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Virtual School Annual Report

Last Updated 12:00am, 22 June 2021

The Aims of the Virtual Schools

Promote: High aspirations and excellent educational outcomes

Support: Children and young people, carers, schools and settings

Challenge: Anyone who doe snot deliver on our aspirations

Celebrate: All our successes


This report has been designed to provide information on the attainment and achievement of the Local Authority’s Looked After Children in 2019-2020, set against a background of our performance in previous years and National benchmarks. This report is based on LA held pupil information and results from schools for 2020, As in previous years the data in this report is constantly updated from first issue until all National data becomes available.

It is important to note, however, that due to the pandemic and the closure of schools for the summer term, that all areas are not comparable with previous years. This includes attainment, attendance, exclusions and progress.

Improving Outcomes for Children in Care

The Virtual School have worked with the REES Centre on three projects:

The Alex Timpson Trust aims to support the emotional development of children and young people across the UK, particularly those who have had adverse early experiences and those in Care or who are adopted. In Devon, this Project to develop a relational approach to behaviour across the school, has been funded by the Virtual School for Children in Care. The Alex Timpson Trust has partnered with the Rees Centre at Oxford University on this initiative and The Rees Centre will be responsible for evaluating the project across all Local Authorities that are involved.

Being a part of this project is an excellent way of developing the professional skills and knowledge of school staff and importantly, it supports the transferring of this knowledge into practical change to directly support those children and young people who need it most.

This project involves providing free whole school training to staff on attachment and the impact of developmental trauma. It is delivered by Babcock LDP Educational Psychology Service and the Social, Emotional Mental Health Advisory Teaching Team. On top of the initial training, participating schools will then receive ongoing support from the training team to embed the learning into practice. This will be a bespoke package that is designed with senior leaders and aims to support schools with their specific requirements.  For example, this could involve working with senior leaders in relation to reviewing pastoral support systems, whole-school behaviour management policies or exploring the identification and support of mental health difficulties in the school. Additional support approaches can be agreed between senior leaders and the training team, for example to include ongoing CPD opportunities, coaching or supervision.

The Virtual School has also commissioned the Educational Psychology Service and the SEMH Team to develop support materials for schools on the development of behaviour policies based on a relational approach, rather than the commonly used ‘Ready to Learn’ system.  This is now complete and on the website.  A number of schools will be trialling the use of the materials with support from the Educational Psychology Service.

Reducing Exclusions in Devon Schools (REDS) Programme and the Protocol for Supporting Children in Care (and those previously in Care)

This work to reduce exclusions for Children in Care, has been particularly successful. REDS (Reducing Exclusions in Devon Schools) is an intervention process designed and delivered by Babcock LDP Educational Psychology Service.  The REDS process works by promoting empathy and inclusive practice in response to challenging or trauma-related behaviours.  It is specifically for Children in Care at risk of exclusion and involves a package of Educational Psychologist support to develop a needs-led understanding of challenging behaviour, that informs a comprehensive support plan.

Impact measure 1: Risk of Exclusion Risk of exclusion measure were taken at the beginning of the process and again at the end, low risk, 10= very high risk). The average risk of permanent exclusion at the initial REDS meeting was 7.3 but the average risk of permanent exclusion at the review meeting was 3.1.

The risk of exclusion had reduced in 90% of situations where the REDS process had been fully completed and reviewed.  Risk of exclusion increased in 5% of cases and remained the same in 5% of cases.

Impact Measure 2: School Placement Stability

  • Monitoring of placement in June 2020 indicates that this placement stability is improved, with 81% still in the same placement. This includes REDS referrals that were between 3 and 12 months old.

Impact Measure 3: Feedback from Staff and Carers

Staff reported positive changes in the following areas:

  • Knowledge of the child and the reasons behind challenging behaviours;
  • A greater understanding of why typical approaches were not being successful;
  • Quality of relationships between the adults in school and young person, also relationships between the young person and their peers;
  • School attitude towards the young person;
  • Improved behaviours and the child spending more time engaged with learning and being at less risk of exclusion.

Comments about the impact of REDS

“REDS has really changed the way staff feel about him”

“he has been doing really well, things have turned 180 degress since the REDS referral was made and it seems like he is in a good place”

“since the REDS, this young man is having a much-improved school experience”

“The REDS has had a very big impact”

“The changes made after REDS have had a very big impact…he has worked solidly for a double lesson and produced this outstanding work”.

Personal Education Plans

The ePEP is constantly under review.  From September 2020 we will add a RAG rating for children who need additional support for transition between KS2 and KS3 and KS4 and KS5.  In addition, the prior attainment will be clearly displayed on the attainment page so that all supporting the young person can see if progress and target setting is challenging enough.  The minutes of the meeting section has also been revised.  This is an important section of the PEP as it gives a very clear picture of the young person’s journey through their education.  The plan is also to fully review the pupil voice section to more effectively capture the young person’s views.

Due to the pandemic the PEPs due late in the Spring term did not take place as school’s closed.  This explains the lower completion rate.  In the summer term, as a result of the lockdown and the closure of schools the Virtual School attended all PEP meetings.

Pie chart showing the percentage of children in care who had completeing pep meeting


Working with Schools

We have continued to work closely with Designated Teachers in schools throughout the pandemic to help them to support Children in Care as much as possible.  We have sent out advice and guidance on a regular basis as events have unfolded.  For the return to school, where necessary, support from the Educational Psychology service will be provided to ensure that anxiety does not get in the way of a successful re-start.

