Overview of the role:
From September 2021 Virtual School Heads were given new extended responsibilities for Children with a Social Worker. This is in addition to their work with Looked After Children and Previously Looked After Children.
‘Children with a social worker’ covers all children who were assessed as needing a social worker at any time due to safeguarding and/or welfare reasons, which includes all those 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.
We are an ‘add-on’ to statutory services. This includes children who are disabled and known to social care.
The Virtual School role is to ensure all young people with a social worker are supported in their education placements and to make visible the disadvantages that children with a social worker can experience, enhancing partnerships between education settings and local authorities to help all agencies hold high aspirations for these children.
It is vitally important that we 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. We work closely with attendance advisory services to help support parents and children attend their education placements.
Why is this new role needed?
The Government’s Children in Need review (2019) (available here) identified that:
- 1.6 million children needed a social worker between 2012 and 2018, equivalent to 1 in 10 children or 3 in every classroom
- these children are around 3 times more likely to be persistently absent from school and between 2 to 4 times more likely to be permanently excluded than their peers
- these children are present in 98% of state schools and face barriers to education due to experience of adversity and trauma
- on average children with a social worker do worse than their peers at every stage of their education
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) has affected all children and for many of the most vulnerable has increased barriers to education. It is essential that the cohort of children with a social worker are supported to recover from the pandemic
Why are Virtual School taking on this role?
The Children in Need review (2019) recognised the crucial role that Virtual School Heads have in raising aspirations and promoting the educational achievement of our children placed in care and previously looked after.
The cohort of children and young people with a social worker have not had the benefit of a strategic leader that is able to champion their educational needs. Virtual School are experienced in helping education settings and local authorities work together and can offer advice and support to teachers and social workers, with the aim of narrowing the attainment gap.
What can Virtual School offer?
- offer advice and signpost schools and educational settings to additional services and ensure that they receive the support required to help their cohort of children with a social worker
- offer training opportunities to develop schools and educational settings understanding around attachment and trauma
- support schools and educational settings and social workers on how they can work together to support improvements in attendance, punctuality, and behaviour to avoid exclusion
- training on interventions known to make the biggest impact for children with a social worker. For example: What Works in Education for Children Who Have Had Social Workers (available here) identifies the impacts of educational interventions on the attainment of young people who have had a social worker
- offer advice on educational issues to social workers to include attainment data, SEND processes, attendance, exclusions, and reduced timetables
What are we doing in the Royal Borough of Greenwich?
At present the extended responsibilities are non-statutory and the Virtual School’s role is to Advise and Guide education settings and social work teams. In RBG since September 2021 we have:
- Appointed a new Assistant Headteacher to lead on our responsibility to meet the requirements of the extended duties.
- Supported school leaders with identifying, tracking, and supporting their children with a social worker with focus on improving/challenging attendance to school and working to improve academic outcomes.
- Developed training opportunities for senior leaders in school to train them on how to:
- Develop inclusive practice with all school staff.
- Raise the profile of contextual safeguarding.
- Develop a compassionate mindset for schools.
- Upskill staff in restorative practice.
- Ensure staff are aware of bias-aware practice needs.
- Developed a connection between trauma-informed training providers and virtual reality headset networks to offer training to social workers, virtual school staff, youth offending services, and school-based staff using Virtual Reality to upskill children facing adults in the deep impact of childhood trauma on outcomes for young people.
- Working with each school/education provider in the borough to advise and guide on specific and complex cases where young people are at risk of falling out of education.
For further information please contact our Assistant Headteacher, Joe Norton-Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org