There are over 600 children in care in Devon and 700 care leavers. Each one has the right to the very best educational experience
and the opportunity to achieve the best outcomes possible. All children and young people have different educational needs so the Virtual School exists to help ensure that children in care and care leavers are provided with first class education that caters for their needs, supports their wellbeing and recognises their success.
To do this the Virtual School staff will work hard, along with other professionals, parents and carers, to help ensure our young people achieve the best they can in order to maximise opportunities. We do this by talking to our young people, helping identify their strengths, needs, long term goals and ambitions. We also work hard to raise the profile of children in care and care leavers in school, college and on into university or employment. It is equally important for us to learn from our young people, listen to their ideas and see how we can make things better for them to do really well at school. To help us do this we have a Children in Care Council called Stand Up Speak Up.
The Virtual School supports care leavers until they are aged 21 (25 if in higher education). From 16 onwards they are introduced, through their social worker, to a personal advisor who will, with the support of other key people, work alongside care leavers to help them plan for their future.
The Virtual School is exactly that – virtual! It is not a building, but a group of professionals who work closely together to ensure the best outcomes for you. It does not replace the mainstream school you attend but is an additional resource where people can work cooperatively and collaboratively to benefit you.
The Virtual School consists of a Headteacher, four Area Learning Advocates, and Personal Education Plan Support Officers (PEPSOs). All work closely with the Designated Teacher in your school. Designated Teachers are specifically trained and support other school staff members to ensure your particular needs are met, you are encouraged to do your best and that you are supported appropriately. Find out more about all these people and what they do.
Just like in any school there is also a Governing Body which oversees the work of the Virtual School and the difference it makes. It also helps develop plans to support all of Devon’s children in care.
Working with schools
The Virtual School also provides training, advice and support for schools. Just one example of this is the Child in Care Mentoring Programme where school-based staff are being specially trained to support and advise children in care. By being more aware of some of the issues children in care have to deal with, the mentors can support individual needs or help address particular issues and that means improved outcomes for young people. In addition to actively promoting better communication between professionals the Virtual School staff will also challenge to schools if needed.