The role of the Virtual School in supporting improved educational outcomes for children in care





In England, ‘Virtual Schools’ oversee and support the educational progress of children in care. This paper reports on the analysis of 16 interviews with Virtual School Head Teachers that were part of two mixed methods research projects on the educational progress of children in care (Sebba et al. 2015; Sebba et al. 2016). These interviews explored their role; the types of support they offer young people in care; what they see as the key factors about a young person’s individual characteristics and care experiences that influence their educational outcomes; how schools support young people in care; and the influence of the foster carer/residential staff on the educational outcomes of these children. The interviews were analysed using NVivo and emerging themes were identified informed by the literature on the education of children in care. The paper draws out the main findings which explore the status and role of Virtual Schools in England, their functions, strategies and what they see as their contribution to improving the educational outcomes of children in care.


Reference:  Sebba, J. , & Berridge, D. (2019). The role of the Virtual School in supporting improved educational outcomes for children in care. Oxford Review of Education, 45(4), 538-555.


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Very little is known to date [2019] about exactly whether, and if so how the work of the Virtual School Headteacher programme in England contributes to the education of children in care as cohorts are small in many LAs, year-on-year cohorts vary significantly and there are no national data linking interventions to outcomes. We know from previous research (e.g. Sebba et al., 2015) that earlier entry into care and placement stability are important in contributing to better educational outcomes. Identifying the processes by which the VSHs contribute to this, for example, by minimising school changes and reducing exclusions, might support the development of greater resilience. In addition, in this study, the VSHs seldom referred to support for children in residential care who emerged from earlier research as having particularly poor outcomes.

See also: Raising the bar? Evaluation of the social pedagogy pilot programme in residential children's homes.





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