The Virtual School Handbook




From the foreword

The Virtual School Handbook was produced for the community of Virtual School Heads (VSH) as a guide to how a VSH could fulfill their duties and functions. It is not designed as a replacement for the relevant Statutory Guidance with which a Virtual School Head must be familiar, neither is it an inspection framework nor an inventory against which to judge a Virtual School’s performance.

This [2019] updated edition has been commissioned by the National Association of Virtual School Heads (NAVSH) to take account of the changes in the statutory framework around local authorities and schools, and feedback and experience gained in applying some of the advice in the original edition, as well as the most up-to-date Virtual School practice. Readers should pay particular attention to the additional statutory demands placed on local authorities and schools in relation to previously looked after children



Reference: NAVSH. (2019). The Virtual School Handbook. London: NAVSH




Like the statutory guidance, Promoting the Educational Achievement of Looked After Children (February 2018), this handbook is intended to be helpful to any local authority officers, in particular Directors of Children’s Services (DCS), Virtual School Heads (VSH), Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs), and Lead Members, as well as individual social workers, and members of local authority education teams.

It is also intended to support Headteachers, Governors, Designated Teachers, Parents and Carers for Looked After and Previously Looked After Children, to understand the role of the Virtual School Head and the context within which they work and, in consequence, to support partnership working.

The handbook represents an illustration of the operation of the 'virtual school' and the role of the virtual school headteacher, in English education authorities.

The concept of virtual school headteachers has not been without critique/resistance - see the TES, Need to know: Virtual school heads

Devolution, in education, has resulted in differing approaches in the four UK nations. We are, however, encouraged by continuing persuasive position statements as in this piece by Alastair Macdonald, commissioned by the Welsh Government (2020).



Note that grey literature publications should be referenced in the normal (Author, date) convention. Grey literature is any information that is not produced by commercial publishers. It includes research reports, working papers, conference proceedings, theses, preprints, white papers, and reports produced by government departments, academics, business and industry.

Download this file (NAVSH-The-Virtual-School-Handbook-2018.pdf)NAVSH-The-Virtual-School-Handbook-2018.pdf[NAVSH. (2018). The Virtual School Handbook. London: NAVSH]949 kB
Download this file (2019-01-13-VSch-Handbook-NAVSH-.pdf)2019-01-13-VSch-Handbook-NAVSH-.pdf[NAVSH. (2019). The Virtual School Handbook. London: NAVSH]1114 kB

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