Presentation - Corporate Director of People Services.
The Panel received an update on the performance of the Harrow Virtual School. The Headteacher of Harrow Virtual School, accompanied by another member of her team, referred to the presentation slides and reported as follows:
- the photograph on slide 1 was that of a child being looked after by the Council and was taken at an equine therapy session to help promote physical and emotional well-being;
- in June 2021, the role of the Virtual Headteacher to work was extended by the Department for Education (DfE) to support every child with a social worker. Virtual Schools were to build on their current good practice with children in care and offer evidence based interventions to support professionals working with this group. There was an emphasis on children’s attainment, progress and attendance. The role was strategic and Virtual Schools were not to provide direct intervention. The guidance received from the DfE did not change existing duties for looked-after and previously looked-after children;
- the strategic leadership of Virtual School Heads for children with a social worker required Virtual Schools to narrow the attainment gap, support children’s engagement in education enhance partnerships between education settings and local authorities, details of which were set out on page 42 of the agenda;
- the number of children with a social worker totalled 1552 as set out on the presentation slide on page 43 of the agenda;
- Harrow Virtual School Staffing Structure had been increased to reflect the new duties. The end of Key Stage exam predictions set out on page 45 of the agenda were above the national average for children in key Stages 1 and 2. There was an increase in the number of children predicted to achieve GCSE passes. It was important that children in Year 11 left with some qualifications and therefore support, tuition and mentoring had been made available when required;
- school attendance was 90% , however, persistent absence was at 30% across the schools. The Council promoted school attendance and punctuality for all its CLA. This message had been conveyed to carers as well. The PEP (Personal Education Plan) returns for the Autumn Term were 100% which was excellent. PEPs were taken seriously and there was continuous dialogue with schools so that where interventions were required, these were put in place at an early stage. Intervention included the provision of 1-1 tuition and/or support from a mentor;
- several issues had arisen with children with mental health problems. There had been a few suspensions and one permanent exclusion, which at the time, was in the child’s best interest as there were no other alternative support;
- school absences due to Covid-19 had escalated during November and December 2021 but these had now reduced;
- the Royal SpringBoard Foundation worked in partnership with Independent Schools and the DfE to source places for vulnerable children. Harrow Virtual School had a successful outcome of a young child who had been offered a place at an Independent School with a full bursary. Her journey would be monitored and supported;
- the rationale behind Every Child Can Achieve was intended to ensure that the child did not leave school without any qualifications and a programme had been put together which included functional skills qualifications, details of which were set out on page 50 of the agenda. Such qualifications were not easier than GCSEs but offered a different approach to learning to help boost confidence;
- school priorities included a review of the education support packages for hard-to-reach students and to increase the number of CLA and Care Leavers in employment, education, and training to 75% or over. A Learning Mentor had been appointed and good systems were in place for transitions in Years 11/12. Those who had remained in further education had increased by 5%.
Members welcomed the report and praised officers for the new initiatives such as the functional skills qualification and the involvement in the SpringBoard Foundation Programme. They were proud of the achievements, including the expansion of the team. They asked what had happened to the child who had been excluded from school. The Headteacher of Harrow Virtual School reported that the child would attend the Helix which had both primary and secondary school provisions. The Virutal School had a policy in place that all children at risk of an exclusion had access to an assessment by their CLA Educational Psychologist (EP). It was not possible to have the EP assessment before the exclusion, but it happened soon after. The class sizes at the Helix were much smaller and therefore beneficial. Different teaching methods would be applied, and, in this child’s case, visual learning was considered best in the child’s case. The child was settled at the Helix and would remain at the school and then transition to secondary school from there.
RESOLVED: That the update be noted.