  • Designated Teacher Network meetings have continued. In the summer term this was held online using Microsoft Teams. This was very successful and is likely to be used for these network meetings going forward. It helps increase attendance with Designated Teachers not having to travel or leave school. The summer term included an input from an Educational Psychologist and a general discussion on the return to school in September;
  • Educational Panel Meetings. These are part of the ongoing work of the Virtual School but, of course, have not happened since the pandemic. The way they are run will be reviewed in 2021.
  • School visits by the School Improvement Officer and the Area Learning Advocate have taken place virtually but will return to face to face when possible.
  • New Designated Teachers are supported through additional visits to train them on the role of the designated teacher, the ePEP system and procedures for supporting Children in Care;
  • Planning for Success meetings have carried on remotely for all children who have moved placements which has meant a move of school through the summer term.

Children placed in other local authorities

Support for Children in Care placed in other Local Authority areas has continued throughout the summer term by Teams. This includes Planning for Success meetings  when a child has moved ,Child in care reviews and PEPs so our Devon children placed out of Devon are equally well supported as those in Devon .


The Virtual School provides training for all who support our Children in Care.  This training includes:

  • Attachment Based Mentoring for schools. This is three-day training for school staff to help them effectively support children with attachment difficulties and those who have suffered from adverse childhood experiences. Every secondary school in Devon has at least one member of staff who has attended the training. The training is incredibly popular and always over-subscribed. It has been specifically developed for Children in Care on behalf of the Virtual School by the Educational Psychology Service and the SEMH Team;
  • The annual Designated Teachers’ Conference has been postponed from October 2020 to January 2021 when it is hoped it will be able to take place face-to-face;
  • Training for newly qualified Social Workers on the role of the Virtual School and the challenges for Children in Care in schools has continued and includes newly appointed Personal Advisors ;Training on the Power-Bi Children in Care Performance dashboard has taken place and will be a regular feature;
  • Training for Foster Carers on supporting Children in Care in education
  • Training for foster carers on supporting a child in care with Special educational needs
  • A full training programme for Social Workers and newly qualified Social Workers is being discussed with the Social Worker Academy.

Support for previously looked after children

Role of the Virtual School

The Virtual School ‘s role is to promote the educational achievement of Previously Looked After Children through the provision of advice and information to parents, guardians, schools, Social Care professionals and others.


Previously looked-after children are those who:  are no longer looked after by a Local Authority in England and Wales (as defined by the Children Act 1989 or Part 6 of the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014) because they are the subject of an Adoption, Special Guardianship or Child Arrangements Order; or were adopted from ‘state care’ outside England and Wales. The provision detailed below is open to children from the point at which they become eligible for free early education (which is currently the start of the term following a child’s second birthday) and concludes when s/he has completed the compulsory years of education (end of Yr11).

Information and advice provided by a learning advocate

The Virtual School provides access to information and advice support through the provision of dedicated Area Learning Advocate time. The Area Learning Advocate offers advice regarding individual cases and enquiries from schools, parents/guardians and other professionals (including Post Adoption Support and Special Guardianship Support colleagues) regarding educational issues affecting previously in care children. Enquires can be made by phone or email to Andrew Squire (email: Tel: 01392 380918).

Common issues of enquiry include: use of Pupil Premium Plus, EHCP processes, admissions, advice when a child is at risk of exclusion, signposting to available support and other services.

Information and advice through the virtual school website

The Devon Virtual School website contains information and useful links for school staff, parents, guardians and other professionals regarding Previously Looked After Children The section for Previously Looked After Children can be accessed here. Information includes a grab pack for schools, information about Pupil Premium Plus and a copy of the Education Plan for Adopted Children (EPAC) and accompanying guidance, which can be used by schools to focus an individual plan and review process for a child. Schools will need to contact Andrew Squire to discuss individual cases and availability
(e: / t: 01392 380918).


Information and Advice - Support for Parents and Guardians

Video Interaction Guidance (VIG)

A number of individual interventions using VIG have been commissioned from the Educational Psychology Service. VIG uses video to strengthen relationships and support appropriate interactions between children and their carers/parents/guardians.  It is particularly suitable for younger children. This is an EP-led intervention and includes several cycles of support and feedback. Please contact one of the Post Adoption or SGO Support team to discuss in more detail.

Training Workshops – for adoptive parents

Delivered by an Education Psychologist, regional meetings covering a range of topics arranged throughout the year. Please contact one of the Post Adoption Team for more details.

Training Workshops – for guardians

Delivered by an Education Psychologist, regional meetings covering a range of topics arranged throughout the year. Please contact one of the SGO Team for more details.

Learning Advocate Advice and Information Sessions

The Learning Advocate will attend regional Post Adoption and SGO Support Meetings to give information and advice as requested and to respond to individual issues

Information and Advice: Support for schools

Advice, Information and Training

In addition to the training outlined on page 1 ongoing information advice and training is available to Designated Teachers through termly Designated Teacher Network meetings, the annual Designated Teacher Conference and the half-termly Virtual School Newsletter.

Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC)

Currently in Devon we have 27 UASC young people in Care, 4 of these are in Care to Other Local Authorities but live in Devon.  From September 2020 all the UASC (except 2 – one in year 8 and one in year 11) will be post-16 with the majority attending Exeter College. We have had a busy summer providing tutoring, mainly in English, for 11 young people at their request, with one young person also having Maths and Computer Literacy sessions in preparation for college in September. Colin Mitchell as the Advocate for UASC within the Virtual School continues to offer outstanding support to all the current UASC in Care but also support to the Care Leavers.

Our plans for the coming year are to work more closely with Exeter College to supplement their PSHE programme to provide relationship and sexual health advice and guidance to our UASC group, in a way suited to each person’s cultural background. We are also hoping to be able to support students on their courses at the college by funding some additional Teaching Assistant support in class. From September we are planning an English tutoring programme for all who wish to take part to support learning at school or college. All our UASC students will be supported with access to an online language support course which they can access from their mobile phone so it is with them when needed.

We have provided the opportunity for a group of 14 to take part on 2 outdoor experience days on Dartmoor which included climbing, archery, abseiling, gorge-walking and bushcraft skills and have 2 more planned for later in the year.

