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Virtual School for Looked After Children

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What the Virtual School does

It is the Virtual School’s responsibility to:

  • try to change 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 educational bodies as well as social workers, independent reviewing officers, foster carers and related professionals. This is to promote children and young people in care doing well
  • ensure that the providers of fostering services, residential care and alternative educational provision can show that they prioritise the educational success 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, educational success 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, success and progress
  • ensure the pupil premium and other resources are used effectively and impact on success and progress
  • provide additional opportunities for out of school learning and leisure
  • celebrate successes

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: [email protected]

Deputy Virtual School Head: Mary Holder

Strategic Lead for Post 16 Education Employment and Training for Looked after Children and Care Leavers
email: [email protected]

Operations Manager: Sarah Lewis

Leading on all Virtual School business and processes, attendance and projects for Looked After Children e.g. the annual celebration event.
email: [email protected]

Education Support Officer: Osita Okeke-Aru

Managing payments, reports and the bulletin for the Virtual School.
email: [email protected]

Education Support Officer: Hayley Solomons

Focusing on Pupil Premium Plus and tuition for Looked After Children.
email: [email protected]

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: [email protected]

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: [email protected]

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: [email protected]

Educational and Child Psychologist for Looked After Children and Right Balance: Dr Trudy Kearney 

Undertaking educational assessments and providing therapeutic support for Looked After Children as needed.
email: [email protected]

Specialist Re-integration and Inclusion Officer/ Post 16 Educational Employment and Training Manager: Karen Douglas

Supporting secondary school Looked After Children to stay in school, and developing mentoring support.
email: [email protected]

Specialist Re-integration and Inclusion Officer - Right Balance: Yomi Sode

Supporting secondary school Looked After Children to stay in school, and developing mentoring support.
email: [email protected]

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 and a link to the ePEP web site can be found below.
Designated Teacher User Guide for ePEP Online (PDF)
Social Worker User Guide for ePEP Online (PDF)

ePEP Single Sign-on for Designated Teachers:
Web link:
Password: EPEPSSO2020

Camden Virtual School QA Guidance (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 £2,300 per pupil between the ages of four and sixteen years. They are eligible as soon as they enter care.

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 note that from Monday 1 April 2019, all requests for Pupil Premium Plus funding should be submitted via the SMART target section of ePEP.

If you have any queries please email [email protected].


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 

Starting at Nursery

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. 

For further information:

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.

All 3-4 year olds are entitled to free early education and childcare for 5 hours per week during term time.

Applications for funding under the 2 year old scheme need to be made via the local authority where the foster carer lives.  Once approved  the foster carer will be given a list of local nurseries with vacancies who are registered with the scheme.   All other nursery applications can be made directly to the provider.
In order to ensure a smooth transition into nursery, the needs of the child are integral to the bespoke transition plan.  Foster carers can expect to spend time in the nursery to settle their child in.

Transition from Nursery to Reception

Foster carers should visit local primary schools when their child is in the autumn term of Nursery / a year before their child would be due to start at school.  Applications for a school place need to be made to the local admissions team online by the end of the autumn term .   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 April.  There may be a phased transition into school and foster carers can expect to spend time with their child settling them into this new environment.

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 (rated Ofsted 2 or above) 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 in March of the following spring term.

For children with an Eduction, Health and Care Plan, the SEN Team within the local authority where the child resides will manage the secondary transfer process. Foster carers will be asked to submit a secondary school preference form to the SEN Team who will consult with the preferred schools.

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.

16+ education, employment, training and financial support

Raising the Age of Participation was introduced in 2015.  Young people, including 16+ Looked-After Children are required to do one of the following until at least their 18th birthday: 

•    stay in full-time education, i.e. 16hrs per week at a college
•    spend 20 hours or more a week working or volunteering, while in part-time education or training
•    a Camden Apprenticeship

Please direct any post 16 education queries to:

Mary Holder the Virtual School’s Deputy Virtual School Head, who works in collaboration with a number of professionals to ensure that young people Looked – After and Care Leavers are supported into education, training or employment. 

Responsibility: Strategic Lead for Post 16 Education Employment and Training for Looked after Children and Care Leavers
email: [email protected]
Karen Douglas 
Responsibility: Part-time Post 16 Educational Employment and Training Manager
email: [email protected]

Guidance on support and services:


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.

The Virtual School is 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 monthly multi-agency Attendance Panels meetings
  • 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 Plans are in place for Looked After Children with more than 10 days absence
  • provide 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

There is an agreement that Camden looked after children may not be taken on holiday during term-time unless there are exceptional circumstances. Leave will not, however, be granted for the purposes of a holiday.

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 heads 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.

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.

Not in Education Employment and Training (NEET) Panel

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

  • consider the educational and learning needs of individual post-16 young people who are currently NEET
  • support social care workers by recommending suitable educational provision and signposting to funding options
  • share information regarding the current post-16 education provision and recommend the development of further local provision as needed
  • discuss post-16 needs that have a direct relevance to their education eg. housing, income, mental health, substance misuse, teenage parents etc
  • liaise with provision in other LAs to ensure availability to Camden post 16 LAC who reside OOB
  • identify and involve relevant partners in supporting Care Leavers’ education eg. Connexions, YOS, The Pathways, schools, colleges etc
  • identify common factors that may be contributing to the lack of or insufficient interest from LAC and target these needs with resources
  • identify the impact and effectiveness of the current training schemes for young people e.g. Borough Apprenticeship Scheme etc

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. 

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a book gifting program that mails free, high-quality books to children from birth until they begin school, no matter their family’s income. The Virtual School have signed up to the programme to encourage a love of reading for our children in the early years.

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 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.

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.

Details of forthcoming training events can be found in our Virtual School bulletin on the Virtual News page.

Contact us

Natalie White, Head of Virtual School: 020 7974 2359

Mary Holder, Deputy Virtual School Head: 0207 974 2768

Sarah Lewis, Operations Manager: 020 7974 7169

Osita Okeke-Aru, Education Officer: 020 7974 7229

Hayley Solomons, Education Support Officer:  020 7974 1069

Leonie Holt, Early Years, KS1, Years 3, 4, and 5 Education Consultant/Attainment Data Lead: 020 7974 7328

Lynn Burrows, Special Educational Needs Coordinator/Consultant for Transition to Secondary and Years 6, 7, and 8: 020 7974 4531

Samuel Denham, Year 9 and Key Stage 4 Consultant and Coordinator: 02079742954

Dr Sarah Cryer, Educational and Child Psychologist for Looked After Children: 0207 974 7320

Karen Douglas, Specialist Re-integration and Inclusion  Officer: 020 7974 1449

Yomi Sode, Specialist Re-integration and Inclusion Officer - Right Balance: 0207 974 6136

Fenella Walker, Specialist Re-integration and Inclusion Officer/ Post 16 Educational Employment and Training Manager: 0207 974 1550

For more information contact the Virtual School for Looked After Children