What the Virtual School does

                                                                                                                               Camden Virtual School Logo

It is the Virtual School’s responsibility to:

  • develop and improve policy and services for Looked After Children and young people within the local authority
  • provide training, advice and support to early years providers, schools, colleges and other education institutions as well as social workers, independent reviewing officers, foster carers and related professionals to promote the attainment of children and young people in care, care leavers, those previously in care and strategic overview of Children in Need
  • ensure that the providers of fostering services, residential care and alternative educational provision can show that they prioritise the educational success of Looked After Children and Children in Need
  • ensure there is timely communication and effective co-operation with the Virtual School head from other local authorities, particularly in relation to possible education placement changes, school admissions, educational success and exclusions
  • raise awareness of the importance of education and lifelong learning
  • undertake multi agency work, collaborating with a range of other professionals to improve education outcomes
  • maintain rigorous and robust tracking and monitoring of children's school admission, attendance, attainment and progress
  • ensure the pupil premium and other resources are used effectively and impact on success and progress
  • provide additional opportunities for out of school learning and leisure
  • celebrate successes and provide enrichment opportunities 

Who is who in the Virtual School

Head of Virtual School: Natalie White

“Education is a passport to a future with choices. This is important for all, and even more so for children in care and children in need. I have the overall responsibility for the educational progress, inclusion and well being of all children in care to Camden aged 2-25 and oversight of the education of children in need. I work with a wide range of partners sharing the corporate parenting duty in Camden as well as liaising with schools, carers, social care and agencies wherever our children and young people are placed. I welcome contact with you directly so please call or email me.
phone: 020 7974 2359
email: Natalie.White@camden.gov.uk

Deputy Virtual School Head: Mary Holder

Strategic Lead for Post 16 Education Employment and Training for Looked after Children and Care Leavers.
email: Mary.Holder@camden.gov.uk

Post 16 Inclusion Worker: Prince Fitzritson

Supporting Post 16 Education, Employment and Training and Post 16 Looked After Children to address the barriers to learning and engagement in education or training.
email: Prince.Fitzritson@camden.gov.uk

Operations Manager: Lyn Mccabe

Leading on all Virtual School business and processes, attendance and projects for Looked After Children e.g. the annual celebration event.
email: Lyn.Mccabe@camden.gov.uk

Education Support Officer: Osita Okeke-Aru

Managing payments, reports, computer management and distribution and the bulletin for the Virtual School.
email: Osita.Okeke-Aru@camden.gov.uk

Education Support Officer: Hayley Solomons

Focusing on Pupil Premium Plus, tuition and enrichment activities for Looked After Children.
email: Hayley.Solomons@camden.gov.uk

Early Years, KS1,   Education Consultant/Attainment Data Lead/Lead for Previously Looked After Children: Leonie Holt

Supporting Looked After Children at nursery to Year 2, providing advice, information and signposting for previously looked after children.
email: Leonie.Holt@camden.gov.uk

Special Educational Needs Coordinator/Consultant for Transition to Secondary and Years 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7: Lynn Burrows

Supporting Looked After Children with Education, Health and Care Plans and Looked After Children in transition from primary to secondary school up to Year 7.
email: Lynn.Burrows@camden.gov.uk

Years 8, 9 and Key Stage 4 Consultant and Coordinator: Samuel Denham

Supporting Looked After Children in secondary school years 8, 9, 10 and 11.
email: Samuel.Denham@camden.gov.uk

Educational and Child Psychologist for Looked After Children and Right Balance: Dr Trudy Kearney 

Undertaking educational assessments and providing therapeutic support for Looked After Children as needed.
email: Trudy.Kearney@camden.gov.uk

Specialist Re-integration and Inclusion Officer: Fenella Walker

Supporting secondary school Looked After Children and Children in Need to stay in school, and developing mentoring support.
email: Fenella.Walker@camden.gov.uk

Specialist Re-integration and Inclusion Officer: Yomi Sode

Supporting secondary school Looked After Children and Children in Need to stay in school, and developing mentoring support.
email: Yomi.Sode@camden.gov.uk

Personal Education Plans

All children and young people in care must have a Personal Education Plan (PEP) as part of their care plan.  Their care plan is incomplete without a current PEP.

