Government looking at extending role of Virtual School Heads to include adopted children

The government is to change legislation to extend the current role of Virtual School Heads to adopted children.

Virtual Schools were set up in England to provide extra help for looked after children’s education. The Department for Education issued statutory guidance in July 2014 which requires the appointment of a Virtual School Head (VSH) in every local authority and the provision of a Personal Education Plan (PEP) for every child in care - but not for adopted children.

But following campaigning by Adoption UK, the government is now looking at extending the role of VSHs to include adopted children, as set out in the schools white paper Education Excellence Everywhere, which sets out the government’s plans for the next five years.

Hugh Thornbery CBE, Adoption UK’s chief executive, said: “We’re delighted that the government has listened to our campaign ask on this matter, although we are aware that nothing has yet been set in stone.

“Adopted children can be under local authority care one day and then adopted the next, so their needs do not change overnight. We’ve been asking for VSHs and the provision of a PEP, subject to parental agreement, to be extended to every adopted child - as opposed to just those children in care, for some time now.”

The white paper, which was published on 17 March 2016, states:  Looked after children and those who have been adopted from care or left care under special guardianship or a child arrangements order will continue to receive pupil premium plus funding, and we propose to increase targeted support for both groups through the pupil premium plus, as part of our national funding formula proposals.

The government also sets out its proposal to improve the effectiveness of pupil premium spending by encouraging schools and Virtual School Heads to adopt evidence-based strategies.

There will also be an increase in support for teachers to deliver a more ambitious curriculum successfully, including through improved initial teacher training.

Mr Thornbery continued: “We welcome the review of the initial teacher training (ITT) and we’re fully supportive of the development of the curriculum so the needs of adopted children, and other pupils from similar backgrounds, are better met.”

The report concludes: These changes, coupled with the recent extension of the pupil premium and priority school admission, will enable adopted children to retain the educational support they had whilst they were in care and help improve their educational outcomes.

Adoption UK has been campaigning for a better understanding of the issues facing adopted children in schools - so that staff are better equipped to meet their needs.

Adopted children’s early childhood experiences can often lead to behavioural, physical and emotional difficulties which play out in a school environment, which is not always attuned to their needs.

In a recent survey of its members 80% of adoptive parents said their child needs more or different support in school because of their early childhood experiences. Two thirds (66%) of parents told us the school their child attends, and/or their teacher, does not understand the impact of their child’s early life experiences or their ability to engage with education.

Mr Thornbery added: “A good education is vital for all adopted children – trumped only by them securing a loving and ‘forever home’.”

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