Virtual heads should support the education of looked after children
New guidance on the education of looked after children has placed extra emphasis on the role of virtual school heads.
The role of the virtual head is to provide an educational resource outside of the school environment that promotes educational achievement among fostered children. Under the new statutory guidance, they will now become the ‘lead responsible officer’ supporting educational experiences.
The new guidance also indicates that virtual heads should encourage foster carers and social workers to have high expectations for looked after children. Their role is typified by the work of Carol Burrows, an educational specialist who provides professional support to Perpetual Fostering’s foster carers. Carol holds regular drop in sessions at Perpetual Fostering’s head office, where foster carers can discuss any worries and concerns they might have.
Joannne Sharples, Fostering Services Manager at Perpetual Fostering, said: “Sometimes it is good for foster carers to have the opportunity to chat in a less formal setting about the education of the young people in care.
“Carol is here to provide that and an understanding of the individual needs and learning styles of the young people in their care.
“She also supports the development of Personal Education Plans, which need to be accurate, current and fit for purpose – and understood by both the carers and the young people involved.
“We want our children to grow up within a positive and inspirational culture so it is important that our looked after children are happy and motivated within their schools and placements.”
The guidance document, published by the Department of Education, stresses the need to reduce the attainment gap between looked after children and their peers. It says the creation of a culture of high aspirations should be a top priority.
Dr Lucy Peake, director of the Fostering Network, said: “Children who are looked after away from their parents can often need additional support in school, and it is pleasing that the Government is using virtual heads to help ensure that this can happen in England.
“If local authorities can meet their responsibilities, then this is a very positive step forward in ensuring that all our children receive a rounded and thorough education.”
If you would like to discuss the educational support available to foster carers, please contact the Perpetual Fostering team either via the website or by calling 0845 130 4748