About the Virtual School

The Virtual School exists to help care-experienced children and young people do as well as they possibly can in their education. This includes children and young people who were 'previously looked-after’ and refers to children who have been in the care of an English or Welsh local authority and have ceased to be looked-after under a Child Arrangements Order, Special Guardianship Order or Adoption Order.

We work with teachers in schools across Herefordshire (and beyond). We make sure that they have up to date information on children and check that there is appropriate support available.

All looked-after children should have a Personal Education Plan (PEP) which should be reviewed on a termly basis. Through the PEP, we monitor progress, highlight gaps and identify interventions to improve outcomes.

The Virtual School offers information and advice via telephone to parents, carers and schools to promote the educational achievement of previously looked-after children who attend school within Herefordshire.

In particular, the Virtual School role includes making sure that:

  • Care-experienced children are admitted promptly to schools and that, once started, they flourish through good attendance and the best academic attainment and progress
  • We know how well care-experienced children are doing at school and intervening when we see they need extra support, for example for children with special educational needs
  • We work with teachers in schools to give care-experienced children access to the best possible expertise to help them succeed. Where appropriate we will challenge colleagues to meet the highest expectations for our children and to address underachievement
  • We take every opportunity to celebrate and highlight the successes of care-experienced children and young people across Herefordshire
  • We work with fellow professionals and adults to ensure excellent outcomes are not jeopardised if things are difficult. This includes where a child might be at risk of exclusion or if a school move is necessary for whatever reason

All schools must have a designated teacher for looked-after and previously looked-after children. The Virtual School provides training and support to enable the designated teachers to carry out their role.

View guidance for designated teachers for looked-after and previously looked-after children (PDF)

LAC Pupil Premium

Children who are looked after by Herefordshire Council receive LAC Pupil Premium. The conditions of grant state that the Virtual School Headteacher must manage the pupil premium including devolving this funding to schools as appropriate. Schools must detail in the Personal Education Plan how they will use the Pupil Premium to benefit the individual looked-after child.

Previously looked-after children are also eligible for Pupil Premium funding. This is paid directly to schools.

View the Pupil Premium conditions of grant 2019 to 2020

Support To Engage Participate and Succeed (STEPS)

STEPS is a service to support children and young people in years R-11 who are looked after by Herefordshire Council. STEPS workers/assistants are supervised by the Participation Officer.

Why

Research has shown that education outcomes for children and young people in care are better if they have someone to support them to overcome any obstacles they may face. These barriers maybe academic, social or emotional. Most of the time, they will get support through their school and carers to do this. However, sometimes, they may need or want to work with someone who is separate from home or school.

Who  

STEPS is for children and young people who are looked after by Herefordshire Council. It is for young people in years R-11. Usually children/young people will meet their STEPS worker/assistant on a one-to-one basis, but sometimes there may be a small group of young people who have similar needs or share interests. 

Research also shows that there is benefit in young people with similar experiences being given opportunities to meet. This is why STEPS workers/assistants run two clubs for children and young people who are looked after. The purpose of the clubs is not to talk about being in care but just to be comfortable knowing that other people can relate to what they are experiencing.

What

STEPS workers/assistants will support children and young people to overcome barriers to education by providing small group and individual opportunities for young people to work towards mutually agreed outcomes. The plan of work for the sessions will have been decided by the young person, their social worker or Virtual School Education Officer.  STEPS workers/assistants do not replace independent visitors, advocates, family support workers, contact supervisors or personal advisers. They may work alongside these people and other professionals but will be focused on supporting the child/young person to achieve the outcomes that have been agreed at the beginning of the piece of work.

When

The number of sessions a young person will have with a STEPS worker/assistant will be decided by the STEPS worker/assistant and Participation Officer in communication with the child/young person and carer. This will be reviewed and additional sessions may be offered if further work is identified. Children and young people will usually see a STEPS worker/assistant after school or college or in the holidays, but depending on the needs of the individual, some sessions will happen in school. This would only happen if agreed by the child/young person and school.

Where 

Children and young people could meet their STEPS workers/assistants anywhere, at home, at school or in the community. All activities / venues will be risk assessed. 

How

Virtual School Education Officers and social workers can make a referral by completing the Mosaic referral. This will be considered by the Participation Officer. Referrals need to identify the purpose of the referral and define outcomes for the service. At times, there may be a wait until a STEPS worker/assistant can meet with a child or young person and this will be communicated to the referrer. Please note that is the responsibility of the referrer/an identified trusted person to support introductions to the STEPS worker/assistant to ensure no delay between allocation and sessions. Children/young people can request a STEPS worker/assistant by speaking to their social worker, Virtual School Education Officer, Independent Reviewing Officer or the Participation Officer.

The SEEdS Project

The Herefordshire SEEdS (Social, Emotional and Educational Support) service is aimed at providing support to the adults who are caring for and supporting children who are looked after by Herefordshire Council.

The project offers a range of services to carers and school staff to support them in managing the needs of the children in their care who may be showing challenging behaviour or other concerns.

View further information and the referral form below: