Headlines: December 20th, 2012

All children in care are to get a virtual school head in a move to reduce the wide gap in attainment compared to the national average for childeren overall.

The national average for children overall who pass five GCSEs, including English and maths is 58 per cent. The average for children in care is just under 15 per cent.

To prevent this attainment gap from stagnating or widening further, the Government intends to enshrine in law a virtual school head for every council. Their primary focus will be to raise the educational attainment of children in care by getting them the support they need to succeed at school and in later life.

Where councils have already appointed virtual school heads, significant improvements in attainment have been achieved. This year, 40 per cent of looked after children in Warrington achieved 5 good GCSEs, 37.5 per cent in North Tyneside and 22.2 per cent in Dudley.

The success of this approach comes from combining the role of a head in a literal school with that of a parent. This will involve working with head teachers to find out what children in care need, such as extra tuition or emotional support, so that they can meet their highest possible level of educational achievement. They will also act like a ‘pushy parent’ providing support and challenge to senior directors and lead members amongst others, to make sure children in care get quality learning and support. They will also ensure children in care, as well as their foster or other carers, are actively involved in deciding about and delivering their education.

Edward Timpson, Children and Families Minister, said: “I know that a lot of councils go that extra mile to help educate children who are in care, and don’t have the stable family home that is often taken for granted. However, a patchy service still exists and, as their poor educational outcomes show, this isn’t good enough for children in care who deserve better.”

The Department for Education has also announced that to help those in care during their school years the National College will make changes to the College’s modular curriculum to help drive up the attainment of looked after children. The improved programme will help improve the understanding of governors about how they can support the needs of looked after children and the work of virtual school heads.