Reality looking good for Northumberland's virtual school

19 Jul 2017

Northumberland’s “Virtual School” for looked after children is celebrating another year of success.  

The county’s virtual school is the champion of the education needs of Northumberland's children in care.

Although there is no school building, it does share some features of a ‘real’ school to enable it to meet the needs of individual looked after children.  Virtual school pupils are enrolled at real schools and remain the responsibility of the school at which they are enrolled.

The county council run it, ensuring that pupils received the support they need. For example an education psychologist helps with pupils’ anxiety throughout the school year, and especially at the time of the tests.  

The Designated Teachers for Looked After Children in each school help teachers understand the trauma that the pupils have experienced and how to support individuals so that they can make excellent progress.

National expectations at age 11 are very challenging, but the success rate in Northumberland has more than doubled since last year.

Councillor Wayne Daley, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “This is a real team effort between the hard-working pupils, the committed Designated Teachers, the determined Virtual School, the supportive social workers and brilliant foster carers.

“While all the children have worked hard there are impressive stories of individual successes.  When one child joined her school 12 months ago she was working at a level more than a year below most pupils of her age.  

“Her school put in place booster sessions for her and paid for classroom support using Pupil Premium Plus funding and the Virtual School also provided a weekly tutor for maths and English -  as a result she went on to achieve national expectations.

“Another child found the test arrangement particularly challenging and had to sit alone because he found it easier to read questions aloud and talk himself through the strategies he has learned.  

“His school and foster carer made sure he attended an after school club and he had one to one tuition to help his confidence.  He also achieved national expectations in reading, writing and mathematics.

“‘We are committed to delivering the best possible education for our young people across Northumberland and these results are very encouraging.”