Virtual School Heads (VSH) are statutory and have a duty to promote the educational achievement of all children looked after and previously looked after by the local authority they work for.  For the legal framework and a summary of VSH duties, please see our section Becoming Care Aware: The Legal Framework.

In order to support their role, Virtual Schools receive a Pupil Premium Plus (PP+) grant allocation of £2300 per looked after child, based on the number of children looked after for at least one day, aged 4 to 15 at 31st August, as recorded in the latest looked after children data return.

Please note - PP+ for previously looked after children is allocated directly to and managed by the school, not the Virtual School and the onus is on the parent, carer or guardian of the child to make the school awareThis is also currently £2300 per child.  What do we mean by previously looked after child?.  Designated Teachers should help raise awareness in the parents or guardians of previously looked after children of the importance of making the school aware so that they can offer the enhanced support they are entitled to.  Virtual Schools also have a duty to give advice and support to the person with parental responsibility for the previously looked after child and the Designated Teacher when requested.

The Virtual School is responsible for managing the PP+ grant for currently looked after children and for allocating it to schools and alternative provisions and each one has it's own system for doing so.  They have considerable flexibility in the use of PP+ funding. Designated Teachers need to be as proactive and transparent about intended use and impact as possible via Personal Education Plans (PEPs), in order to secure the correct funding and support needed to help level the playing field for children looked after.  Every Virtual School is required to publish a clear policy on their use of PP+, including how they decide the level and use of any PP+ funding which as been top sliced to provide support best delivered at authority wide level e.g. designated teacher training.

Virtual School set up is different in every local authority but they all have three key areas of responsibility, as outlined in the Virtual School Handbook:

  1. To make sure that there is a system in place to track and monitor the attainment and progress of children looked after
  2. To make sure that all children looked after have a robust and effective Personal Education Plan (PEP) in place, including access to one-to-one support and specialist educational provision where appropriate - see our section on Effective PEPs 
  3. To champion the needs of looked after children across the authority and those placed outside of their authority

What can the Pupil Premium Plus funding be used for?

The PP+ can be used to facilitate a wide range of educational and developmental support for children looked after in agreement  with Designated Teachers and carers.  Statutory guidance states that interventions supported by the funding should be evidence based and in the best interest of the child.  For ideas on effective use of PP+, please see our section on Interventions in the Classroom and the Education Endowment Fund Toolkit , both accessible summaries of evidence based interventions to support improved outcomes for vulnerable learners that could be included in a PEP.

There is a useful summary of effective use of Pupil Premium Plus available here from PAC UK, the Agency for Adoption and Permanency Support and case studies from the PALAC knowledge exchange programme (Promoting the Achievement of Looked After Children) are available here.

Achieving Schools and Achieving Wellbeing (CLA) are both evidence based school coaching and improvement programmes offered by Achievement for All and are increasingly being funded in schools via Virtual Schools around the country using the PP+ grant. Both programmes are designed to accelerate progress and close the gap for target cohorts of looked after children.  We also work with Virtual Schools to establish training and practice sharing hubs for Designated Teachers in Croydon and Northumberland.

Training for Designated Teachers

The Virtual School is required to ensure there are appropriate opportunities for Designated Teachers to access training around key areas such as school admission arrangements, special educational needs, attendance, exclusions, homework, GCSE options, managing challenging behaviour, promoting positive educational and recreational activities and supporting children to be aspirational.  Contact your Virtual School to ask about what training is on offer for you.

Since looked after and previously looked after children are more likely to experience the challenge of social, emotional and mental health issues than their non looked after peers,  Designated Teachers need to have an awareness of these needs and how to support them - see our section Understanding and Managing Challenging Behaviour .  Virtual schools should signpost Designated Teachers to specialist training and support in areas like Attachment and Trauma to enable them to better identify and meet the mental health and wellbeing needs of looked after and previously looked after children, so that they are as happy and ready to learn as possible.

You may work with more than one virtual school depending on which local authority is the corporate parent for each child looked after on roll at your school. A full list of virtual school heads is available here, correct as at 24th April 2017.

For more information on Virtual Schools, please visit the National Association of Virtual School Heads .

Read more: DfE (2018).  Promoting the education of looked after children: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities.