Care Day 2022 celebrates the rights of children and young people with care experience. Their theme is ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ and Barnet Virtual School is part of that village!
So, what is the Virtual School? Virtual Schools were set up to improve the educational outcomes of children in care. We are not a school in the conventional sense, but we have a team of people who work behind the scenes to track the achievement, attendance, exclusions, out of school learning, etc., of those children who are looked after by Barnet and provide support to enable them to achieve where it is needed. We champion the children’s educational achievement and ensure education is seen as a key priority for them.
Many of our children have gaps in their learning from before they came into care and may have missed periods of school. We work with all the professionals to understand the educational needs and stories of these young people to ensure they get the right support and understanding to achieve the best they can.
There are lots of different parts to what we do. We provide training to our Designated Teachers, foster carers and social workers around education and work with those parties to ensure there is a meaningful plan around the child’s schooling. We provide laptops to Year 6 and above and put in place tuition for any children without a school place or who needs some extra teaching. We also provide a lot of enrichment activities for young people, so they have access to wider opportunities.
One of the regular provisions is Strength & Learning Through Horses which we provide along with other Virtual Schools. Feedback is incredibly positive from the young people who participate:
‘We gained comfortability and confidence. When I started, I was a little shy but now I’m comfortable and used to people’
‘I have learnt I was brave’
‘I can work better with other people’
‘I can be a leader’.
We take children on school journeys. These can be very daunting for young people, but the feedback is often so positive. These comments are from a creative writing residential:
‘I felt more literally confident’.
‘[I] liked meeting new people, made new friends, had fun, alright travelling, learnt about packing suitcase to carry less, gained more confidence, good to be independent’.
‘The week was really lovely as I got to experience new things such as the countryside and different cultures and food. I learnt a lot about poetry and made friends too which has enlightened me and made me think a lot about things. It was a wonderful experience’.
In the Autumn term, we had a weekly reading club, and this has been supplemented this term with a Philosophy and a Debating Club. In the Autumn half term we had a creative project held in Wembley for some of our separated young people (unaccompanied asylum seekers) giving them the opportunity not only to learn English but to participate in photography, design, painting, collage, and creative writing. As Care Day 2022 comes, we will be taking 5 young people to Jamie’s Farm.
Our children come from a wide range of backgrounds, and we have an increasing number of separated young people (unaccompanied asylum seekers). We are immensely proud of how some of young people achieve in education, despite missing a lot and having gaps in learning. An example of someone who has done well is D who is a UASC from Guinea who became LAC in September 2020. Both his parents have died, and he travelled for a significant time before arriving in the UK. The Virtual School organised a laptop and access to an online ESOL site as well as additional tuition. By November he had started at college which helped D emotionally – he struggled more when learning was virtual. Despite a turbulent year in terms of learning D got high praise from his college, being described as ‘an incredible student’. He has gone from ESOL+Maths Entry 1 to ESOL+Maths Entry 3 in less than a year. He has been supported to join the college football team and has proceeded to excel winning an award for his performances on the pitch and college.
Another example of someone who has really made progress but needed significant support is F. F was in Year 2 when came into care during COVID and had missed a lot of school prior to this. He was very dysregulated when he returned to school and was only attending school for an hour a day with a 2:1 staff ratio. With the school and social worker, the Virtual School worked to facilitate an increasing timetable funding additional support for 5 days per week until he reached full time. and almost reaching 5 hours per day. By the end of the year, F was even able to go on a school trip with his friends. He expresses he is happy in his school, wants to be a policeman and what he enjoys most about coming to school is having fun!
Those interested in learning more about the Virtual School are encouraged to contact Barnet Virtual School Headteacher Sarah Deale at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the Barnet Virtual School, you can visit their website or their page here on the BELS Site.
*Note: names of children are anonymous to protect their identity and privacy