The Virtual School aim to respond to the individual educational needs of each young person in Care and so The Virtual School has an Advocate for UASC young people, who is a specialist dedicated to the specific needs of this cohort and supporting them and an Area Learning Advocate with responsibility for the educational progress of this group. When a group of Vietnamese young people arrived in Spring 2019, we were able to engage a tutor and hire premises to provide a daily, bespoke, intensive English course so they were prepared to access College or school in the new academic year.

This group of young people are an absolute delight to work with, they want to learn and have, in some cases, endured quite harrowing journeys to be here which makes them resilient and determined to make the most of their opportunities.

Working Across the Local Authority

The Virtual School Team have been represented on a number of groups within the LA to ensure that education has a voice and so that education issues are considered in decision making:

  • Wellbeing/Personal Budgets for health
  • Life-long Links for Children in Care
  • Step-Down from residential to Foster Care
  • Children’s Access to Resources Panel
  • Placement Review Panel
  • Joint Agency County Panel for joint funding between Health, Education and Social Care
  • Corporate Parenting Forum and Corporate Parenting Group
  • Virtual School Governing Body
  • Adoption Panel
  • Improving mental health assessments for children coming into Care (pilot project)
  • The Life After Care Project Board
  • Child Exploitation Working Group
  • Health and Wellbeing Board
  • Peninsular Quality Assurance sub-Group
  • Children in Care and Care Leavers Delivery Group
  • Corporate Parenting Members Group; and
  • Pathway Plan review.

Virtual School Newsletters

These are published every half term and can be accessed via the link below:

Virtual School newsletters

Post 16 Children in Care

There was continued work with the FE colleges and other providers;

  • A monthly NEET Panel meets to target services towards those children who are Not in Education, Employment or Training. This includes Virtual School staff, Careers South West and a senior manager from Children’s Social Care. This has been successful in moving children back towards education, employment or training through pathways such as Prince’s Trust, Focus 5 and Young Devon;
  • The Care Leavers in Education, Employment and Training (CLEET) Group meets termly. This year it helped to develop more effective tracking of children as they move from Year 11 to Year 12. It also discussed support for children with EHCPs;
  • Working with the Senior Manager – Employment & Skills, the Virtual School has developed a strategy to reduce the NEET rate in Devon.  This was agreed by the Corporate Parenting Members Group. All agencies are working closely together to reduce the number of young people who are not in education, employment or training. The strategy will be overseen at the NEET Partnership Group, chaired by Phill Adams, (Senior Manager, Employment, Skills and Learn Devon/Operations Lead – Skills, HotSW LEP);
  • The NEET Panel will follow a different format from September. Personal Advisors or Social Workers will dial in to the panel meetings to ensure greater involvement and shared responsibility.

Children in Care Awards

Once again, this was a very successful evening in March 2020. Over 300 Children in Care and Care Leavers were nominated for an award with 130 attending the evening, along with their guests (Foster Carers and other siblings). Children and young people from nursery age to 19 years attended to receive their awards. The event was held at St James School in Exeter and included plenty of food and entertainment for all ages such as balloon modellers, jugglers, magicians, face painters, dance machine and a driving simulator. Our next awards evening is planned for March 2021.

Raising Aspirations

Once again the Virtual School worked with Exeter University to provide ‘taster days’ for Children in Care. This year this was disrupted by the pandemic and so the two planned for the Summer term did not take place. Though the following did take place:

  • A Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) day for Years 7 to 11; and
  • A taster day for Years 8-11.

These days give children a real taste of University life. They attend a lecture, can speak to student ambassadors and join students for lunch. These three days are planned again for this academic year.

There are plans to develop this programme with other providers and some sessions have been held for Children in care at Marjons in Plymouth.

Virtual Summer School

Over the summer the Virtual School has organised individual one-to-one tutoring for Years 10 and 5 to enable these year groups to catch up after missing a whole term of learning. Feedback from young people and carers was positive:

I am writing to let you know that C has completed the 10 hours of online tutoring over the 5 weeks of summer holidays (5 hours Maths, 5 hours English). To give you a personal opinion – I thought it was a very positive experience for C, both tutors were extremely good and were very quick to pick up on Cs strengths and weaknesses. They explained things well and in a way C could comprehend. The program was easy to enter and there were clear instructions on how to join the session. C found it difficult to speak to the tutors at first but overcame this during the following sessions.  He has told us that he feels he has benefitted from these sessions.

Just a quick note to give you some feedback and thank you for organising the tutoring for L.  He has really bought into both the English and Maths lessons and has even said that last week’s English tutorial was the best lesson he has ever had!  He has kept motivated and I believe that this will pay major dividends when he returns to school in September. Thanks again.

In addition, there has been a full programme of outdoor activities on Dartmoor with the company Adelong. After the long period of lockdown and fantastic work from Carers in supporting our Children in Care with their home schooling, we were thrilled to be able to offer outdoor experiences to all Children in Care in school years 4-10 (so ages 8-15). The days out were fully funded by the Virtual School including a picnic lunch, we simply asked Carers to transport their young people to the venues. We offered children a 2 day experience and ran the days in different locations across Devon to try and meet the transport needs of all Carers. Most days centred around Dartmoor but we also used the Sharpham Estate in Ashprington, Totnes and Lee Abbey and Valley of the Rocks in North Devon.

Overall we were able to offer 16 days of activities which were provided by an excellent outdoor company (Adelong) who are very experienced and could tailor each day to the needs of the young people. Activities ranged from traditional rock climbing and abseiling to gorge walking, weaselling, bouldering, archery and bushcraft skills. Each day was supported by a range of DCC staff from the Virtual School, the Participation Team and the Fostering Support Team. It was very special to see new friendships being made, young people with some very traumatic backgrounds stepping out of their comfort zone and challenging themselves, learning that they can do things they really did not think possible.

