Agenda item

Virtual School Head Report


The item was introduced by Deena Moorey. She said last September offers had been made to all those in Years 11, 12 and 13 who had applied. However not everyone had been able to sustain the offer they had been made. Deena Moorey said an increased amount of work was taking place with the various education settings to see what could be done to ensure the young people kept on with their placements. One theory was youngsters were seeing adults working from home and would rather do that than have to travel into a setting, or be working and earning money instead of attending college. Improving dropout rates was a focus because it had been noticed it was a trend.

The university explorers and artwork across West Midlands projects had both been going well. There had also been a project for the designated teachers, allowing them to develop and promote their leadership skills with a view to improving outcomes for vulnerable learners. Three well-attended sessions had already taken place and a further three were planned. Conferences looking at the child in need agenda would take place in October, aimed at the designated teachers and safeguarding leads. A sports leadership course took place over Easter with the help of Coventry City Football Club, which had resulted in all but one of the attendees earning a qualification.


Regarding attainment, Deena Moorey said it was anticipated there would be gaps in the foundation stage for children who would be finishing Reception class due to learning time lost as a result of Covid-19. This was in line with what was expected nationally, although it was expected that the gap would not be as prominent in later year groups. An update on attainment levels would be provided in the autumn term once the SATS and GCSE data had been validated and was available.


Attendance at training sessions had improved now that they were returning to being done face to face. There had been a lot of changes to who was the designated teacher within the various schools over the previous two years, and now all of them had had access to the training programmes. Deena Moorey highlighted that Warwickshire’s pupils were above the national average in terms of the number who were attending schools with a good or outstanding Ofsted rating. Attendance levels were over 90 per cent in most year groups, but some concerns remained over attendance rates of children in Years 9, 10 and 11.


Councillor Roodhouse said he would be raising the issue of school attendance at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee the following day. He said he had been on a national call recently and it had been suggested some children had not returned to school and were continuing to be home schooled. Deena Moorey said new statutory guidance on attendance would be introduced from September 2023 but Warwickshire County Council was already working on implementing the changes.

Councillor Marian Humphreys said complaints from residents suggested that some children had actively sought to get suspended from school. She also said there were insufficient resources in schools to provide enough support to children who needed it. She said she was aware of a case where an eight-year-old had been sent home from school as there was no provision to deal with them. Chris Baird said schools would try a range of approaches, including bringing in additional support. However much of the funding for this type of support came from the high needs block, and there was national pressure to provide for this and a number of local authorities were overspending on provision. Chris Baird said there were some emerging issues around emotional wellbeing and mental health and programmes of support were being worked on, some of which had a specific element aimed at preventing exclusions. Deena Moorey said there were two secondary schools that had recently experienced a large number of suspensions and meetings with headteachers were planned with an aim at providing a resolution. Members were told that the schools were in Nuneaton and Leamington. Councillor Humphreys said the parents who had raised concerns with her were parents of primary school children. Deena Moorey said it was for schools to provide positive solutions to the situation and ensure appropriate allocation of resources, while acknowledging that funding levels were tight. Training and development was available to schools to help. Members were told primary schools would not be allowed to suspend pupils by 2030.

Councillor Humphreys stated her belief the situation arose partially because primary schools only employed one SENCO, and that all teachers should be given training on special educational needs. She said if the SENCO was unavailable then issues would not be resolved. Councillor Phillips stated her belief some schools had poor practice in place relating to special educational needs, with some using what amounted to punishment rooms. Deena Moorey stated there was little of this taking place in Warwickshire.

Deena Moorey explained two additional funding allocations had been in place for pupil premium plus this year, one for tuition and the other for general education recovery. She said the Virtual School had combined the two revenue streams and, rather than allocate the amount given, enabled schools to ask for the exact amount they needed. Much of this had been used for supporting young people’s social, emotional and mental health. Many children in care did receive some additional tuition, but Deena Moorey said this figure was lower than the Department for Education would have liked. She explained that for the 2022-23 school year the Virtual School would be operating an opt out rather than an opt in model for tuition to ensure it reached more children. 

Deena Moorey added that completion rates of personal education plans remained high.


Warwickshire had not been successful in its application for funding from the post-16 pupil premium pilot. Birmingham, Worcester and Staffordshire had all been successful in their applications.

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