Virtual School Team
The Virtual School Headteacher
The Headteacher’s role is to lead and manage the work of the Virtual School across Devon, to monitor the achievements of all children in care in Devon, support pupils, schools and staff as appropriate and challenge where necessary.
Extended role of the Virtual School
The DfE commissioned a ‘children in need’ review in 2019 and, as a result of this, it announced an ‘extended role’ for virtual schools in 2021, initially for one academic year.
Local authorities were given funding for this extended role of the virtual school for the academic year 2021/22. This DfE central funding has subsequently been further allocated to the academic year 2022/23.
The extended role has been established to support children and young people with a social worker, in addition to those who are children in care such as children and young people on child in need and child protection plans. We wait to see if this becomes a permanent, statutory duty within the virtual school remit.
Kate Hingston (EYFS and Primary) and David Wibberley (Secondary and FE) were appointed as Virtual School Extended Role Education Advisors at the end of September 2021.
VS Extended Role aims as set out by the DfE:
- Enhance partnerships between education settings and the local authority so agencies can work together; helping to keep children on CIN and CP plans safe.
- Identify the CIN and CP cohort’s needs; make them visible and intervene to overcome barriers to poor educational outcomes; ensuring pupils reach their potential. Promote practice that supports pupil engagement in education.
- Support and advise key professionals to help children on CIN and CP plans make progress, including through increasing their confidence in using evidence-based interventions. Raise aspiration, levelling up attainment; narrowing outcomes gaps.
Kate Hingston and David Wibberley have been working with social care and education colleagues to strategically support the progress of children and young people on CIN and CP plans. Their role will continue into 2022-23 and they can be contacted via email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Contact the Virtual School Team
- Area learning advocates
- Welfare and inclusion
- Administration and data support
- Other professionals
- Governing body
Area learning advocates
There are four area learning advocates (ALAs) working across Devon. Each one is responsible for children in care in schools in a particular area of Devon – they will speak on your behalf as they get to know you really well and about your needs.
The ALAs will work with your school, parent or carer and, together with other professionals, will ensure that children in care are well supported and that your voice is heard. They can help identify additional support and will keep the Virtual School Headteacher informed of your educational progress and any issues.
- Exeter, East Devon and Dorset: Julie Potter firstname.lastname@example.org (also first point of contact for queries regarding unaccompanied asylum-seeking children)
- Exeter, Mid Devon and South Somerset: Sarah Acland email@example.com
- 16-18 and NEET: Danny Mead firstname.lastname@example.org
- South Devon, Plymouth, Torbay and South Cornwall: Andrew Squire email@example.com (also first point of contact for adopted children and those under special guardianship orders)
- North Devon, North Cornwall and North Somerset: Campbell Orr (with effect from 3 January 2023 – in the meantime email firstname.lastname@example.org)
Welfare and inclusion
Education Wellbeing Officer
The Education Wellbeing Officer works with a wide range of colleagues, and parents/carers to prevent and reduce the number of children who are missing education due to psychological medical absence, for example, anxiety disorders or other mental health issues.
When a child is experiencing difficulties and there is a need for a change of school, an inclusion officer would become involved. Inclusion officers would involve learning advocates in working with schools to look at the provision and any additional resources which would help the child or young person to re-engage with their learning.
Should the need for a change of school be needed the inclusion officer will organise a protocol meeting, following Devon’s agreed protocol for eliminating exclusion and assist in identifying the new school for the young person to transfer to.
Area learning advocates may involve inclusion officers when a child is experiencing difficulties.
For more information see Education Inclusion Service.
Educational Psychology Service
The Virtual School works closely with the Educational Psychology Service to provide support for young people needing educational psychology assessments and those who facing anxiety around education and school.
Administration and data support
The staff in this team act as a central contact point for any queries from schools and other professionals regarding the education of our children in care, they monitor the team mailbox and send out relevant information, requests and guidance to our designated teachers.
The data staff ensure our records are kept up-to-date using the Capita One and ePEP online systems and also produce our weekly Virtual School Roll.
VS Administrator (Kate Clarke)
Admin for Virtual School Headteacher, area learning advocates and Virtual School Team, info/training for designated teachers, organisation of children in care celebration event, designated teacher conference, education panels, admin for Virtual School governing body and any general enquiries.
Virtual School Data Coordinator (Sarah Short)
Producing the Virtual School roll each week and keeping Capita ONE system up to date with information on our children in care.
Educational Support Officer (Aga Spier)
Pupil Premium Plus administration, NEET Panel with post-16 data tracking and organising one-to-one tutoring where necessary.
If you have any issues, for example, password resets or login problems, please email email@example.com.
You can also read the Virtual School policy on school admissions or applications for children in care.
PEP support officers (PSOs)
The PEP support officers work with children, foster carers, parents, school staff, social workers and other agencies, they attend the Personal Education Plan meetings and support designated teachers to ensure the voice of the child is at the heart of the process. Our PEP support officers are:
- Helen Conibear firstname.lastname@example.org and Rachel Friend email@example.com administer the ePEP system and ensure all PEPs are up-to-date and quality assured.
