Education spotlight: The virtual school

Article source: FASD South West

What is the role of the Virtual School Head and the Designated Teacher?

On 1 September 2018, Virtual School Head Teachers became responsible for promoting the educational achievement of previously looked-after children living within their local area.

What does that mean to me?

The Virtual School Head (VSH) should:

  • respond to parental requests for advice and information – for example, advice on school admissions in their area. To support you and your child in planning transitions from school to school as early as possible, early transition planning is advised for adopted children
  • ask for information on trauma informed schools and those with children who have undiagnosed and diagnosed Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)
  • provide you (on request) with information on local specialist schools and where appropriate, the VSH should sign-post you to other services that can offer advice and support
  • attend or lead a ‘Team Around the Child/Family’ (TAF) or Family Meeting; the Virtual Head will have the trauma informed training and should make sure that the whole child is looked and a plan made through multi-agency working
  • respond to requests for advice and information from providers of early education, Designated Teachers (see information below about this role) in maintained schools and academies, and providers of alternative provision in their area in respect of individual children supported by the local authority. In particular, the VSH should develop/ build on existing good working relationship with designated teachers for previously looked-after children in their area
  • make general advice and information available to early years settings and schools to improve awareness of the vulnerability and needs of previously looked-after children. This should include training and support on adverse childhood experiences, trauma and FASD/complex needs
  • publish a website where they post training available for schools which you could pass on to your 1:1, class teacher or Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) (We are aware that not all Virtual Heads advertise they support adopted families but their websites are out of date not because they are not responsible)

This should also include promoting good practice on identifying and meeting previously looked after children’s needs, and guidance on effective use of the PP+ (Pupil Premium Plus, a fund available to support adopted children in school).

If you are frustrated with your school not supporting you, if there have been incidents in school where the school just don’t get the need please contact your Virtual School Head, don’t let it escalate as they have a legal obligation to support your child.

Statutory guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) requires virtual school heads to provide information and advice to adoptive parents and also to providers of funded early years education and designated teachers.

Virtual School Heads must also ensure that their local authority fulfils their duty to provide suitable advice and information for the purpose of promoting the educational achievement of adopted children.

Local Virtual Head contacts and schools

If you would like your child to have a place at school we can liaise with the virtual school in your area – please do get in touch with Adopt South West or speak to your social worker. If your child already has a education, health and care plan (EHCP) in place, they will automatically be eligible to be considered for a school place.

Virtual schools are in:
If you require support with your child returning to school please do get in touch with Adopt South West.

Source: DfE government guidance on the role of Virtual Head

Designated Teachers

Every school is required by law to have a ‘Designated Teacher’ who represents children in care and those who have left it. It is their role to liaise with the Virtual School Head, Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) and other school staff to support your child.

Please ask your school who your Designated Teacher is as they should participate in every SEND review meeting you have at school and support your family!

They will take part in specialist training that is available through the Virtual School.

Source: Statutory guidance and more details of this key role in your child’s school: Designated teacher for looked-after and previously looked-after children