Agenda item

Virtual School Annual Report Summary


The Head of the Virtual school presented the Virtual School Annual Report for 2020-21 (for copy of report and presentation see file of minutes). 


The Panel noted that the report covered the Academic Year from September 2020 to July 2021. The Head of the Virtual School explained that as of July 2021 there were 573 Durham Looked After Children of statutory school age, up to the age of 16 and the work of the Virtual School extends post-16, to provide a smooth transition.  Some young people attend schools outside of the County due to care arrangements or specific needs, however, this does not disadvantage them as they have access to the same support as those attending schools within the County.


The Head of the Virtual School highlighted that 61% of young people attended a school rated by Ofsted as good or better and explained that some schools had not been inspected since 2018 and that some had recently converted to an academy therefore their current Ofsted rating was unavailable.  The Virtual School places extra scrutiny on schools which are rated as ‘requires improvement’ or below, to ensure that the young people within the school are well supported.  The need for stability is a key consideration therefore a child who is settled and happy in a school would be moved only for safeguarding reasons. 

The Virtual School Head referred to the 49% of Durham children looked after who had an identified special need and provided information on the strategies in place to support these children.


The Panel noted difficulties in reporting attendance over the last academic year, due to Covid measures and school closures, with overall attendance for children looked after being 89.3%.  As the cohort fell into the group required to continue to attend school, if carers felt it necessary for their children to stay at home, this was classed as unauthorised absence. However, attendance for the autumn term for the current academic year was 93% which reflected that, under normal circumstances, children looked after have good school attendance.  The Panel noted there had been no permanent exclusions since 2014.


The Panel heard that the COVID-19 pandemic had also impacted upon assessments and exams with no Key Stage 1 or 2 results available and outcomes for Year 11 students being based on teacher assessed grades.  The Panel noted the 2020 -2021 cohort achieved well.


The Virtual School Head outlined areas for development which include to continue to raise awareness of early trauma on behaviours and learning and to work with the Children in Care Council, school governors and designated teachers to ensure a consistent approach.  The Virtual School Head stressed the importance of stability within the school setting as, in cases where placements break down, school may be the only stability in a young person’s life.  


The Panel noted Durham had been selected as part of a pilot scheme to receive Pupil Premium Plus funding to support Care Leavers attending further education colleges.




That the report be noted.


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