The PEP is set up by the child’s social worker, in partnership with the designated teacher for Looked After Children at the school or education setting. It is drawn up at a meeting including the child/young person, carers, social worker and all other relevant professionals.

For children and young people new into care, their first PEP needs to be held within 20 days of them coming into care. However, where a child or young person is placed in an emergency, the PEP should be set up within 10 working days of them coming into care, wherever they are placed.

PEPs and the PEP meetings highlight the commitment that all of us as corporate parents, parents, carers have in taking joint responsibility for ensuring children and young people in care get the best out of the educational/ training opportunities available to them.

Guidance and information about the ePEP and a link to the ePEP web site can be found below.

epeponline.com
Designated Teacher User Guide for ePEP Online (PDF)
Social Worker User Guide for ePEP Online (PDF)

ePEP Single Sign-on for Designated Teachers:
Web link: epep.tv/video-training
Password: EPEPTRAINING

VS ePEP Training (PPT)

Camden Virtual School QA Guidance (PDF)
VS PEP Checklist (PDF)
PEP Timeframes 2022-23 (PDF)

Pupil Premium Plus

Many schools have been given additional funding to support vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils. Children in care are seen as one of the most vulnerable groups, with poorer educational outcomes than their peers and many facing a complex range of barriers to educational achievement.

We expect schools to take full responsibility for providing appropriate support and interventions to each child and young person on their school roll. We therefore target the use of Pupil Premium Plus for anything that is needed in addition to this.

Please note that all requests for Pupil Premium Plus funding should be submitted via the SMART target section of ePEP.

We have most recently used Pupil Premium Plus for the following:

  •     integration and inclusion staff
  •     tuition
  •     computers
  •     mentors
  •     Key Stage 4 consultant
  •     educational psychologists
  •     training
  •     enrichment activities

If you have any queries please email VirtualSchool@camden.gov.uk.

Useful links

Educational progression and transitions

See the Key Stages in a child’s education

Which Year Group is your child in? 

For all children, change can be stressful. For Looked After Children it can touch on feelings of insecurity and loss.

The key transitions for children and young people in care are:

  • moving into early years/nursery provision
  • starting school – reception class
  • moving from primary to secondary school
  • moving from year 11 to a 6th form college, training, employment and training 

Starting at Nursery

Attendance at pre-school / Early Years is not statutory, but there is a lot of evidence that shows how beneficial access to this provision can be. 

For further information:

The Two Year Old Scheme entitles young children in the care system aged 2–3 years to up to 15 hours per week (up to 570 hours per year) of free nursery provision.

All 3-4 year olds are entitled to free early education and childcare for 5 hours per week during term time.

Applications for funding under the 2 year old scheme need to be made via the local authority where the foster carer lives.  Once approved  the foster carer will be given a list of local nurseries with vacancies who are registered with the scheme.   All other nursery applications can be made directly to the provider.
In order to ensure a smooth transition into nursery, the needs of the child are integral to the bespoke transition plan.  Foster carers can expect to spend time in the nursery to settle their child in.

Transition from Nursery to Reception

Foster carers should visit local primary schools when their child is in the autumn term of Nursery / a year before their child would be due to start at school.  Applications for a school place need to be made to the local admissions team online by the end of the autumn term .   In accordance with the admissions code, children who are looked after or previously looked after will be automatically entitled to their first choice of school. School places are offered the following spring term in April.  There may be a phased transition into school and foster carers can expect to spend time with their child settling them into this new environment.

Transition from Year 2 to Year 3

At the end of Year 2, children who are attending an infant school transfer to the junior school, which may involve changes such as a new headteacher, new teachers, new buildings and playground. For the majority of children this will not apply.

