic. Toileting problems can be an issue.
  • They may have heightened sensory perceptions. Conversely, some children may need extra  stimulation.
  • An abused child may be uncomfortable removing clothing or changing for PE.
  • Some children will appear to be coping well

How you can help:

  • Get to know the child, they need to get the message ‘we want you here’.
  • Greet them by name.
  • End each day on a positive note.
  • Listen to and validate their feelings - ‘You are finding this hard aren’t you?’.
  • Observe patterns of behaviour. Learn the triggers.
  • Use positive behavioural  management.
  • Create an environment which makes the child feel comfortable, included and safe. Avoid threats of removal or exclusion. Give the child ‘time in’ with an adult rather than ’time out’.
  • Re-assure them that you are there for them
  • Give praise often - but keep it low key
  • Plan for change. Changes to routine need to be supported. Give low-key reminders about what is happening.
  • Be aware unstructured time may be  difficult.
  • Be sensitive to the need for confidentiality and recognise the need for early intervention.
  • Set small achievable goals.
  • Preschools/schools should show an appreciation for diversity within the setting.
  • Good communication between carers, social workers and educational settings with regular updates is vital.
  • Help promote the child’s learning outside of the preschool/classroom.
  • Source information about activities outside of the school setting. 
  • Educational staff should be trained in the needs of  children in care.
  • Work closely with The Virtual School, seek advice if you are concerned about any aspects of the child's education.
  • Social workers and other professionals may require your help to gather information.
  • Schools must have a Designated Teacher for children in care. They must understand about trauma and the impact it has on children and ensure staff have appropriate training.

The Personal Education Plan (PEP)

  • It is a statutory requirement for school age children to have Personal Education Plan (PEP). We also have an Early Years PEP. The teacher, other relevant professionals, Virtual School, child’s social worker, carer, parent (where possible) and the child will all be asked to contribute to the plan. This plan is to encourage continuity and stability of provision, early identification of Special Educational Needs and smooth planned transitions. It is also an opportunity to celebrate the child’s progress and achievement.
  • Educational outcomes may be strongly influenced by health so a dedicated route to services or health provision may be sought if necessary.

More information about the Personal Education Plan (PEP)

Curriculum issues that may cause distress:

  • Family trees/timelines - early memories may be difficult.
  • Growth and development - children may not have or wish to share baby photos.
  • PE/Games/Dance - children may be uncomfortable getting changed.
  • Social interaction - playing with peers may be difficult due to poor social skills.
  • Literature - some texts may be too distressing.
  • PSHE - topics may be painful reminders of circumstances which brought the child into the care system.
  • RE/Celebrations - Christmas/Mother’s/Father’s Day will need to be handled sensitively .

 

4. Personal Education Plans

All looked after children must have a care plan, of which the Personal Education Plan (PEP) is an integral part. All of those involved in the process of developing the PEP should use it to support the personalised learning of the child. The PEP (pre-school to age 18) is an evolving record of what needs to happen for looked after children to enable them to make progress and fulfil their potential.

The PEP should reflect the importance of a personalised approach to learning that meets the identified educational needs of the child, raises aspirations and builds life chances. 

The PEP meeting is usually held in the education setting and we use a platform called ePEP.  If you have a new looked after child in your school please contact us for details of how to access the system.

Who is responsible for the PEP?

The quality of the PEP is the joint responsibility of the local authority that looks after the child and the school. Social workers, carers, VSHs, designated teachers and, as appropriate, other relevant professionals will need to work closely together.

All of those involved in the PEP process at all stages should involve the child (according to understanding and ability) and, where appropriate, the child’s parent and/or relevant family member.

How often do PEP meetings occur and what happens in them?

PEP meetings should take place usually on a termly basis. We encourage young people to attend these meetings so that they have a voice and that we hear it. Other people who will be present at this meeting should include Social Worker, Designated Teacher or representative from the school, the carer and one of our team.  These meetings are important because we can review progress and this helps to identify any future support. We also make decisions at these meetings about Pupil Premium funding and the needs of the young person.

Our support can take place in many different ways from members of the team supporting in the classroom or experienced tutors who deliver one to one tuition. We have an Inclusion and Participation Worker who could also look at alternative activities from museum visits to trips to the gym if this will be of benefit to the young person.

5. Pupil Premium Plus

What is the Pupil Premium Plus?

Pupil Premium Plus is a government grant to support and promote the education of children and young people in care.


The Pupil Premium Plus is allocated to The Virtual School for each looked after child (LAC) of school age with a nominal value of £1,900 to support their education.  However, some children may need more, some less, depending on an assessment of their individual needs.

Children and young people will be eligible as soon as they enter care; Pupil Premium Plus must be used to improve outcomes and raise attainment of the looked after child.

The Virtual School Headteacher is responsible for making sure there are effective arrangements in place for allocating Pupil Premium Plus funding  to benefit children looked after by Buckinghamshire County Council, wherever they are placed.

How the grant is to be used must be clearly identified in each young person’s Personal Education Plan (PEP) in consultation with the designated teacher and the social worker, plus contributions from the carer and other relevant professionals considering the views of the carer and the child.

Children adopted from care and the Pupil Premium Plus

From April 2015 all children in provision funded by the local authority who were adopted from local authority care or who have left care under a special guardianship or care arrangements order (formally known as a   residence order), will attract the Pupil Premium Plus.  Funding will be paid directly to schools for those children between Reception and Year 11.