People walking through the countryside staff and children

Feedback from carers was extremely positive:

‘My boy is new to Care and this was his first activity with other foster children. He really enjoyed the Archery at Lee Abbey.  It helped that he had met Pete before and that Ellie was there to meet him, they and the instructors made him feel welcome. He is looking forward to going again tomorrow. Though all the days have been a good hour away from me they have been worth the travel. Please can we have more next year. Thanks’

‘Just wanted to drop you an email to thank you and anyone concerned with the summer adventure days.  Absolutely fabulous, both kids have had a great time and the instructors seemed like good fun.  Looking forward to the ones next week.’

‘Just wanted to say a big thank you from K and E for the outdoor activity days both girls enjoyed them especially playing in the river, when asked they both would of liked more time/activities in the river. They thought the helpers were great and E was excited to tell me she could now swim, skills she picked up from the river day!  E was disappointed she wasn’t brave enough to abseil but keen to have another go when she gets a bit bigger. hey would both love to go again if given the chance and close enough to us. Many thanks’.

‘The boys really enjoyed the range of activities and were lucky enough to have 2 extra days. The abseiling was extremely challenging for them both but D managed to do it at the Valley of the Rocks. hey both really enjoyed archery and bushcraft, favourite thing was making s’mores! The water activities at Dewerstone were also a big hit. They were positive about their instructors. Overall, it was a very positive experience for them. For us it was a long way to go for quite a short day. If there’s a next time we would try to book accommodation near to the venue. Saying that, as carers, we were extremely appreciative of the opportunity given to the boys and wouldn’t hesitate to send them again.  Many thanks’

‘RG thought the days were very enjoyable (that’s huge praise from him). He loved the activities and enjoyed spending time with the guys that ran them.  He made new friends, who he has met again and liked being with other kids his age that are also in care as he doesn’t have to worry about explain his situation and awkward social interaction. The days allowed RG to try new experiences and push himself to do things he wouldn’t normally do. This gave him a great sense of confidence and self worth. He was very disappointed he couldn’t do more days he really got a taste for it. Both activities he did, he loved, and would have liked to try them all. Unfortunately the other ones that were offered were too far away. RG can’t wait till next summer for more activities and can’t thank the Virtual School enough for great experiences which were even more welcomed after months of lockdown’.

‘I just wanted to thank the Virtual School for organising such a fantastic number of days out for Em.  She was so eager and could not stop telling the family about all the exciting things she had done when she got home.  Because of Ems complex needs I was with her during the day and was very impressed with the staff from Adelong. The activities were challenging in different ways but everyone was able to have a go and clearly enjoyed themselves. The staff were supportive but not overpowering, they were very in tune to Ems needs which made her feel very relaxed almost straight away.  It was well organised, pitched at the right level to challenge but not frighten and I cannot recommend it highly enough. The Virtual School should be very proud, they did a great thing and left many memories for the children to talk about in the future. Thanking you for everything and Em is already asking when can she go again which sort of sums up the whole experience. Pete’


Educational Outcomes

Important Definitions:

Nationally Looked After Children have poorer educational outcomes than non-Looked After Children and so a number of studies have been carried out to analyse performance. Due to the sometimes rapidly changing status of Looked After Children, bodies who carry out analysis of the data define the criteria and methodology they have used. Unfortunately, these bodies do not all use the same definitions and so information is provided below to outline the differences.

Looked After Child: The term ‘looked after’ has a specific, legal meaning based on the Children Act 1989. The definition is as follows – a child is legally defined as looked after by a Local Authority if he or she:

  • is provided with accommodation for a continuous period of more than 24 hours
  • is subject to a Care Order; or
  • is subject to a Placement Order.

Child in Care (CiC): The Department for Education and the National Statistics Office definition of a ‘looked after child’ (CiC in this report) is a child who has been continuously looked after for at least 12 months, up to and including 31 March of that year. Outcomes are for all children and young people who are subject to a Care Order or who are accommodated by the Local Authority, regardless of in which Authority they are being educated. This cohort is sometimes referred to as the OC2 cohort in reference to related statutory returns.

In order to add clarity to this report we have used the term Looked After Child (LAC) when using the legal Definition and the term Child in Care (CiC) when using the DfE LAIT/National Statistics methodology.  


Based on local information for Children in Care and Children Looked After the main points to note are shown below;

  • Number of children in care has risen, both the number of Children Looked After and the number of Children in Care (CiC) to Devon for 12mths or more (OC2)
  • Percentage of children in care with SEN has risen in the last year, with 73% of Children in Care to Devon for 12mths or more with SEN (EHCP and SEN Support)
  • Attendance figures for CiC to Devon have improved across both primary and secondary age groups
  • Absence rates for primary age boys and girls have fallen in the last year. At secondary school age absence rates for girls have fallen and remained stable for boys
  • There was one permanent exclusion for a CiC to Devon for 12 months or more
  • Number of fixed term exclusions has remained relatively stable, whilst the percentage of CiC to Devon for 12 months subject to an exclusion has fallen
  • At KS4 Devon CiC for 12 months or more performed better than nationally in the English and Maths 9 to 4 measure and average attainment 8 measure.
  • 76% of children attending mainstream schools (primary and secondary schools), compared to 77% in 2018/19
  • 78% of children attending schools judged as good or outstanding (same percentage as in 2018/19)

Numbers of Children in Care as of May 2020

The chart below has been split into 3 sections which relate to the categories identified on the front page. The reference date which has been used is 31 May as this reflects numbers at the end of the 2019/20 academic year, before Year 11s were taken off school rolls. Whilst the Education Service supports all Children in Care, National comparisons are only possible for those under the CiC definition.

chart showing the number of children in care as of May 2020

The graph above shows that the number of Children in Care has risen across all cohorts.  The number of children who stay in Care to Devon for a period of 12 months or more has risen by 9% (32 children).  The number of children who have been in Care for any length of time has seen the biggest increase, rising by 16% (79 children).

