Agenda item

Annual Report - Brent Virtual School

The purpose of the annual report is to outline the activity and impact of the Brent Virtual School during the academic year 2016-2017.  The report includes details of the educational outcomes of our Brent looked after children who had been in care for a year or more. It reflects on the impact of our activities and identifies areas of future development to achieve improved outcomes for our looked after children.


Sarah Miller (Head of Inclusion and Headteacher, Brent Virtual School) introduced the Annual Report of the Brent Virtual School (BVS) 2016/17. Members attention was drawn to summary statement of impact for 2016/17 set out at paragraph 2 of the report. There were 219 school age Brent LAC and the committee heard that: 95 per cent of these children were in good or outstanding schools; there had been no permanent exclusions for this cohort; and there had been fewer temporary exclusions. Academic attainment had been strong, with Year 2 and Year 6 attainment higher than national averages for LAC. Sarah Miller emphasised that the Virtual School also offered an exciting enrichment programme, illustrated at Appendices 1 and 2 to the report. This programme included theatre trips, outdoor activities, celebration events and trips to universities.


Sarah Miller highlighted that a significant change in the support offered by the Virtual School was the extension of support to KS5 (post 16). This support had been increased in 2016/17, with the establishment of a Personal Advisor for Years 12 and 13 in the BVS. A key remit of the BVS was training, which was offered to social workers, foster carers and designated teachers in schools, among others. Sarah Miller emphasised that it was really important to help schools understand the context of LAC and similarly, to ensure that foster carers have high aspirations for the children they cared for. In concluding the introduction, Sarah Miller noted that there was a key challenge going forward with regard to KS4 attainment, with a high percentage of children coming into care quite late.


During Members’ discussion, queries were raised regarding apprenticeships and work experience opportunities for Year 12 and 13 LAC and the tutoring support provided to these young people. Further information was subsequently sought on: the training offered to schools; the relationship between Brent’s schools and the Virtual School; the progress made regarding exclusions; and, the new Enrichment Co-ordinator post.


Responding to the queries raised, Sarah Miller advised that the BVS identified the ‘destinations’ of all Year 11 pupils for the start of the next academic year. These destinations could include apprenticeships or sixth form and a Year 11 Life Coach was available to help those pupils choose their next steps. A tutoring programme was provided by the BVS and Brent had recently run a pilot programme in conjunction with the Institute of Education, London University, which provided one to one tutoring in core subjects for Year 11 LAC. The pilot had revealed that tutoring was particularly effective when delivered by a teacher at the school attended by the pupil. Other support provided included mentoring, mental health support and supporting exam retakes or delaying exams to the next academic year where appropriate.


Sarah Miller emphasised that the BVS worked to build good relationships with schools. It was known that LAC would do less well when not in a mainstream setting so it was very important that everything was done to prevent exclusions and to help schools understand the needs of LAC. Training was open to all Brent schools and this was very positively received. Much of the day to day work of being the Head Teacher of the Virtual School was to challenge potential exclusions and persuade schools to consider alternative measures such as changes to timetables and pastoral support. Historically the key contact in a school was the Designated Teacher for LAC, often the Head or Deputy Head Teacher. With regard to the Enrichment Officer post, Sarah Miller advised that this was new to the BVS and was funded by the John Lyons Charity, following discussions around a lack of capacity for event organisation within the BVS.


The Chair thanked the officers for their contribution to the meeting.


RESOLVED: that the Brent Virtual School Annual Report for 2016/17 be noted.


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