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 (CIC), including those placed outside the caring authority’s boundaries.
The Ofsted inspection framework for local authority services to CIC 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.
What we do:
We offer support, guidance, training and challenge to ensure that educational services are effective in maximising the progress the progress that our children make in school. We do this through:
- Tracking academic progress, attendance, and exclusions of CIC
- Quality assuring all Personal Education Plans (PEPs)
- Providing support and challenge to schools to ensure that academic standards are raised for CIC
- Using our tracking data to highlight individuals who are not on target to achieve their predicted outcomes and challenging their settings to provide them with additional education support
- Ensuring Special Education Needs or Disability needs are identified and supported appropriately with an integrated plan
- Monitoring and challenging schools to make effective use of the Pupil Premium Grant for CIC
- Ensuring effective transition between schools or specialist providers
- Encouraging a culture that supports our young people to have high aspiration about their futures and removes barriers to further education
- Leading training for Designated Teachers, Social Workers, School Governors, Foster Carers and bespoke training for educational settings and staff in schools
- Providing advice to social workers and carers to ensure they contribute to the education outcomes of children on their case load or in their care placement
- Celebrating CIC achievements
- Supporting the delivery of the Children in Care Promise
Suffolk Virtual School contact details
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.
If you have an enquiry about a child who is in the care of another local authority please contact the relevant Virtual School: Other Virtual Schools
Virtual School Contact: email: email@example.com telephone: 01473 260818
Since September 2017, we have re-modelled our service and moved away from an area-based structure to a county wide model, with a school improvement team and an inclusion team. Please note we are no longer known as LACESS.
The Virtual School currently consists of:
- Matthew Cooke, Virtual School Head: call 01473 260818 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Odran Doran, Deputy Virtual School Head: call 01473 260818 or email email@example.com
- Ro Harte, Deputy Virtual School Head: call 07921 493614 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Esther Das, Assistant Virtual School Head, Secondary Lead: call 07864 617292 or email email@example.com
- Chris Ruck, Assistant Virtual School Head, Primary Lead: call 07864 613087 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ruth Woollard-Kingston, Assistant Virtual School Head, Inclusion Lead: call 07921 493609 or email ruth.woollard-Kingston@suffolk.gov.uk
- Michelle Bird, Post 16 Lead: call 07725 781990 or email email@example.com
- Dawne Chumbley, SEND Lead: call 07921 493610 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Virtual School Office:
- 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
Latest news from the Virtual School
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- Information on the Pupil Premium Grant allocation for Suffolk's children in care 2018-19 is now available: Pupil Premium Grant for Suffolk's children in care, 2018-19
March 5 2018
- New Statutory Guidance for Designated Teachers and Virtual School Heads now published by DfE - for enactment in September 2018. The guidance for designated teachers can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/designated-teacher-for-looked-after-children and the guidance for local authorities here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/promoting-the-education-of-looked-after-children
- Changes to CLA Tracker and the PEP process for children in care attending alternative provision or on a reduced timetable have been implemented. A new tab has been added to capture the timetable and education provision for these young people. Supporting documentation (PDF, 425KB) has been written to guide completion of this new section of the PEP. For support or further information please contact Nicky Clifton on 01473 260694.
- 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. Download the event information for Schools Choice Attachment Training March 2018 (PDF, 321KB) and Schools Choice Attachment Training November 2018 (PDF, 321KB). 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 (email@example.com) 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.
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.
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 (PDF, 477KB) 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