Transition from Year 6 to Year 7

Foster carers should visit local secondary schools (rated Ofsted 2 or above) when their child is in the Autumn Term of Year 6, apply for a school place and follow the secondary transition process in line with other Year 6 children. In accordance with the admissions code, children who are looked after or previously looked after will be automatically entitled to their first choice of school. School places are offered in March of the following spring term.

For children with an Eduction, Health and Care Plan, the SEN Team within the local authority where the child resides will manage the secondary transfer process. Foster carers will be asked to submit a secondary school preference form to the SEN Team who will consult with the preferred schools.

Transition from Year 9 to Year 10

Attendance at parents/carers evenings meetings is important and expected, even more so during Year 9 when young people need support in choosing their Key Stage 4 options/pathway. There may be a change of Head of Year between Year 9 and 10 along with an increased expectation of independent study skills and time management.

Transition from Year 11 to Year 12

Year 11 is a crucial time for young people to apply for an appropriate course that is matched to their interests and desired career pathway and is within reasonable distance of their placement. They should attend open evenings, open days and access careers advice to ensure their education placement at Year 12 is realistic in terms of their educational attainment and is meeting their aspirations and needs.

16+ education, employment, training and financial support

Raising the Age of Participation was introduced in 2015.  Young people, including 16+ Looked-After Children are required to do one of the following until at least their 18th birthday: 

•    stay in full-time education, i.e. 16hrs per week at a college
•    spend 20 hours or more a week working or volunteering, while in part-time education or training
•    An Apprenticeship – for more information visit Camden Apprenticeships webpage.

Please direct any post 16 education queries to:

Mary Holder the Virtual School’s Deputy Virtual School Head, who works in collaboration with a number of professionals to ensure that young people Looked – After and Care Leavers are supported into education, training or employment. 

Responsibility: Strategic Lead for Post 16 Education Employment and Training for Looked after Children and Care Leavers
email: Mary.Holder@camden.gov.uk
Or
Fenella Walker
Responsibility: Specialist Re-integration and Inclusion Officer
email: Fenella.Walker@camden.gov.uk

Guidance on support and services:

Attendance

Persistent absence is a serious problem for children and young people. Much of the work children miss when they are off school is never made up, leaving these children and young people at a considerable disadvantage for the remainder of their school career.

There is also clear evidence of a link between poor attendance at school and low levels of achievement.

The Virtual School is committed to every child receiving a full time education and attending regularly. To support regular attendance and improved attendance we:

  • monitor the attendance of children in care using alerts and data from Welfare Call
  • follow up on concerns with social workers/carers/residential keyworkers quickly
  • complete a weekly scrutiny of attendance data and investigation of reasons for absence, particularly patterns of absence
  • convene monthly multi-agency Attendance Panels meetings
  • provide alternative education packages created for Looked After Children young people who cannot manage good attendance in mainstream settings
  • provide interim education provision arranged quickly for Looked After Children with no school place as a result of emergency placement change
  • ensure Attendance Plans are in place for Looked After Children with more than 10 days absence
  • provide direct support to looked after children and their schools and carers where there is a significant reaction to abuse and neglect which shows itself in challenging behaviour/refusal to engage in education

There is an agreement that Camden looked after children may not be taken on holiday during term-time unless there are exceptional circumstances. Leave will not, however, be granted for the purposes of a holiday.

Out of borough Looked After Children

It is the policy of Camden to place our Looked After Children in or as close to Camden as possible if appropriate. However, for those children and young people placed more than 20 miles outside of Camden, the expectation is that their educational consultant will contact their school each half term to discuss their educational progress. The Virtual School Head works with other virtual heads to provide additional services to Looked After Children placed out of borough.

The principle is that the Virtual School strives to ensure that all Looked After Children out of borough receive the equivalent educational support and opportunity as children and young people receive in Camden schools.