The table below provides a further breakdown for children who have been in Care for 12 months or more.  The number of pupils aged 4 to 7 has risen from 10% of the CiC cohort in 2018/19 to 12% in 2019/20.  Those aged 8 to 10 and 11 to 16 have remained relatively stable, making up 27% and 61% of the cohort respectively (28% and 62% in 2018/19). However, as the trend lines in the table below indicate, the percentage of CiC aged 8 to 10 and 11 to 16 normally fluctuate year on year.

table showing children who have been in care for 12 months or more

Whole Year Absence (2018/19 national data - Children in Care for at least 12 months at 31 March)

Due to the pandemic and subsequent closure of schools, absence rates for the whole of the 2019/20 academic year are not available. This section is therbefore based on 2018/19 absence rates recently published by the DfE. Absence is recorded as either authorised or unauthorised. The graph and table below provide a benchmark against National averages for both these types of absence for the past 3 years. The level of overall absences fell slightly in Devon in 2018/19 with both unauthorised and authorised absences falling. Devon’s unauthorised absence rates are lower than the regional and national averages.


barchart showing percentage of absence Cic compared to latest national

Year Cic Cohort Authorised Non Authorised Total
2017 Devon 3.6 1.1 4.7
2017 South West 3.9 1.1 5.0
2017 National 3.3 1.3 4.7
2018 Devon 5.0 1.7 6.7
2018 South West 4.2 1.4 5.6
2018 National 3.5 1.5 5.0
2019 Devon 4.7 1.0 5.7
2019 South West 4.2 1.4 5.6
2019 National 3.5 1.7 5.1

(Source: Dfe Outcomes for children looked after by LAs: 31 March 2020 (published 25/03/21)

Significant work has taken place to reduce absence rates for older pupils and whilst national data will not be available until next year the local attendance data below shows an improving picture for secondary aged students overall.

Autumn Term Absence

(2019-20 national data – Children in Care for at least 12 month at 31 March)

Before schools closed due to the pandemic in the spring of 2019/20, autumn term overall absence rates were lower in Devon than both nationally and regionally. Overall absence rates were lower in secondary schools with CiC in special schools having significantly lower in absence rates. Absence rates for Devon CiC attending PRUs were also lower than the national average.


graph showing 2019-20 autumn term overall absence rates

Note: ‘All schools’ consists of state funded primary, state funded secondary, special schools and PRUs (PRUs are not in the above illustration).

The charts below provide a graphical presentation of attendance rates and illustrate that attendance rates have improved across the majority of NCY groups. In primary age children girls have better attendance rates however the picture changes for secondary school age children where boys have better attendance.

graph showing attendance rates for Devon CiC (in care for 12 months or more) by NCY group

Bar chart showing 2019 -20 attendance rates for Devon CiC in care for 12 months or more

Persistent Absence (2018/19 national data and 2019/20 local data)

Due to the pandemic and subsequent closure of schools, persistent absentee rates for the whole of the 2019/20 academic year are not available. The latest available published data for a full academic year is 2018/19 when the percentage of Devon Children in Care classified as persistent absentees fell slightly but continued to be higher than the national average (16.4% compared to 12% nationally).

However nationally published data for the 2019/20 autumn term indicates that Devon’s persistent absentee has fallen further and is now below the national rate (10.1% compared to 12.5% nationally).

Local data for 2019/20 indicates that the number of Devon Children in Care classified as persistent absentees has fallen whilst the number of Children in Care open to any local authority has remained stable. The table below illustrates this.

Number of persistently absent children in care * 2018-19 (Female)  



2018/19 (All) 2019/20 (Female) 2019/20 (Male) 2019/20 (All)
All children in care open to Devon local authority and attending Devon Schools 30 39 69 32 31 63
All children in care open to other local authorities but attending Devon Schools 5 7 12 8 10 18
All children in care open to any local authority and attending Devon schools 35 46 81 40 41 81

Data source: ONE database Aug 2020 and school census returns
* children of statutory school age attending state funded Devon schools, excludes independents, alternative provision and other establishments as per DfE absence methodology.

Note 1: persistent absence is based on less than 90% attendance.

SEN Information (2019/20 National Data)

Nationally nearly two-thirds (56%)1 of Children in Care have a Special Educational Need. This is much higher than the school population as a whole, where nationally only 14.9%2 have a Special Educational Need and of these just 3.1%2 have a Statement or EHC Plan.

In comparison with National statistics, Devon has historically had a much higher proportion of Children in Care with a Special Educational Need as shown in the graph below. In 2019/20, 73% of Children in Care have Special Educational Needs compared to 56% nationally. This also continues to be the case for Children in Care with an EHCP Plan, with 43.7% in Devon compared to 27.7% nationally. This will naturally have an impact on the overall percentage of pupils attaining threshold levels in National tests. For children who have complex and significant Special Needs, monitoring the rate of their individual progress is a more meaningful measure.

The chart below compares the National CiC figures to Devon’s CiC figures.


Bar graph showing the National CiC figures to Devons CiC figures

Devon 2018/2019

  • Any SEN = 71.5%
  • EHCP/Statement= 39.5%
  • SEN Support: 32.1%
  • No SEN:28.5%

National 2018/19

  • Any SEN = 55.3%
  • EHCP/Statement = 26.8%
  • SEN Support = 28.5%
  • No SEN = 44.7%

Devon 2019/20

  • Any SEN = 73.4%
  • EHCP/Statement = 43.7%
  • SEN Support = 29.7%
  • No SEN = 26.6%

National 2019/20

  • Any SEN = 55.7%
  • EHCP/Statement = 27.7%
  • SEN Support = 28.1%
  • No SEN = 44.3%


SEN by Primary Need (2019/20 Local Data)

A breakdown of the SEN primary need type, compared to national data, is provided in the graph below. Nationally the most common type of SEN in 2020 was Social, Emotional and Mental Health. This was also true for Devon but as the graph shows the percentages involved continue to be significantly higher.

