What are Virtual Schools?
Each Local Authority has a Virtual School led by a Virtual School Head (VSH). As looked-after and previously looked-after children start with the disadvantage of their pre-care experiences, VSHs have a key (and statutory) role to ensure that looked-after and previously looked-after children have the maximum opportunity to reach their full educational potential. See Promoting the education of looked-after children and previously-looked after children.
The role of Virtual Schools was further extended from September 2021 to work with schools, colleges and social care leaders to create a culture of high aspirations that helps all children with social workers to make educational progress. For further information about your Local Authority's Virtual School, check out your local council web pages.
For looked-after children, as part of a Local Authority’s corporate parent role, the VSH needs to be the educational advocate that parents are for others. The Virtual School devolves Pupil Premium Plus funding for looked-after children to schools, and works with Designated Teachers, social workers and carers to target and utilise this funding effectively.
The role of the VSH 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 VSH considers necessary. Pupil Premium Plus funding goes directly to schools for children who were previously in care for them to manage within the setting.
What is Pupil Premium Plus funding?
Pupil Premium Plus (PP+) funding is additional funding in place to support children in care, or previously in care. It currently stands at £2345 per pupil per year, and while it is not ring-fenced for individual pupils, there are lots of different ways in which this money can be spent to benefit the cohort for which it is intended (which can often also benefit a wider cohort along the way).
It's important to note that in order for schools to receive funding (for a child who was previously in care), the correct status must be declared within the October census. Schools should invite parent/carers to come forward and show the required evidence for eligibility to ensure the school doesn't miss out on receiving this additional funding.
I recommend schools work closely with parent/carers to discuss ideas and plans for PP+ spend where possible. Staff training and development is one effective area for legitimate spend, but there are lots of other ways it can be used - see p4 and p5 of this PAC-UK leaflet for ideas (note dates/figures out of date).
Designated Teachers - a main point of contact within a school setting
Designated Teachers are role holders with a responsibility for oversight of looked-after and previously-looked after children within their respective individual settings. Many Virtual Schools run specific training for Designated Teachers in their area. More on this role in a future blog...
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