DCSF: Virtual heads boost attainment of children in care

Virtual school head teachers have improved the educational outcomes of children in care and are a valuable new role, an evaluation of a government pilot scheme has concluded.

Employing a VSH to champion educational improvements for looked-after children has driven up GCSE grades in most of the pilot authorities, found the University of Bristol report for the Department for Children, Schools and Families. The 11 VSH pilots ran for two years from 2007-09.

The VSHs, many with social work backgrounds, took on a strategic role within local authorities and have helped to raise the profile of looked-after children in schools, including the importance given to education by social workers and by the authority generally, said the report.

Social workers welcomed role

Social workers interviewed for the evaluation said they had often lacked knowledge and confidence in educational matters and welcomed the assistance of dedicated education support through the role.

Social workers were also enthusiastic about looked-after children’s experiences of private tutoring during the pilots, concluding that it benefited their self-confidence and application to their studies, with positive results.

Commenting on the study, schools minister Vernon Coaker said: “I welcome this report which shows that virtual school heads for looked-after children play a vital role in improving educational outcomes for a group of children who have traditionally experienced poorer outcomes than their peers. 

Local authorities urged to adopt heads

“I am particularly delighted that the evaluation shows the impact virtual school heads have on GCSE results for looked-after children. The VSH model is becoming increasingly popular across the country, even before the end of the pilot, and I would encourage all local authorities who have not yet implemented this model to consider the benefits of doing so.
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