Previously Looked After Children

From February 2018, previously looked after children are now included in the statutory guidance for Designated Teachers and Virtual schools as it is recognised that the issues that affect looked after children and impact on their academic achievement may also affect children and young people who have previously been in care.


The guidance defines a previously looked after child as one “who is no longer looked after in England and Wales because s/he is the subject of an adoption, special guardianship or child arrangements order which includes arrangements relating to with whom the child is to live, or when the child is to live with any person, or has been adopted from ‘state care’ outside England and Wales.


Camden Virtual School promotes the educational achievement of previously looked after children by providing support, advice and information to early years providers, schools, colleges and other education institutions as well as parents and guardians.

The Pupil Premium: condition of the grant 2021-22

Previously looked after children are eligible for Pupil Premium funding, currently £2345, which is paid directly to schools a part of their overall pupil premium grant. In order to access the Pupil Premium for previously looked after children, parents and guardians need to self-declare their child’s status to the school where their child is on roll. The school then record the child's status in the October school census, which will then trigger the payment of the Pupil Premium to the school for the next financial year starting in April.

Admissions

Regulations made under the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 require admission authorities for maintained schools to give looked-after children highest priority in their admission arrangements. The School Admissions Code places this same requirement on academies and, in addition requires maintained schools and academies to also give previously looked-after children highest priority in their admission arrangements. These provisions help ensure that looked-after and previously looked- after children obtain a place at their preferred schools. Such children must take precedence over those on a waiting list and cannot be refused a place because of having challenging behaviour.
Parents and guardians need to be mindful to ensure that the previously looked after status of their child is recorded on application and admission forms.

The designated teacher for looked after and previously looked after children

Letter to Headteachers re PP for previously LAC with template letter to parents guardians

Virtual School News

Read the latest Camden Virtual School Bulletin

Bulletin Documents:

PEPs in Academic Year 2022/23 - dates for diaries

Brandon Centre's Love & Limits Parenting Support Programme

Leading Inclusive Futures through Technology - LIFT

Connexions

Skills for Security Traineeships

Skills Training UK

To request previous bulletins email us at VirtualSchool@Camden.gov.uk

Partnership Working

Partnership working is crucial to success for Looked After Children as they may have a wide range of needs that affect their education, such as mental health difficulties, crime, child sexual exploitation and drug use. The following are some of the multi-agency boards and panels in Camden where the education of Looked After Children is a central concern.

Corporate Parenting Board

This governing body has oversight of the education of looked after children and ensure that Camden Council is fulfilling all its duties towards Looked After Children corporately and in partnership with other statutory agencies.

Attendance Panel

This multi-agency group is co-ordinated by the Virtual School to review plans for those Looked After Children at risk of poor school attendance.

Not in Education Employment and Training (NEET) Panel

The main purpose of the NEET Panel is to:

  • consider the educational and learning needs of individual post-16 young people who are currently NEET
  • support social care workers by recommending suitable educational provision and signposting to funding options
  • share information regarding the current post-16 education provision and recommend the development of further local provision as needed
  • discuss post-16 needs that have a direct relevance to their education. For example housing, income, mental health, substance misuse, teenage parents.
  • liaise with provision in other LAs to ensure availability to Camden post 16 LAC who reside OOB
  • identify and involve relevant partners in supporting Care Leavers’ education. For example Connexions, YOS, The Pathways, schools, colleges.
  • identify common factors that may be contributing to the lack of or insufficient interest from LAC and target these needs with resources
  • identify the impact and effectiveness of the current training schemes for young people. For example the Borough Apprenticeship Scheme.

Projects and Out of School Learning and Activities

The Virtual School offers a range of activities for different groups of children in care many in partnership with other organisations.

