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Dorset Virtual School

What the Virtual School is

Local authorities are corporate parents for the looked after children (LAC) in their care. This means they have a duty to promote the educational progress and attainment of their looked after children (LAC). This is to improve their educational and life chances. 

Dorset Virtual School isn't a physical school. Our staff support Dorset's LAC in hundreds of different schools and settings. We monitor their progress as if they were all at a single school.

Dorset Virtual School team's job is to track how Dorset's children and young people in care are doing. We also put in place the practical help and support so that they make at least the same educational progress and attainment as their non-looked after peers.

Our staff teams all have a caseload of young people. We monitor:

  • our young people's school attendance
  • how we can improve their attendance
  • how ready our young people are for learning
  • how they're progressing in individual lessons and subjects
  • what additional help they need to make good progress
  • how we can set this up to help them

The Dorset Virtual School team advise on and support the education of looked after children from when they formally come into care. We also give information and advice to the parents of children who are adopted and to the guardians of children on Special Guardianship Orders (SGOs). This is to make sure that these young people make at least the same educational progress and attainment as their non-looked after peers.

The Virtual School’s headteacher is a senior officer from Children’s Services.

Pupil premium for children at the Virtual School

Pupil premium is a government grant that supports schools to offer extra opportunities to disadvantaged children, including those who are:

  • looked after children
  • adopted
  • on SGOs

Our team distributes LAC pupil premium through the termly Personal Education Plans that are set for each looked after young person. We make sure this funding is used as effectively as possible to enhance the educational progress of each looked after young person.

Who uses the Virtual School

At the Virtual School we support children in care as though they were on a roll at a single school. We work to secure the best educational outcomes for children in care in schools and other settings.

We work in partnership with different people and agencies to make sure looked after children and young people are supported as well as possible so that they make progress at school. These people include:

  • social workers
  • foster carers
  • residential home workers
  • parents of adopted young people
  • guardians of young people on SGOs
  • LAC nurses and health workers

The children attend a real school. It’s the responsibility of the school's designated teacher for looked after, adopted and SGO young people to provide the best possible education for them. They do this in partnership with the Virtual School and social worker. All schools must have a designated teacher. 

Apply for a place at the Virtual School

When a child or young person comes into care, they are assigned:

  • a social worker
  • a Virtual School worker
  • a LAC nurse

We set up a Personal Education Plan for them and have a meeting involving everyone who's supporting the child, along with the young person if it's appropriate. 

If you're the parents of an adopted young person or guardians of a young person on Special Guardianship Order contact:

Our Education Officer works across both these organisations to support parents and guardians.   

Why we need a virtual school

Not all children and young people in care do well at school. Research shows that as a group, children in care don't perform as well in their education as their non-looked after peers. 

As a result every local authority in England has a duty to promote the educational progress and attainment of all looked after children in their care. In Dorset we have a Virtual School Head and team to carry out this duty.

See the Virtual School handbook to find out how we're working with schools and settings to support looked after, adopted and SGO young people. 

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