[Darren Martindale, Virtual School Head for Looked After Children,to present report]
Darren Martindale, Virtual School Head for Looked After Children (LAC), gave a briefing on the engagement and working arrangements over the 2015/16 academic year. The Virtual School Head (VSH) outlined the success to date and future plans aimed at ensuring the authority meets its responsibility to promote the education of looked after children.
The VSH detailed the work done to build and strengthen the partnership between schools, the members of the Corporate Parenting Education team and other stakeholders. The VSH commented on the work being done to find a balance between providing schools with strong support and where necessary challenging headteachers and members of the Designated Teachers Forum to make changes needed to improve educational outcomes.
The VSH outlined the range of training and support given to various groups during the year. The VSH gave an example of the change in approach such as emotion coaching workshops aimed at encouraging teachers to adopt a positive approach towards the education of LAC. The feedback from designated teachers was very positive.
However, the VSH commented the level of school engagement has been mixed and is dependent on past experiences of working with the service. The VSH commented that the approach to training and supporting designated teachers was changing to be replaced by a coach and mentoring approach. The work is part of efforts to support teachers to embed the new approach into their practice.
The VSH commented on the discussion at the Designated Teachers Forum. The meeting was attended by 30 representatives. The last session of the forum discussed the extension of the current remit of the VSH to include young offenders. The aim is to provide schools with a single point of contact that would include children in the youth justice system and also strengthen the partnership between the service and the youth offending team. The VSH commented on new statutory guidance from Department for Education to help keep children in education. The guidance sets out the responsibilities for designated teachers and safeguarding leads. A programme of training for designated teachers is being developed.
The VSH briefed the Board on the results of a survey involving all schools to asking questions about how the funds from the pupil premium were being used in the last academic year to support LAC. The response rate was 70 per cent (30 – 40 Wolverhampton schools). The VSH commented that schools reported that the funding has had a positive impact, but concluded that more work was needed to fully assess the impact of the funding. There is a plan to appoint a specific role to look at how the extra funding was being used to improve pupil performance and will hopefully reflect key stage results. The use of pupil premium funding will be reviewed in the next academic year. The work is being supported by educational psychologists.
The VSH commented that the relationship with schools is improving and praised the contribution of other local authority teams in getting looked after children a school place.
The Board discussed the role of Designated School Governors and national statutory guidance. The Board queried if there model school that could be used to support the improvements elsewhere. The VSH commented that meetings are held annually with DST and the findings are reported.
The Board queried the implications of the service providing support to pupils in the youth justice system and confusion this might cause to the public. Emma Bennett, Service Director, Children and Young People, explained that the role of the VSH is being extended to include LAC children who fall within the youth offending team. The issue was discussed at a leadership team meeting about the need to careful in how the widening of the role of the LAC was presented. The policy recognises the evidence that vulnerable young offenders either are in care or have been previously been in care and therefore it appropriate to have a joint policy. The policy is intended to close the educational achievement gap and to support young offenders to desist from crime.
The Board while welcoming the report about the positive use of pupil premium to support LAC were disappointed by failure to get schools to respond to past requests to show how the money was being used and also to find examples of good practice.
The Board were advised schools are required by Government to provide details about how funding from pupil premium is being used to support LAC. Furthermore, schools have to complete a personal education plans for each child which details how the pupil premium is being used and share this information with the local authority. There is no similar requirement for schools to provide this information on other pupils. The VSH explained that work is on-going to build a productive relationship with schools and collect details of case studies.
The Board requested that the report on the use of pupil premium is presented to a future meeting of Children, Young People and Families Scrutiny Panel for consideration.
The Board discussed the level of engagement by schools in supporting LAC children. The VSH explained that there is a statutory framework to support work to build and improve relationships with schools. The VSH explained that the service is focusing on those schools that have not provided information on the funding from pupil premium is being used.
1. The report is received and note
2. The VSH present a report on the use and impact of pupil premium funding to a future meeting of the Children, Young People and Families Scrutiny Panel.