What the Virtual School does

It is the Virtual School’s responsibility to:

  • influence policy and develop and improve services for Looked After Children and young people within the local authority
  • provide training, advice and support to early years providers, schools, colleges and other education institutions as well as social workers, independent reviewing officers, foster carers and related professionals to promote the attainment of children and young people in care
  • ensure that the providers of fostering services, residential care and alternative educational provision have a robust evidence base that demonstrates they prioritise the educational achievement of Looked After Children
  • ensure there is timely communication and effective co-operation with the Virtual School head from other local authorities, particularly in relation to possible education placement changes, school admissions, achievement and exclusions
  • raise awareness of the importance of education and lifelong learning
  • undertake multi agency work, collaborating with a range of other professionals to improve education outcomes
  • maintain rigorous and robust tracking and monitoring of individual attendance, attainment and progress
  • ensure the pupil premium and other resources are used effectively and impact on attainment and progress
  • provide additional opportunities for out of school learning and leisure
  • celebrate achievements

Who is who in the Virtual School

Head of Virtual School: Natalie White

“Education is a passport to a future with choices. This is important for all, and even more so for children in care. I have the overall responsibility for the educational progress, inclusion and well being of all children in care to Camden aged 2-25. I work with a wide range of partners sharing the corporate parenting duty in Camden as well as liaising with schools, carers, social care and agencies wherever our children and young people are placed. I welcome contact with you directly so please call or email me.”
phone: 020 7974 2359
email: Natalie.White@camden.gov.uk

Deputy Virtual School Head: Mary Holder

Strategic Lead for Post 16 Education Employment and Training for Looked after Children and Care Leavers
email: Mary.Holder@camden.gov.uk

Business Operations & Development Lead: Sarah Lewis

Leading on all Virtual School business and processes, attendance and projects for Looked After Children e.g. the annual celebration event.
email: Sarah.Lewis@camden.gov.uk

Education Officer: Osita Okeke-Aru

Managing payments and reports for the Virtual School.
email: Osita.Okeke-Aru@camden.gov.uk

Education Support Officer: Hayley Solomons

Focusing on Pupil Premium Plus and tuition for Looked After Children.
email: Hayley.Solomons@camden.gov.uk

Early Years, KS1, Years 3, 4, and 5 Education Consultant/Attainment Data Lead: Leonie Holt

Supporting Looked After Children at nursery to Year 5.

email: Leonie.Holt@camden.gov.uk

Special Educational Needs Coordinator/Consultant for Transition to Secondary and Years 6, 7, and 8: Lynn Burrows

Supporting Looked After Children with Education, Health and Care Plans and Looked After Children in transition from primary to secondary school up to Year 8.

email: Lynn.Burrows@camden.gov.uk

Year 9 and Key Stage 4 Consultant and Coordinator: Samuel Denham

Supporting Looked After Children in secondary school in years 9, 10 and 11.
email: Samuel.Denham@camden.gov.uk

Educational Psychologists for Looked After Children: Sarah Cryer 

Undertaking educational assessments and providing therapeutic support for Looked After Children as needed.
email: Sarah.Cryer@camden.gov.uk

Specialist Re-integration and Inclusion Officer/ Post 16 Educational Employment and Training Manager: Fenella Walker

Supporting secondary school Looked After Children to stay in school, and developing mentoring support.
email: Fenella.Walker@camden.gov.uk

Specialist Re-integration and Inclusion Officer: Yomi Sode

Supporting secondary school Looked After Children to stay in school, and developing mentoring support.
email: Yomi.Sode@camden.gov.uk

Referrals to the Virtual School

Download and complete the relevant referral form below. You should email completed referral forms to VirtualSchoolReferrals@camden.gov.uk 

We aim to answer all requests within 10 working days.

Referral Forms:
PP+ funding  - including IT equipment (PDF)
PP+ funding 16 PLUS - including IT equipment (PDF)
Tuition - Academic Year  2017 to 18 (PDF)

Please note that Camden Virtual School does not accept referrals during the summer holidays. We will accept referrals again from the start of the academic year in September.

For any queries relating to the referrals process or Pupil Premium Plus funding, please contact Sarah McDonnell, Virtual School Business Operations Lead.
email: sarah.mcdonnell@camden.gov.uk

Personal Education Plans

All children and young people in care must have a Personal Education Plan (PEP) as part of their care plan.  Their care plan is incomplete without a current PEP.

The PEP is set up by the child’s social worker, in partnership with the designated teacher for Looked After Children at the school or education setting. It is drawn up at a meeting including the child/young person, carers, social worker and all other relevant professionals.

For children and young people new into care, their first PEP needs to be held within 20 days of them coming into care. However, where a child or young person is placed in an emergency, the PEP should be set up within 10 working days of them coming into care, wherever they are placed.

PEPs and the PEP meetings highlight the commitment that all of us as corporate parents, parents, carers have in taking joint responsibility for ensuring children and young people in care get the best out of the educational/ training opportunities available to them.

