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Virtual school for cared for children

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The virtual school aims to decrease the educational gap between cared for c​hildren (looked after children) ​and other children. Our aim is to ensure that young people in Rochdale’s care achieve their full potential in education. Many cared for children don't do as well as their classmates at school, many finish school with fewer qualifications and far fewer go on to further education or university.

To help improve their educational chances and outcomes, we treat them as if they were in a virtual school with their own virtual head teacher. This is in addition to attending ​​their own school, nursery or college.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​As well as supporting parents and carers, the virtual school also supports teachers, social workers, colleges and nurseries. We can give them ideas and suggestions and ensure that the right questions are asked about how to improve the education of a child in care.

Work with schools​

The virtual school works with schools, colleges and nurseries to make sure the targets for looked after children are challenging enough, their results and attendance improve and the number of exclusions go down. The virtual school is the champion for looked after children by:

  • ​​Helping head teachers​ and schools to look for ways to overcome any barriers the cared for children ​may ​face
  • Ensuring that every cared for child has a Personal Education Plan or ‘PEP’, which looks in detail at their individual needs
  • Working closely with all those involved in the child's education, giving them the support and help they need - for example, training for teachers, social workers and ​carers

Exclusions

The exclusion of cared for children should be avoided where possible and​ schools should only ever exclude a child as a last resort. The Fair Access Team monitors all exclusions and can offer support and advice to schools. They can be contacted at exclusions@rochdale.gov.uk​​.​​​​

​​​​​​​​​​Personal Education Plan​​

The aim of the Personal Education Plan (PEP) is to ensure that everyone is doing all that they should and can do, to support a child in care in achieving educational success. ​The young person, carers, school, social worker or others who may be involved in their education all have an input into the PEP. If a PEP meeting is in school time,​ we do our best not to disrupt the child's​ lessons.​

The PEP will set the young person's targets which are reviewed at the beginning of each school term. The plan must also include how the Pupil Premium Plus funding will be used.

If needed, someone from the virtual school can attend the PEP meeting with you.

​​​Personal Education Plan recording process​ (86kb pdf)​ contains more information about the process and timescales.​

Rochdale Personal Education Plan form​​ (507kb pdf)​​ this ​acts as the​​​ ‘golden thread’ linking together the cared for child’s educational experiences all the way from reception through to the end of their statutory school.

​​Fundin​g

​​To raise the educational outcomes of children in care the government gives us extra money called the ​Pupil Premium Plus. ​Pupil Premium Plus is paid directly to the school in the middle of the year. The second payment is made once the virtual school has seen the ​Personal Education Plan which will include details of how the extra money will be spent. A small amount of Pupil Premium Plus is used by the virtual school to encourage creative ideas that will help schools meet the needs of children in care.

Ideas for using Pupil Premium Plus

Here are some of the ideas we've used to raise the educational outcomes of looked after children in the borough of Rochdale.

  • ​​Letterbox club, supporting reading and maths. 6 monthly parcels starting in May are sent to the child in care containing various age related reading books and maths materials. In 2015 we sent letterbox club parcels to all our year 5 children in care with the aim of helping them to become ready for year 6. This year we have extended this so that all our year 7 children in care will receive parcels to help them settle into the move to high school. ​
  • Beanstalk, supporting children to improve their reading​​. Volunteers support children with their reading to build their confidence through focusing on their individual interests.
  • ​​Laptops for Learning, laptops for all year 10 and 11 looked after children. Each autumn term, 14 and 15 year olds are given a new laptop as they enter year 10 ​​which is theirs to keep.​​​ We prioritise this age group as they need access to a computer to support their education as they approach the last 2 years at high school.​​