To receive a report giving an update on the work of the Virtual School.
The Virtual Head report was presented by Patrick Finegan, Virtual School Headteacher.
Patrick Finegan made the following points during his presentation:
· When he joined the service the Virtual School overlooked the education of 5-16 year old children, he had changed this to 0-25, to reflect the parental responsibility towards CIC;
· He had identified issues in relation to the high percentage of Care Leavers who were Not in Education Employment or Training (NEET). He believed that this was because there was no Virtual School for post 16 children;
· He was pleased that the Council had now agreed to fund resources for the provision of post 16 Virtual School. However, it would take some time for the impact of this investment to be seen;
· Personal Educational Plans (PEPs) were now being carried out online. Also, carers were now being able to share their views and contribute to PEPs; there was now a website that all professionals could use to share information;
· At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, there were 5 CIC attending school, now there were 20;
· All CIC and Care Leavers had been offered two hours a week with a private tutor. Following a meeting of the Corporate Parenting Board (CPB), this had now been extended to three hours a week. Currently 15 children had taken up this offer, but this number was growing every week;
· Additionally, CIC and Care Leavers had been given access to various online resources, including the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which was very well used;
· Eton College had offered free online courses, the service had opted to offer a course on Resilience for the CIC and Care Leavers;
· Some children had benefited from being educated at home;
· All CIC from Year 5 and above were given laptops, therefore there had been no issues with accessing education online;
· It was recognised that children may need help to catch up as a result of the current situation in relation to not being able to attend school.
During the discussion of the item the following comments were made:
· The Chairman asked if carers had been given printers, particularly in relation to children under Year 5;
· Patrick Finegan stated that he had not been asked for printers;
· In response to a question Patrick Finegan stated that the laptops belonged to the children, they did not have to give it back. In addition, laptops were replaced every three years;
· In response to a question Patrick Finegan stated that currently there was no support from the Virtual School to post 16 students, this included A-Level, University and Apprenticeships. This had been recognised as a weakness and had been addressed. The service had been given resources to recruit a member of staff to work with the post 16 cohort;
· Adam Davis stated that Care Leavers had a high level of contact with their Personal Advisors who supported them;
· In response to a question Patrick Finegan stated that universities encouraged CIC to attend, however they did not have priority to the same extent that they had at schools;
· In response to a question Patrick Finegan stated that the service was encouraging carers to send children back to school, however this was not being enforced. The service was minded not to put placements at risk, recognising that some carers were in the at risk group;
· In response to a question Patrick Finegan stated that the tutor offer was going to carry on during the summer and beyond;
· In response to a question Patrick Finegan stated that if a child wished to take the grammar school exams and needed extra tuition, this would be provided.
Sal Thirlway announced that Patrick Finegan would be leaving the Council at the end of July and he thanked Patrick for his contribution to improving the Virtual School during the past year.
Members of the Committee and the Executive Member for Children’s Services also wished to thank Patrick Finegan for his work with the Virtual School.
Members were reassured that plans were underway to find a replacement.
RESOLVED That the report be noted.