To establish eligibility, schools should invite parents to self-declare that their child was adopted from care of left care under a guardianship or care arrangements order. Parents should be asked to provide evidence for example, a copy of the adoption order.

Adoption UK; further information about the Pupil premium (opens in a new window)

DfE guidance for schools on the pupil premium (opens in a new window)

Why may the amount of Pupil Premium Plus vary?

The needs of children and young people in care can vary at different times.  For some £1,900 may only be a fraction of the cost for the support they need.  Those who may require more could include:-

  • Children who come into care in an emergency with a fragmented home and education history and who are behind academically.
  • Children who have to move into or out of Buckinghamshire in an emergency.
  • Children where there is a significant and often delayed reaction to abuse and neglect, which manifests in hard to anticipate behaviours.

In response to this wide range of need, there may well be a significant  difference in the amount of Pupil Premium Plus distributed to individual children.

Pupil Premium Plus and Personal Education Plans

The Pupil Premium Plus will only be provided to meet the needs identified in a high quality plan in the PEP with clear educational and other measurable targets for improvement.

The Pupil Premium Plus will be used to improve outcomes for looked after children in the following areas:-

  • Raising levels of achievement and progress
  • Supporting achievement in an area where a child is gifted and talented
  • Improving attendance
  • Supporting emotional wellbeing
  • Promoting inclusion (by reducing internal and external exclusion)
  • Developing social skills
  • Supporting a smooth transition into the next key stage or new place of learning

The PEP action plan will show the baseline data, target for improvement, expected outcomes and cost of support.

National research shows that one to one tuition has a disproportionately positive impact for children in care. Providing this will be a priority in the first instance.

Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP)

Settings that are eligible for the Early Years  Pupil Premium (EYPP)  funding will have three and four year old ‘looked after children’ attending. The amount of funding will be £300, which will be allocated to each child according to need.

When will Pupil Premium Plus not be allocated?

Pupil Premium Plus will not be used to double fund or replace funding which should already have been allocated to the school to support a child for example:

  • To fund services that should be provided via an Education, Health and Care Plan
  • A Statutory Assessment or support from health services
  • The interventions put in place do not require any funding.
  • The school’s own funding covers the cost of the interventions.
  • The PEP action plan does not meet standard requirements.

Where previously schools may have used the LAC Pupil Premium to fund interventions for other learners, for example, interventions which did not link to the needs of an individual LAC child.  Such use will no longer be possible.

Further Information

If you require further information on Pupil Premium Plus, or the education of looked after children, please contact The Virtual School:         

Tel:-01296 383163     or by Email:- thevirtualschool@buckscc.gov.uk

6. Year 12 and onwards

How the Virtual School can help you

If you are aged 16-25 and in care, or have been in care for at least thirteen weeks since the age of 14, The Virtual School can support you whether you are in education, training or are still undecided about your future.  

PEP meetings are held once a term until you are 18 and financial support may be available for laptops, text books and educational resources and courses.  You can also access additional support to help with course assignments, English and Maths qualifications and when difficulties arise in your education or employment.

Information, advice and guidance are available to help you find the right university, college, training course or apprenticeship and an HE specialist can help you with UCAS applications.

The Virtual School - Supporting you in Further & Higher Education

Who do we work with?

Eligible young people, aged 16 to 25, either in care to or care leavers of Buckinghamshire County Council.

What happens Post -16?

You are entitled to have a Personal Education Plan (PEP) until you are 18.

We will hold regular Post-16 Education Review meetings to help you set targets and ensure that you are receiving the support you need to be successful.

What happens Post -18?

We will continue to support your educational ambitions and aspirations on an individual basis. Please note that The Virtual School  cannot provide Alternative Education Post-16: our support is additional to your school or college place.

The Virtual School does not receive funding for laptops or tuition Post-16 but we may be able to assist on an individual basis.

How can we help?

  • Finding the right course for you
  • Review your Post-16 educational
  • options and help you identify what you  want to study.

Making your choice

  • Getting your place
  • Take the next step
  • Study something new
  • Achieve your predictions Post-16
  • Improve existing grades
  • Interviews and applications advice

Assist you to access and sustain your chosen courses in sixth-form, college or university.

Supporting your FE study

Assist you with:

  • Subject support
  • Study skills
  • Revision and exam preparation
  • Support you when difficulties arise in your education
  • Signposting you to the right support if you have Special Needs

Please note The Virtual School cannot offer subject tuition after Level 3

Help with UCAS

  • Find the right university and course
  • Support with writing your personal statement
  • Support with your student finance application
  • Advocate for you as a care leaver

Liaison

With your agreement, liaise with other  workers to support you in your studies

  • Your Social Worker
  • Your Aftercare Team PA
  • Your Connexions PA
  • School teachers and Heads of Year
  • SEN (Special Educational Needs)
  • College tutors and learner services
  • University admissions and support staff
  • Other support services

7. Contact the Virtual School

Contact details of The Virtual School

Please contact us if you have any queries or need further information at:

The Virtual School, Buckinghamshire County Council, 
4th Floor, 
New County Offices, 
Aylesbury, 
Bucks,
HP20 1UZ

01296 387047 / 01296 387020

Email the virtual school: thevirtualschool@buckscc.gov.uk