Bar chart showing CiC with an EHCP or statement % by type of need

A breakdown of this same information by phase is provided below;

Graph showing children in care with an EHCP - % by need and school phase

The graph below shows the percentage of Looked After Children with SEN in each Year group as at end of May in each academic year.

Graph showing percentage of Children with SEN in each Year Group



Early Years take up of Provision

Take-up of provision by 2 year olds in Care was 70.6% (12 out of 17 children) in Summer 2020 and 83.3% (10) of these were accessing the full entitlement of 15 hours; this compares with the Devon averages for all children of 86.4% and 72.5% respectively (Spring 2020). The take up of 2 year old places is slightly lower than last summer (72.7%), this is likely to be linked to parents’ reluctance to take up a place for their children during COVID-19.  Most of the 2yr old children not taking up a place only became eligible in the summer term.  Of the 5 non-funded children, one was placed outside the County but would still be eligible for a place which would be funded by the LA area where they are based.

Currently (Summer 2020), all (27) 3 and 4 year olds in Care are taking up some of the Early Years entitlement and 88.9% (24) of these were accessing the full entitlement of 15 hours. The take-up of the full entitlement was higher than the Devon average figure of 86.7% (Spring 2020). There were 5 children accessing funded hours outside the County, including settings in the neighbouring authorities of Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay.

All children in the above figures were accessing funded settings in the private, voluntary and independent sector or were funded at maintained schools.

Line chart showing Early Years CiC - percentage take up of provision


Profile and Stability of Devon funded CiC (those in care any period of time)

Period in care (as at end of May 2020)

Number of CiC/% of CiC 1 year or less 2 years or less 3 years or less
NCY R to 11 number of CiC

% of CiC







NCY 6 number of CiC

% of CiC







NCY 11 number of CiC

% of CiC







Number of schools and care placements

Number of CiC/% of CiC Number of schools since starting care 3 or more Number of schools since starting care 4 or more Number of schools since starting care 5 or more Number of care placements 3 or more Number of care placements 4 or more Number of care placements 5 or more
NCY R to 11
Number of CIC% of CiC
























NCY 6 number of CiC

% of CiC



















NCY 11 number of CiC

% of CiC




















Number of CiC/% of CiC Any SEN EHCP
NCY R to 11 number of CiC

% of CiC





NCY 6 number of CiC

% of CiC





NCY 11 number of CiC

% of CiC





When comparing the period in care against previous years’ cohorts we can see that the percentage of overall CiC cohort (NCY R to 11) in care for 3 years or less has remained relatively stable in the last year.  For those CiC in NCY6 the percentage in care for 1 year or less has risen in the last year.

As this is the first year for providing this level of information, comparisons against previous years for number of schools and care placements cannot be made.  Next year we will be able to analyse this area further.

Bar graph showing the percentage of children in care as at end of May VSR



Outcomes for Devon funded CiC

Important information on exams and assessments for 2019/20 during the pandemic.

As part of steps taken to fight the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), the Department for Education announced that all exams due to take place in schools and colleges in England in summer 2020 were cancelled and that there will be no publication of any school or college level educational performance data based on tests, assessments or exams for 2020.

Schools and colleges will not be held to account on the basis of exams and assessment data from summer 2020 and data will not be used by others, such as Ofsted and local authorities, to hold schools and colleges to account.  There will be no school, college or multi-academy trust (MAT) level performance data based on summer 2020 tests, assessments and exams at any phase. There will be no publication or sharing, school, college or MAT level accountability measures, such as Progress 8 and level 3 value added, using the summer 2020 data.

Primary school assessments

There will be no national, regional, local or constituency statistics for any primary school assessments for the 2019 to 2020 academic year.

This includes:

  • early years foundation stage profile
  • phonics
  • key stage 1
  • multiplication tables check
  • key stage 2

This means that in the report there is no primary phase data. We have included Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5 because this is information which young people will be taking into their next phase of education. Primary schools have sent in progress and attainment data from the spring term before schools closed for the summer term.

Secondary Education - Key Stage 4

The headline accountability measures for KS4 are: grade 9 to 5  in English and Maths, Attainment 8, Progress 8, and English Baccalaureate (EBacc).

Children in Care – end of Key Stage 4 published results

In 2020, Devon Children in Care for 12 months or more (OC2 cohort) performed better than the national average in both the English and Maths grades 9 to 4 and Attainment 8 measures. The chart below compares Devon’s performance against national averages.

Bar chart showing the 2019 - 20 Key stafe 4 - CiC 12 months or more at 31 March

This meant outcomes achieved by Devon’s Children in care were the 12th highest in England.

Table displaying the outcomes achieved by Devon's children in care who were 12th highest in England

Data source: DfE LAIT 21/04/21



Looked After Children face significant challenges and are more likely to be Permanently Excluded from school and be subject to Fixed Term Exclusions than other children *.

Permanent Exclusions

There is a long delay in the release of National statistics for exclusions for Children in Care. Data collected locally shows that one Devon Child in Care (for 12 months or more) was permanently excluded in 2019/20. Prior to this, no Devon Child in Care has been Permanently Excluded for the past four years.

Managed Transfers

Managed Transfers are used to support children who are struggling to engage effectively with education have a fresh start in a new school.  In 2019-20 there were 4 Managed Transfers for secondary aged pupils and 1 for a primary aged pupil.

Fixed Term Exclusions (2018/19 national data – Children in Care for at least 12 months at 31st March)

Latest national data (2019)* indicates that 11.4% of Children in Care nationally have at least one fixed term exclusion (covering a full academic year), this means they are five times as likely to have a fixed term exclusion as all children (2.6%)*. This is higher in the South West and Devon where 13.9% and 12.5% respectively have at least one Fixed Term exclusion.

