Schools

Virtual school heads scheme set for £4m expansion

Virtual school heads will now promote outcomes of all children in kinship care, government announces

Virtual school heads will now promote outcomes of all children in kinship care, government announces

15 Dec 2023, 15:59

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Virtual school heads will be tasked with promoting the outcomes of all children looked after by family members, following a £3.8 million expansion of the scheme.

The officials are already responsible for promoting the educational achievements of youngsters who are, or have been, in care and managing their pupil premium funding.

Since 2021, their remit has included championing those who have, or previously had, a social worker – which included many who are being cared for by loved ones other than their parents.

But as part of a £20 million package announced today to support kinship carers, the role of virtual heads will be extended to supporting every child in the care of friends or family.

Department for Education documents published this morning said: “We will invest £3.8 million in 2024-25 to expand the role of virtual school heads to specifically include championing the educational attendance, attainment and progress of children in kinship care.

“This will bring greater focus to the distinct needs of children in kinship care, within virtual school heads’ existing responsibilities.”

Under the changes, all kinship carers given responsibility for a youngster through the courts will be able to receive advice and information on how to navigate the education system from virtual heads.

The reforms also include plans to trial giving kinship carers an allowance paid at the same rate as the fostering grant – which ranges from £154 to £270 per child a week – in eight authority areas. It is expected to launch in the next two years.

Meanwhile, the DfE will offer “kinship leave” and pay entitlement to staff, subject to discussions on the detailed arrangements between the department and employee representatives.

David Johnston

Ofsted’s checks of councils will also be tweaked. Documents show the watchdog will update its guidance and give inspectors added training so their reporting “focuses on the things that matter for children in kinship care”.

The DfE papers added: “Children who live with kinship carers are more likely to have higher levels of educational attainment than looked-after children and are also more likely to be in employment as an adult compared to children in residential care.

“We want to improve the support available for families, to allow more children in kinship care to thrive.”

Children’s minister David Johnston said the government is “committed to reforming the whole children’s social care system to support families – right from the point they face challenges … all the way to transforming the experience children have when in care.”

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