What is a Virtual School Head (VSH)?
The Children and Families Act 2014 requires councils in England to appoint a Virtual School Head to discharge the local authority’s duty to promote the educational achievement of its children in care. The Virtual School Head is the lead responsible officer for ensuring that arrangements are in place to improve the educational experiences and outcomes of the authority’s children in care, including those placed outside the caring authority’s boundaries.
The Ofsted inspection framework for local authority services to children in care has very clear expectations of the information that will be available to inspectors, and these expectations influence both the work of the Virtual School Head and the organisation of the Virtual School.
In Suffolk the Virtual School Head leads a small team of professionals: the Suffolk Virtual School.
The Work of the Suffolk Virtual School
The Virtual School works in partnership with children, carers, families, school staff, social workers and a wide range of other professionals to improve the educational outcomes of the children on its virtual school roll: children in care, who are in the care of Suffolk County Council.
For the children in care on its roll, the Virtual School:
- monitors their attainment, attendance and engagement with learning
- monitors personal education planning and PEPs
- manages the children in care Pupil Premium Grant (PPG)
- works with schools and other learning settings to ensure children make good progress and that the Pupil Premium Grant (PPG) is being used effectively
- holds all stakeholders to account
- provides training for designated teachers through network meetings and individual support
- advises social workers and carers to ensure they contribute to the education outcomes of children on their case load or in their care placement
How to communicate with the Virtual School
If sending information to the Virtual School which identifies a child or young person, please do so securely.
From December 2017, emails which include sensitive information sent by the Virtual School to schools, or other agencies, services and professionals will be encrypted using Microsoft Office Message Encryption (OME). Emails marked as OFFICIAL-SENSITIVE sent using OME include instructions on how to access the encrypted message. Find out more about how to read and reply to secure email from Suffolk County Council by following this link: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/about/secure-emails/
Please send general enquires to the Suffolk Virtual School mailbox at SuffolkVirtualSchool@suffolk.gov.uk.
Enquires relating to attendance or exclusion should be sent to: email@example.com
Endeavour House, Ipswich
- Matthew Cooke, Virtual School Head: call 01473 260818 or email Matthew.Cooke@suffolk.gov.uk
- Odran Doran, Deputy Virtual School Head: call 07864 619400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ro Harte, Deputy Virtual School Head: call 07921 493614 or email email@example.com
- Esther Das, Assistant Virtual School Head: call 07864 617292 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Chris Ruck, Assistant Virtual School Head: call 07864 613087 or email email@example.com
Virtual School Office: email: SuffolkVirtualSchool@suffolk.gov.uk telephone: 01473 260818
- Sarah Webb, PEP/PP+ Monitoring Officer: 01473 260120
- Isla Baker, Business Support Officer: 01473 260818
- Nicola Clifton, Business Support Co-ordinator: 01473 260694
- Sonali Ganguly, Business Support Officer: 01473 260818
Riverside Campus, Lowestoft
- Ruth Woollard-Kingston, Assistant Virtual School Head: call 07921 493609 or email Ruth.Woollard-Kingston@suffolk.gov.uk
- Dawne Chumbley, SEND Lead: call 07921 493610 or email Dawne.Chumbley@suffolk.gov.uk
Contact details for all Virtual School Heads in England, correct as of April 2017.
January 2018 Spring Term
- Please see the Spring Term 2018 letter (PDF, 86KB) from Matthew Cooke sent to Designated Teachers at schools with Suffolk children in care. Please also see the Spring Term 2018 letter (PDF, 90KB) sent to Finance Officers which sets out the arrangements for payment of Pupil Premium Grant for Suffolk children in care.
- Spring Term training is taking place in January and March and can be booked now via CPD Online.
- 'Creating attachment friendly schools' training is taking place in March and November and being delivered by the Permanence Team. The event information can be downloaded here and here. Please contact Jane Leighton (Educational Psychologist, Schools’ Choice) for more information and how to book on.
The way Suffolk County Council sends emails that include sensitive information is changing with Egress being phased out and replaced by Microsoft Office Message Encryption (OME). From Friday 1 December 2017 emails containing sensitive information sent from the Suffolk Virtual School inbox (firstname.lastname@example.org) will be encrypted using OME. Information in the email will provide instructions on how to access the encrypted message. Implementation of the switch from Egress to OME is taking place over the next week, with all email accounts for staff in the Virtual School team being switched to OME by Friday 8 December 2017.
Find out more about how to read and reply to secure email from Suffolk County Council by following this link: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/about/secure-emails/
Autumn Term 2017
- Please see the Autumn Term 2017 letter (PDF, 180KB) from Matthew Cooke sent to Designated Teachers at schools with Suffolk looked after pupils. Please also see the Autumn Term 2017 Finance letter (PDF, 90KB) sent to Finance Officers setting out the new arrangements for the payment of the Pupil Premium Grant for pupils in the care of Suffolk County Council.
- Autumn Term Designated Teacher Network Meetings are available and can be booked now via CPD Online.
- Post 16 PEP Training for Designated Teachers in all colleges, sixth form and training providers is available and can be booked now via CPD Online.
- Social Worker Training Events are available throughout November and can be booked now via CPD Online. See the Support for Parents, Carers and Social Workers pages for more information.
The government is currently consulting on two documents. The revised statutory guidance ‘Promoting the Education of Looked After and previously Looked After Children and The Designated Teacher for Looked After and previously Looked After Children.
The guidance will support the Children and Social Work Act 2017 which extends the role of the Local Authority and Designated Teachers to include those children that have left care through adoption, Special Guardianship (SGO) and Child Arrangement Orders (CAO).
Headteachers, governing bodies and designated teachers to contribute to the consultation by following the link: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/revised-guidance-for-virtual-school-heads-and-designated-teachers
The closing date is Monday 27 November 2017.
Summer Term 2017
End of term Thank You from the Virtual School
- Please see the end of term letter (PDF, 278KB) from Matthew Cooke sent to all schools with Suffolk looked after pupils.
Changes to Personal Education Plans
- The Directorate at Suffolk County Council has approved a new protocol for Personal Education Plans (PEP) for Children in Care. Please see the approved paper for further details.
- Designated Teachers will now be able to log on to the online portal CLA Tracker to complete the Summer Term 2017 PEP document. Read guidance on using the CLA Tracker (PDF, 400KB).
- Repeated opportunities for last term's training are available throughout the Summer term. Places can be booked now via CPD Online.
- The deadline for completing the Summer Term 2017 PEP document is Friday 21 July 2017.
Changes to administering the Pupil Premium Grant
- The Suffolk Virtual School has revised the method of paying the Pupil Premium Grant to schools. Submission of the PEP for the current term is required for the following term's payment. The Summer Term’s payment is dependent on schools having submitted the Spring Term 2017 PEP by the 31 March 2017 deadline. The Autumn Term 2017 payment is dependent on submission of the Summer Term 2017 PEP by Friday 21 July 2017.
- Rees Centre for Research in Fostering and Education
- The Virtual School Handbook
- Education Endowment Foundation
- National Association of Virtual School Heads
- The Fostering Network
- London Fostering Achievement
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance on the emotional health of children in care
- Department for Education guidance about children in care