- (South Devon, Plymouth, Torbay and South Cornwall and post-16 at Exeter College, Bicton College and Duchy College): Rob Martin firstname.lastname@example.org
- (North Devon, North Cornwall and North Somerset and Post-16 at South Molton): Bethan Roberts email@example.com
- (Exeter, Mid Devon and South Somerset also Great Torrington and Petroc Barnstaple and Tiverton: Nenny Wright firstname.lastname@example.org
- (Exeter, East Devon and Dorset): Kate Stanley email@example.com
PEP coordinators (PEPCOs)
Helen Conibear and Rachel Friend arrange all the PEP meetings and offer support to schools. Administer the ePEP system and ensure all PEPs are up-to-date and quality assured.
Please contact Helen Conibear (tel 01392 388734) and Rachel Friend (tel 01392 384465) in the first instance if you have any queries concerning a PEP meeting.
Extended role of Virtual School
The extended role has been established to support children and young people with a social worker such as children and young people on Child in Need and Child Protection Plans, in addition to the work of the Virtual School Team who support those who are children in care.
- David Wibberley (Education Advisor, secondary and further education) firstname.lastname@example.org
- Kate Hingston (Education Advisor, early years and primary) email@example.com
Every school and setting has by law to appoint a senior member of staff to champion the needs of children in care who are in their school.
This person will be present at most meetings and will lead ensuring the personal education plan meets the educational needs of each child. They also have to provide an annual report to the school’s governing body/board of directors.
In school mentor
This may be a teacher or a member of support staff who has been specially trained to support children in care and will work with them on a one-to-one basis. They will work with the designated teacher.
Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children
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. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07484345897.
The governing body of the Virtual School fulfils three core functions:
- To ensure clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction.
- To hold the ‘virtual’ headteacher to account for the educational performance of the pupils on roll.
- To ensure resources are utilised to best effect and have maximum impact on outcomes for pupils.
It is the function of the virtual governing body to develop a deep understanding of the issues surrounding the virtual school and to be able to ask well-informed questions to ensure all of the pupils on roll at the virtual school are able to make the best progress and have their needs met. The governing body will champion the needs of the pupils and utilise its combined expertise and experience to ensure resources are made available and outcomes improve.
The Virtual School staff will also work closely with your school, together with other professionals such as school advisors, school improvement officers, social workers, independent review officers and staff in schools. The Virtual School will promote and champion the specific needs of children in care and work to ensure any professional support is linked and effective.
Educational psychologists work in every school/educational establishment in Devon and prioritise support for children in care. This will include practical advice and training for the Designated Teacher and In-School Mentor. In addition, educational psychologists provide education support for fostering panels and the Service Around the Child Team.
Governor personal statements
Wendy Ohlson – Virtual School Headteacher
Having grown up on a farm in North Devon I feel very privileged that my teaching career has been based in this beautiful County.
I studied Theology at Westminster College in Oxford and then completed my teacher training, ready to return to Devon as an RE teacher at Kingsbridge Community College. I had many different posts within the school over 30 years and was able to be part of many National initiatives as Deputy Principal.
My work was largely focused on the pastoral work of the college working with the staff and families to ensure all children felt safe at school and thrived in their learning.
This prepared me well to join the Virtual School in 2018 as an area learning advocate for East Devon working with schools, carers and social care colleagues to ensure each of our children in care has access to the best educational opportunities that suit their needs.
I am now very proud to be Virtual School Headteacher leading the team to continue to advocate for best quality education for Devon`s children in care.
Councillor Andrew Leadbetter
As chair of the Virtual School Governing Body, it is my duty to work with the Virtual School Headteacher and fellow governors, to make sure our children in care receive the best education.
The close working relationship between Education and Children’s Social Care is essential to meet the many challenges these young people have.
Debbie is the team leader of the Governance Consultancy Team and has more than 20 years experience of school governance.
The team provides information, advice, training and support to school governors in a varied range of school settings across Devon and the wider south west.
Prior to joining the Governor Team Debbie worked in the voluntary sector in Exeter and is committed to ensuring that all volunteers have the training and support they need to fulfil their role. Debbie’s role on the Board is to represent the School Effectiveness Team and to ensure that the Board probes and asks challenging questions of the Virtual School Headteacher when it comes to the educational outcomes of the children and young people on roll.
I am employed by Devon County Council as a social worker in the Fostering Team and have been in my current post for approximately eight years. Prior to this, I worked in the Child Care Assessment Team in Tiverton.
I have been a qualified social worker since 1989 and have worked in childcare since then in various settings. I am a parent of three children, their experience at school and the time my husband has been a governor, have sparked my interest in becoming one.
I am well aware that the children who are accommodated have potentially more hurdles to overcome than some other young people and it is crucial that we have a system that supports and promotes their education.
The school my children attend is particularly proactive in supporting the young people they have who are in care and any dealings with them have been very positive.
I also link in often with my foster carers as they support the young people in placements and are good advocates for them in various forums.
Secondary school representative, currently Headteacher at St James School in Exeter.
Councillor Tracy Adams
I am an elected county councillor for the electoral division of Pinhoe and Mincinglake. I intend to serve the interests of all residents, regardless of political persuasion.
I am a member of the Labour Party and take an active interest in a number of national and local campaigns. I enjoy being an active member of my community through local groups and want to do more to support it.
My priorities are to support residents with road and traffic issues due to heavy development; to ensure our schools are the best they can be and children are safe; building community groups.
Employment and Skills Strategy Manager (Education), post-16 participation.
Primary school representative
Further education college representative.
Previously looked after and adopted children representative. Kath is our Regional Adoption Agency Service Manager.
We also have one of our Devon foster carers on the Governing Body.