Guidance and information about the ePEP can be found below.
ePEP Online Leaflet (PDF)
Designated Teacher User Guide for ePEP Online (PDF)
Social Worker User Guide for ePEP Online (PDF)

Pupil Premium Plus

The Pupil Premium is additional funding made available by the Department for Education (DfE) to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils and close the gap between them and their peers.

Pupil Premium Plus for Looked After Children is £1,900 per pupil between the ages of four and sixteen years. They are eligible as soon as they enter care. the Early Years Pupil premium is £300 for children aged 3-4 years in education provision.

Virtual School heads in local authorities are responsible for the effective distribution of the Pupil Premium Plus payments for Looked After Children and young people to schools and for monitoring the impact of how this additional funding has been spent.

Use of Pupil Premium Plus is recorded on the Personal Education Plan and is linked to specific target(s) on the plan. Children and young people educated in Camden but looked after by another local authority have their Pupil Premium Plus paid through the authority that looks after them, not Camden.

Many schools have been given additional funding to support vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils. Children in care are seen as one of the most vulnerable groups, with poorer educational outcomes than their peers and many facing a complex range of barriers to educational achievement. Therefore, children and young people in care should benefit from the school’s Pupil Premium Grant allocated for vulnerable pupils in addition to the Pupil Premium Plus.

In Camden we follow the DfE guidance and pool our Pupil Premium Plus funding to ensure we use it as effectively as possible to target individual need. We operate a referral system and referrals can be made by any professionals involved with the education of the child/young person. We expect schools to take full responsibility for providing appropriate support and interventions to each child and young person on their school roll, we therefore target the use of Pupil Premium Plus for anything that is needed in addition to this.

We have most recently used Pupil Premium Plus for the following:

  • integration and inclusion staff 
  • tuition
  • computers
  • mentors
  • Key Stage 4 consultant
  • educational psychologists
  • training
  • enrichment activities

Please send all referral forms via email to VirtualSchoolReferrals@camden.gov.uk

Useful links

Educational Progression and Transitions

See the Key Stages in a child’s education

Which Year Group is your child in? 

For all children, change can be stressful. For Looked After Children it can touch on feelings of insecurity and loss.

The key transitions for children and young people in care are:

  • moving into early years/nursery provision
  • starting school – reception class
  • moving from primary to secondary school
  • moving from year 11 to a 6th form college, training, employment and training 

Transition from Nursery to Reception

Attendance at pre-school / Early Years is not statutory, but there is a lot of evidence that shows how beneficial access to this provision can be.
The Two Year Old Scheme entitles young children in the care system aged 2–3 years to up to 15 hours per week (up to 570 hours per year) of free nursery provision.
For further information:

Transition from Year 2 to Year 3

At the end of Year 2, children who are attending an infant school transfer to the junior school, which may involve changes such as a new headteacher, new teachers, new buildings and playground. For the majority of children this will not apply.

Transition from Year 6 to Year 7

Foster carers should visit local secondary schools when their child is in the Autumn Term of Year 6, apply for a school place and follow the secondary transition process in line with other Year 6 children. In accordance with the admissions code, children who are looked after or previously looked after will be automatically entitled to their first choice of school. School places are offered the following spring term in March.

Transition from Year 9 to Year 10

Attendance at parents/carers evenings meetings is important and expected, even more so during Year 9 when young people need support in choosing their Key Stage 4 options/pathway. There may be a change of Head of Year between Year 9 and 10 along with an increased expectation of independent study skills and time management.

Transition from Year 11 to Year 12

Year 11 is a crucial time for young people to apply for an appropriate course that is matched to their interests and desired career pathway and is within reasonable distance of their placement. They should attend open evenings, open days and access careers advice to ensure their education placement at Year 12 is realistic in terms of their educational attainment and is meeting their aspirations and needs.

Attendance

Persistent absence is a serious problem for children and young people. Much of the work children miss when they are off school is never made up, leaving these children and young people at a considerable disadvantage for the remainder of their school career.

There is also clear evidence of a link between poor attendance at school and low levels of achievement. Of pupils who miss:

  • more than 50% of school, only 3% manage to achieve five A* to Cs including English and maths
  • between 10-20% of school, only 35% manage to achieve five A* to C GCSEs including English and maths
  • less than 5% of school, 73% achieve five A* to Cs including English and maths

The Virtual School is therefore committed to every child receiving a full time education and attending regularly.

To support regular attendance and improved attendance we:

  • monitor the attendance of children in care using alerts and data from Welfare Call
  • follow up on concerns with social workers/carers/residential keyworkers within 24 hours
  • complete a weekly scrutiny of attendance data and investigation of reasons for absence, particularly patterns of absence
  • convene half-termly multi-agency Attendance Panels chaired by the head of the Virtual School
  • provide alternative education packages created for Looked After Children young people who cannot manage good attendance in mainstream settings
  • provide interim education provision arranged quickly (within three days) for LAC with no school place as a result of emergency placement change
  • ensure Attendance Action Plans are in place for Looked After Children with more than 10 days absence. 

The Virtual School uses specialist reintegration and inclusion officers to promote inclusion in mainstream education or regular attendance in alternative provision. This role provides direct support to looked after children and their schools and carers where there is a significant reaction to abuse and neglect which shows itself in challenging behaviour/refusal to engage in education. Persistent absence data includes all pupils whose attendance is 90% or less.