Line chart showing the CLA 12 months at 31 March - Percentage of pupils with one or more fixed term exclusion

*DfE Outcomes for Children Looked after by LAs: 31 March 2020, published 25 March 2021

Fixed Term Exclusions (2019/20 local data to 20 March 2020)

As a result of the school closures due to COVID-19 in March 2020, exclusions in this section are based on the academic year to 20 March 2020 (last day all schools were open to all children).  To enable comparisons against the previous year, exclusions data for 2018/19 has also been produced for the similar period (to 22 March 2019).

2019/20 has seen similar levels of fixed term exclusions for Children in Care to Devon (for any period of time) as the previous year.  30 children in 2019/20 were subject to a fixed term exclusion (compared to 28 previously), with a total of 64 exclusions (compared to 66 for the same period in the previous year).

Bar chart showing the fixed Term Exclusions Children in Care to Devon (Sept to Mar)

When reviewing children in care cohorts, those children in care to Devon for 12 months or more have seen a reduction, with 4.5% subject to a fixed term exclusion (compared to 7% previously). The table below provides a breakdown of the various cohorts.

Academic Year 2018-19 2019-20
(a) Total Looked After Children in Devon subject to a fixed period exclusion (all children in care regardless of how long they have been in care for) 28 30
(b) Number of Children in Care to Devon for 12 months (OC2) 24 17
% of CiC to Devon for 12 months (OC2) subject to a fixed term exclusion 7.0% 4.5%
(c) Number of Children Looked After (CLA) for any period of time (May 19 & 20) 504 583
% of CLA for any period of time subject to a Fixed Term Exclusion 5.5% 5.0%
(d) Number of Devon Children Looked After (CLA) for any period of time (June 18) attending a mainstream school 378 426
% of CLA for any period of time attending a mainstream school subject  to a Fixed Term Exclusion 7.5% 7.0%

The majority of exclusions are for persistent disruptive behaviour, verbal abuse / threats against an adult and physical assault against a pupil. The graph below provides a breakdown by each type, comparing Devon CiC against exclusions for all Devon pupils (exclusion types are defined nationally). The percentage of exclusions due to verbal abuse / threats against adults has fallen in 2019/20 whilst exclusions due to physical assaults (pupils and adults) and drug and alcohol related have risen.

The breakdown reflects that found for all pupils in Devon subject to Fixed Term Exclusions.

Bar charts showing Exclusions for period September to March (in recognition of COVID-19 school closures)

The Devon Inclusion project has had a specific work-stream to examine ways to reduce the incidence of exclusion for Children in care. The new protocol to support children in care and the Reducing Exclusions in Devon Schools (REDS) programme (as described on page 2) to support children in care at risk of exclusion were part of this workstream.

Local information indicates that the number of exclusions for Devon children in care are lower after they came into than before they came into care. This is especially the case for CiC in NCY6 which has the greatest reduction between the two key cohorts (NCY6 and NCY11).  NCY11 also saw a small reduction in the number off exclusions.

Bar chart showing Number of exclusions as % of CiC cohort

Data source: VSR at May, exclusions from ONE database.

However when we compare the percentage of CiC with at least 1 exclusion we see that, whilst there continues to be a reduction post care for NCY6, at NCY11 the percentage of children with at least one exclusion rises.

Bar chart showing percentage of CiC with at least one exclusion

Data source: VSR at May, exclusions from ONE database



Care Leavers

Children who have been in Care to the Local Authority for 13 weeks, between the age of 14 and 16 and were still in Care on their 16th birthday are legally entitled to Care Leaver status.  Young people who are still ‘in Care’ post-16 are also entitled to Care Leaver status and are therefore included in the figures below.

Post 16 Educational Outcomes

In 2020, for the students in Further Education for whom data has been returned.

  • 92% had either completed or were continuing with their learning programme at the end of the academic year, a slight increase on the previous year (91%).
  • 93% passed the primary course for which they were entered, an increase on the previous year (92%).
  • 59% of students who passed studied a main qualification at Level 1 or above, with 36% studying a main qualification at Level 2 or above.
  • 44% of those who chose to take English GCSE passed with a grade 9 to 4 or equivalent whilst 60% of those who took GCSE Maths passed with grades 9 to 4.

The chart below illustrates the breakdown of qualification level of main courses passed. In 2019/20 the greatest percentage of qualifications passed were at Entry Level, comprising of 41% of qualifications passed.

Bar chart showing care leavers - qualification level of main course passed

At a more detailed level, entry level courses, which had a main qualification of Skills for Life, and Level 1 Diplomas were the most prevalent qualification undertaken; 36% of passes were within Skills for Life qualifications. The chart below shows the breakdown of passes achieved by qualification level and type.

Bar graph showing the percentage breakdown of main course passed by qualification level and type

In addition to studying a main qualification, some students took additional qualifications, or their main qualification consisted of unit qualifications. For those students for whom data has been returned, 88 qualifications were taken in total.

The chart below provides a breakdown of all qualifications entered and passed.

Bar chart showing breakdown of all qualifications taken in 2019/20

Post 16 Personal Education Plans

It is a statutory requirement for Local Authority Virtual Schools to support Care Leavers up to age of 18 or longer if the young person is in education or training.  As part of Devon County Council’s commitment to better support our Care Leavers, the Virtual College, Social Care, training providers and our own Care Leavers have worked together to review how the Education section of the Pathway Plan can better support our young people. The result is a post 16 PEP that focuses on career or occupation planning as well as educational outcomes.

The Post 16 PEP, was reviewed at the end of the last academic year in partnership with the FE Colleges and discussed at the Care Leavers Employment Education and Training (CLEET) meeting. It aims to help those who are in education, employment or training and those who are Not in Employment Education and Training (NEET).  Its focus is to help a young person plan for a successful future and ensure they are able to access any courses, qualifications, work experience or other support to help them succeed.