Letterbox Club

The Virtual School works in partnership with Letterbox Club to promote enjoyment and pleasure in reading and improve reading outcomes. The Letterbox Club, run by the Book Trust, aims to provide enjoyable educational support for Looked After Children aged 5-13. Children and young people in care in Camden are enrolled onto the programme which entitles them to books, maths activities, stationery,  a library joining card or information about how to join a library, and other free materials once every month for six months, from May to October. 

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a book gifting program that mails free, high-quality books to children from birth until they begin school, no matter their family’s income. The Virtual School have signed up to the programme to encourage a love of reading for our children in the early years.

The London Bubble

The London Bubble Theatre are a drama group, whose mission is to free people’s creative voices to foster a more connected and equal society. Through theatre they encourage people to examine the world around them, fulfil their creative potential and have fun. They are a platform for listening and being heard, a mechanism which enables all stories to be recognised, amplified, and shared with a wider audience.

They have programmes, holiday projects and a variety of workshops including:

Programme for 6 – 11-year-olds

  • Speech Bubbles  -  This is a weekly drama programme taking place in school time, designed to give young children an opportunity to have fun telling stories and acting them out. The programme has a particular emphasis on supporting children to gain confidence and develop their physical and verbal communication skills
  • In each Speech Bubbles session, the children take part in games and activities that encourage them to listen to each other and to express themselves. Each week one of the children takes a turn to make up a story for the other children to act out…and what amazing stories they tell!

A crime prevention intervention for year 6 students

  • Playing safe is a forum theatre project to create opportunities for young people to talk about serious youth violence, safety in their community and existing barriers to feeling safe. Developed by London Bubble, Southwark Family Early Help and Youth Justice Service, the Metropolitan Police service and Surrey Square Primary School

Contact London Bubble Theatre:

020 7237 4434
admin@londonbubble.org.uk
www.londonbubble.org.uk
3-5 Elephant Lane, London SE16 4JD

Training and Conferences

The Virtual School provides a comprehensive training programme for a wide range of professionals, including designated teachers, social workers, foster carers and independent reviewing officers.

The training aims to raise awareness and understanding of the needs and disadvantages of looked after children and children in need. We promote best practice through training and coaching in support of the attainment of these vulnerable groups.​​​​​​

The training programme is delivered centrally with bespoke training offered to schools on request. Much of the training is suitable for a multi-agency audience while some is specific to schools.

The Virtual School also holds a termly network meeting for designated teachers for Looked After Children to:

  • ensure school staff are aware of their statutory responsibilities
  • are up to date with current developments nationally and locally
  • have an opportunity to share practice across schools.

The Virtual School also provides one-to-one coaching for social workers on the development of Personal Education Plans. We also contribute to the Fostering Newsletter, Backchat website and have created an eBulletin for the Virtual School, to help all stakeholders keep up with changes and additions to our service.

Please email VirtualSchool@camden.gov.uk to book a place.
For enquiries, please contact Lyn Mccabe, Virtual School Operations Manager 020 7974 2434 Email: lyn.mccabe@camden.gov.uk

Children In Need

Virtual Heads have been made strategic leaders for the cohort of children who have been assessed as being in need under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 and currently have a social worker and those who have previously had a social worker.

All children subject to a Child in Need plan or a Child Protection plan.

This includes children aged from 0 up to 18 in all education settings.

The purpose of this role is:

  • make visible the disadvantages of children in need
  • enhance partnerships between education settings and local authorities to help all agencies hold high aspirations for these children.
  • promote practice that supports children’s engagement in education, recognising that attending an education setting can be an important factor in helping to keep children safe from harm.
  • level up children’s outcomes and narrow the attainment gap so every child can reach their potential. This will include helping to make sure that children with a social worker benefit from support to recover from the impact of COVID-19

Virtual school head role extension to children with a social worker - GOV.UK

As part of their support for children in need the Head of the Virtual School provides a support line for social workers and teachers if they need advice or signposting in relation to the education of children in need. Ph: 020 79742359.

The Virtual School can also provide inclusion specialists who will support young people return to school if their attendance is poor.