Out of Borough Looked After Children

It is the policy of Camden to place our Looked After Children in or as close to Camden as possible if appropriate. However, for those children and young people placed more than 20 miles outside of Camden, the expectation is that their educational consultant will contact them each half term to discuss their educational progress. The Virtual School Head works with other virtual head to provide additional services to Looked After Children placed out of borough.

The principle is that the Virtual School strives to ensure that all Looked After Children out of borough receive the equivalent educational support and opportunity as children and young people receive in Camden schools.

Multi Agency Partnership Working


Partnership working is crucial to success for Looked After Children as they may have a wide range of needs that affect their education, such as mental health difficulties, crime, child sexual exploitation and drug use. The following are some of the multi-agency boards and panels in Camden where the education of Looked After Children is a central concern.

Corporate Parenting Board

This has oversight in ensuring that Camden Council is fulfilling all its duties towards Looked After Children corporately and in partnership with other statutory agencies.

Looked After Children Educational Strategy Group (LACES)

Lead by the Virtual School, this multi-agency group develops overarching educational strategy for Camden Looked After Children and feeds into the Corporate Parenting Group.

Attendance Panel

This multi-agency group is co-ordinated by the Virtual School to review plans for those Looked After Children at risk of poor school attendance.

Education Training and Employment (ETE) Panel

The main purpose of the ETE Specialist Scrutiny Panel is to:

  • consider the educational and learning needs of individual care leavers who are currently not in education, training or employment
  • support social care workers by recommending suitable educational provision and funding.

Projects and Out of School Learning and Activities

The Virtual School offers a range of activities for different groups of children in care many in partnership with other organisations.

Letterbox Club

The Virtual School works in partnership with Letterbox Club to promote enjoyment and pleasure in reading and improve reading outcomes. The Letterbox Club, run by the Book Trust, aims to provide enjoyable educational support for Looked After Children aged 5-13. Children and young people in care in Camden are enrolled onto the programme which entitles them to books, maths activities, stationery,  a library joining card or information about how to join a library, and other free materials once every month for six months, from May to October. 

The Chrysalis Project

This project is delivered by Highgate and Future Foundations, and supported by Virtual Heads from Haringey, Enfield, Camden, Islington, Brent and Barnet. Its purpose is to set up a multi-year programme which helps Looked After Children in Years 6-12. 
Aims  of the Chrysalis Accelerator Project are: 

  • to narrow the gap between the achievements of children in care and those of their peers by accelerating their rate of progress
  • to enhance confidence and self-belief
  • to increase awareness, knowledge and understanding of the benefits of attending higher and further education
  • the development of academic knowledge and a passion for learning and achieving.

The programme runs simultaneously for four groups: year 6-7, year 8-9, year 10-11 and year 12/care leavers, with participants progressing to the next year group during the delivery. Participants are given a coach from recent care leavers and Highgate Sixth Form students who will help them to set personal goals and provide an aspirational network of support. The programme also offers training to the carers, empowering them to support the participants to raise their aspirations at home.
The programme includes:

  • a Saturday series with small group tutorials and workshops led by Highgate teachers and inspiring mentors
  • excursions to inspirational venues, including a university visit
  • engaging enrichment days led by Future Foundations facilitators to develop the skills needed for the future world of work 

Friendship Works

Our vision is of a future where all Camden Looked After Children who would like it, have the mentoring support they need to access vital opportunities and build friendships in order to get more out of childhood, explore their potential, see what life has to offer and lead a fulfilling adult life. To this end, we have this year commissioned the services of Friendship Works to provide mentoring over two years for those Looked After Children who we believe could benefit from the service.

Music and Change UK (MAC UK)

MAC UK is an innovative, community based mental health programme aimed at transforming the lives of deprived young people involved in gangs and/or anti-social behaviour.

Training and Conferences

The Virtual School provides a comprehensive training programme for a wide range of professionals, including designated teachers, social workers, foster carers and independent reviewing officers. The training aims to:
  • raise awareness
  • develop knowledge and understanding
  • share good practice
  • promote educational attainment of children and young people in care.

The training programme is delivered centrally with bespoke training offered to schools on request. Much of the training is suitable for a multi-agency audience while some is specific to schools.

The Virtual School also holds a termly network meeting for designated teachers for Looked After Children to:

  • ensure school staff are aware of their statutory responsibilities
  • are up to date with current developments nationally and locally
  • have an opportunity to share practice across schools.

The Virtual School also provides one-to-one coaching for social workers on the development of Personal Education Plans. We also contribute to the Fostering Newsletter, Backchat website and have created an eBulletin for the Virtual School, to help all stakeholders keep up with changes and additions to our service.

The Virtual School organises an annual conference for all those involved in the education of Looked After Children. 

Camden Virtual School also  works in partnership with Kate Cairns Associates which is a training provider at the forefront of using the latest neuroscience to enrich and strengthen existing understanding around attachment, trauma and resilience. This is in order to help practitioners who provide services to the most vulnerable children people in our society, including those who are or have been in the care system.