In 2017 the Virtual School began to take a more proactive role in the support offered to Year 12 students through the PEP process.  PEP co-ordinators (PEPCOs) organise and attend Post 16 PEP meetings and the Virtual School now works closely with Careers South west in monitoring students at risk of becoming NEET.  This enables immediate intervention from social workers, Personal Advisors and Virtual School staff.  In November the number of students in Employment, Education or Training had improved by 3% to 89%.  The Virtual School’s monthly Education, Employment and Training meetings with key partners such as Young Devon and CSW targets those at risk of becoming NEET and uses a number of routes back into education, employment and training.

Post-16 Destinations for Looked After Children

Year 11 moving onto post 16 education, training or employment

Of the 2019/20 Year 11 cohort, three in four young people have remained in education, either by staying on in school or moving on to an FE College. This is an improvement on the previous year.

A breakdown of the destinations of pupils who left school in 2019/20 and earlier is provided below;

Bar chart showing Devon Local AUthority - Year 11 Completers - Children in Care and Care Leavers - 3 Year Trend

Data sources: Careers South West: 2020 Yr 11 cohort Nov 2020, 2019 Yr 11 cohort Nov 19, 2018 Yr 11 cohort Nov 2018.

Care Leaver & Care Leaver ‘in Care’ Year 13 (17 & 18 year old) NEET Percentages

Year Year 12 % Year 13 % Overall %
2017 Vulnerable group cohort 102 118 220
2017 NEET 13 12.7 22 18.6 15.9%
2018 Vulnerable group cohort 128 121 249
2018 NEET 18 14.1 22 18.2 16.1%
2019 Vulnerable group cohort 95 107 202
2019 NEET 11 11.6 21 19.6 15.8%
2020 Vulnerable group cohort 117 92 209
2020 NEET 17 14.5 12 13.0 13.9%

Data source: Careers South West, Nov 2020

Careers South West will continue to prioritise 17 and 18 year olds as the academic year progresses, particularly those who are currently not engaged or become NEET.  The volume of Children in Care who require close additional support is not large, but the circumstances faced by each one is unique and individually tailored solutions are often required.

Care Leavers 17 and 18 yr olds – national data for 2019/20

The percentage of care leavers in education, employment or training (EET) has fallen in the last year, whilst the percentage not in education, employment or training has risen slightly. The percentage of care leavers where the LA does not hold information has also risen in 2020.

Bar chart showing Care Leavers aged 17 and 18 by activity

Data source: DfE Children looked after in England including adoption: reporting year 2020, LA Activity table

Comparisons with earlier years cannot be made due to difficulties encountered by some LAs in recording this data in the first few years.

Update on Students Attending University

There are currently 28 care leavers currently at university which includes 9 who will be starting in September 2020.

The percentage of care leavers going into higher education has increased from 4% in 2014 to 7% in 2018. This is comparable with national figures.

Latest available national data indicates that 3% of care leavers now aged 19 – 21 years are in higher education. Fewer care leavers in Devon progress to higher education than nationally.

Line chart showing percentage careleavers who were in higher education (care leavers now aged 19-21 years)

The Virtual School and Careers South West have now put formal tracking in place to ensure we continue to support Care Leavers who are currently moving onto University, until the age of 21. If pupils are engaged in education and have a Special Educational Need this support will continue until they are 25 through their Personal Advisor . It is more difficult to support Care Leavers previously attending University as contact info is not always available. The National Network for the Education of Care Leavers (NNECL) was established in June 2013 by higher education institutions and National organisations committed to the progression and support of Care Leavers in higher education.


Quality of Provision end of academic year 2019/20

Over two thirds of Children in Care attend mainstream primary and secondary schools (76%), at a similar level to the previous year (77%). The percentage of Children in Care attending special schools is similar to last year (10.4% compared to 10.1% last year) whilst the percentage attending independent special schools has risen (7.0% compared to 5.9% previously).  Attendance at alternative provision is also similar to last year with only 2.3% attending compared to 2.1% previously.  The chart below provides a breakdown of attendance by establishment type.

78% of Children in Care were placed in good or better schools, this is close to Devon’s general school population (79% *). Progress of pupils in RI schools is carefully monitored by the Virtual School and whilst we aim to only place Children in Care in good or better schools, we also recognise the importance of stability and would not move a young person from a school which became RI if the young person was making expected progress. The graphs below and overleaf show the percentage of Children in Care placed in each Ofsted category of provision (where schools have been inspected).

Note: some children are attending schools which do not have an Ofsted outcome – these are either academy converters not yet inspected since conversion or new schools. These have been excluded from the charts below which are based on schools with an official Ofsted outcome.

Pie chart showing pupils attending by type of school

Pie chart showing all pupils attending by grade of school

*DfE School inspections and outcomes: management information at 31/05/20

The following graphs show the percentage of children attending schools for each Ofsted Outcome by school phase.


The percentage of pupils attending ‘good’ or ‘better’ primary schools has risen to 88.7% this year (88.6% in 2019/20). This reflects the picture nationally for primary schools (87.6%1).

The percentage of pupils attending ‘good’ or ‘better’ secondary schools has also fallen this year (57.7% compared to 70.5% in 2018/19).  This is lower than the picture for Devon’s general secondary school population (65.1%) and the national picture for secondary schools (80.6%1). This is due to some large secondary schools in Devon currently graded as requiring improvement.

Note: some children attend schools which do not have an Ofsted outcome – these are either academy converters not yet inspected since conversion or new schools. These are excluded from the charts which are based on schools with official Ofsted outcomes.

Those attending ‘good’ or ‘better’ special schools has risen to 94.7% (previously 87%).

Pie chart showing pupils in primary school Pie chart showing pupils in secondary schools Pie chart showing pupils in special schools including independent special schools Pie chart showing pupils in alternative and independent provision including free schools and studio schools

References and sources