Agenda item

Report from the Virtual School Head

Report for the spring term 2024 to be presented by Deena Moorey, Virtual School Head.


Jody Toone, Senior Education Adviser gave a presentation to the panel – “How the Virtual School Promotes Understanding of the Children Behind the Data” starting with the following highlights –


·         Children in Care start with the disadvantage of their pre-care experiences and, often, have special educational needs.


·         May have been at risk of, or have suffered, physical, emotional, sexual abuse or neglect.


·         Data tells us that Children in Care are much more likely to experience frequent transitions, including moving home or school and experience changes in the professionals that are supporting them and their families.


·         These experiences can affect attendance, learning, behaviour and wellbeing


It was confirmed that everyone has the same three basic responses to stress – fight, flight or freeze.  Those who have experienced trauma may have bigger responses and struggle to regulate their behaviours.  Someone who has adapted to survive may have a greater risk of mental health issues, problems with memory and find it harder to trust new people, in new social situations.


Taking into account the impact of trauma and latent vulnerability that a lot of children in care deal with, a lot of the work done by the virtual school is directly with the school staff to help improve educational attainment and progress.  If increased stability can be found in a school setting, there is a great chance of better results.


It was confirmed that the Virtual School training offer is for designated teachers, as well as the rest of the school and other professionals who may be working with children in care.


The training includes the following –


·         Annual training for designated teachers

·         Termly network meetings

·         In-school support for self-evaluation

·         Specific topics such as domestic abuse and, self-harm

·         Webinars on key topics for the whole school

·         Child focussed support


It was confirmed that every school in Warwickshire who has a child in care will receive a monitoring visit every year.  All Warwickshire schools are offered the

opportunity to access the AC education courses including sessions on impulsive behaviour, self-harming behaviour and the road to recovery; returning to school.


Members of the panel were invited to attend an event focusing on Understanding Children in the Social Care System facilitated by the virtual school.  The event is a development opportunity for all those working with children in the social care system. 


The following video was shared –


I Wonder If You See Me - A Spoken Word Poem About Childhood Trauma


It was confirmed that all training information can be found on the website - Warwickshire Virtual School – Warwickshire County Council.


Following a question from John Coleman, Director of Children & Families Service in relation to persistent absences, it was confirmed that social workers and virtual school officers meet with schools to review all cases of persistent absenteeism.  It was noted that a large proportion of these cases is children who have struggled to return to school after covid.  The panel noted that officers consider this area of work to be an absolute priority.  It was further confirmed that officers across education services are working at reducing suspensions and exclusions which are especially high with children who have SEND needs.  Councillor Penny-Anne O’Donnell asked if any work was carried out with the police in relation to attendance issues.  John Coleman confirmed that there is a family and adolescent support team who work closely with the children in care social workers and the police where appropriate.


The panel noted that children who go missing are more likely to be exploited in some way.  It is about making sure that the children are back at school or in some other meaningful activity.  Officers have good links with The Princes Trust which is more suitable for older children.


It was confirmed that if a child has an EHC plan in place, then they may be attending an alternative setting.  Sharon Shaw, Head of Corporate Parenting, confirmed that Warwickshire has employed speech and language specialist, specifically for young children in care.  It was confirmed that 28 children have returned to school after working with additional support workers; the programme has been very successful. 


It was confirmed that all children in care have a social worker and a Personal education plan (PEP).  A PEP is put in place to support any child struggling in school.  A social worker can share additional information and work can start with all appropriate agencies to avoid suspension. 


The Chair thanked Jody for the report, and for sharing the video.  It had been a very powerful presentation for the panel.

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