Virtual School - Frequently Asked Questions

How does a school know if a pupil is looked after?

If a child has been placed through a care order, interim care order, accommodated (under Section 20) or a placement order the child is ‘looked after’. When a child in a school becomes looked after, the school should expect to be contacted by the child’s social worker.

It can be complicated sometimes as when a child lives with their relatives they may, or may not be, looked after. If this is a private arrangement within a family they are not classed as ‘looked after’ by the Local Authority. If it is a private arrangement with friends that lasts more than 28 days the child is privately fostered. This does not make them looked after but the local authority must be informed of the arrangement. However, if the carer, whether family or friends, has been approved by the local authority) as a Kinship Carer the child is ‘looked after’.

Where there is uncertainty contact the Virtual School via email who will be able to clarify it.

What should schools do differently for children who are looked after?

There are many systems in school which may need to be more flexible to better meet the needs of Looked After Children. The designated teacher for Looked After Children should have attended training run by the Virtual School and be aware of what needs to be done in school. The designated teacher will need to be aware of the statutory guidance from the DfE on ‘The role and responsibilities of the designated teacher for looked after children’. Schools must monitor and track the attainment, progress and attendance of individual children who are in care.

What is the role of a Designated Teacher of a Looked After Child?

The Designated Teacher has a leadership role in promoting the educational achievement of every Looked After Child on the school's roll, developing the Personal Education Plan, advising others within school on appropriate strategies to assist learning, building relationships with others beyond school and reporting progress to the school Governing Body.

The Designated Teacher should make a positive difference by promoting the needs of every Looked After Child and ensuring their personal, emotional and academic needs are prioritised. The role of the Designated Teacher includes:

  • Taking the lead responsibility for helping school staff understand the difficulties affecting Looked After Children and how positive systems of support can help to overcome them
  • Acting as an advocate for Looked After Children
  • Developing and monitoring systems for liaising with carers, social workers, health professionals and the Virtual School
  • Monitoring the educational progress, attainment and attendance of all Looked After Children
  • Intervening if there is evidence of individual under-achievement or absence from school
  • Liaising with the member of staff responsible for monitoring children on the Child Protection Register, ensuring all Looked After Children in school are safeguarded
  • Making sure that Looked After Children are prioritised in one-to-one tuition arrangements and that carers understand the importance of supporting learning at home

See The Role of the Designated Teacher section of this website for more information here.

Can a Headteacher exclude a Looked After Child from school?

The exclusion of Look After Children should be an absolute last resort. No Looked After Child should be excluded from a school/Pupil Referral Unit without a discussion with the Virtual School Head and first day provision should be put in place.

Where a school has concerns about the behaviour, or risk of exclusion, of a looked after child it should, in partnership with the Virtual School, consider what additional support or alternative placement may be required.

When a Headteacher makes a decision to excluded a child they must have regard to the Department of Education Guidance on Exclusion, which talks about exclusion from school and the disproportionately high rate of exclusions for certain children including those who are looked after by the Local Authority.

There is a duty for Governors and the Local Authority to work together with regard to provision. It is important for schools to help minimise the disruption that exclusion can cause to an excluded pupil's education. Whilst the statutory duty on governing bodies or local authorities is to provide full-time education from the sixth day of an exclusion, there is an obvious benefit in starting this provision as soon as possible. In particular, in the case of a looked after child, schools and local authorities should work together to arrange alternative provision from the first day following the exclusion.

If a school is considering an exclusion, they should contact the Virtual School so that they may look to see if there is any support available from them to help avoid exclusion or help with 1st day provision.

For a discussion regarding exclusion guidance please contact the Virtual School on 01609 533231 or Angela Calvert on 01609 532094.

For more information see the NYCC Exclusion of Pupils Policy. Or the Virtual School Guidance here.

What if a Looked After Child at a North Yorkshire school is cared for by a Local Authority other than North Yorkshire?

Where a child is in a North Yorkshire school from another local authority, the corporate parents for that child is the placing authority Virtual School Head.

The placing Virtual School and North Yorkshire Virtual School will share information as necessary to ensure the education needs of those who move across boarders are met. If schools are having difficulty contacting Social Workers or the Virtual School Head of another Local Authority please contact the Virtual School Head in North Yorkshire who will liaise and clarify arrangements.

This child will receive their Pupil Premium Plus+ payments from the placing authority Virtual School Head. As each authority has their own arrangements on how they allocate their Pupil Premium Plus+ funding, each authorities has the discretion to determine their own arrangements. Schools should be aware that the funding for Looked After Children on their roll may vary as a result, if children are looked after by different Local Authorities.

Who do I contact to ask for extra educational support?

Discussions with Virtual School Staff are encouraged. Each Looked After Child has an allocated Virtual School Education Liaison Advisor who is responsible for overseeing the quality of education for a number of cases.

For a Looked After Child in the care of North Yorkshire contact the Virtual School. Email: or telephone: 01609 533231, to be put in touch with your locality lead in the East, West and Central (Selby and Hambleton and Richmondshire).

For a Looked After Child in the care of another Authority contact the Virtual School Head in that Local Authority.

For further guidance on admissions or avoiding exclusions contact the North Yorkshire Virtual School on 01609 533231.

Why are out of school activities important?

Out of school hours learning offers young people the time to 'find out more', to build up knowledge, and to review, reinforce and practise skills.

Research has found young people and children participating in informal, enriching activities did better than expected in their GCSEs, by an average of three and a half grades. They also had a better attendance and improved attitudes to school than those who did not attend additional activities.

Extension clubs that focus on homework and revision for particular subject areas have been shown to be highly effective in improving classroom performance.

What is a Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires?

Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires are a screening tool to assist in measuring the emotional and behavioural health of children and young people. The data collected by the questionnaire and a summary figure for each child (the total difficulties score) are used to identifying any support that might need to be put in place.

The Carer’s Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire is completed by the main carer for the child/young person in time to inform his or her health assessment. A further Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire might be completed by the School because the child/young person may be experiencing difficulties at school which would not be picked up from the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire that the Carers have completed (and vice versa).

For more information regarding Strength and Difficulties Questionnaires see the Youth In Mind Website or NYCC Guidance on Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires here.

What financial support does a former Looked After Child get when going to University?

There is significant financial support available from NYCC and individual universities offer additional bursaries which are non-repayable. Information is available from the Virtual School or members of CSC Leaving Care Team and is reviewed annually. Email: or telephone: 01609 533231.

Please see the Higher Education Section of this website here for more information.

FAQs regarding PEPs

What is a Personal Education Plan?

A Personal Education Plan (PEP) is a document describing a course of action to help a child or young person reach his/her full academic and life potential.

The PEP should be put together and be completed at a meeting with the designated teacher, or an appropriate school representative, the social worker and carers for the young person as well as the Virtual School. The child or young person should also be part of their education planning, either at the PEP meeting itself or through discussions outside that meeting.

Although it is not possible for the Virtual School Staff to attend all the PEP meetings for those in the care of North Yorkshire County Council it will be very helpful if Social Workers and Designated Teachers when co-ordinating the PEP meeting, invite them.

Who is responsible for the PEP?

As the PEP is part of the overall care plan for the child/young person, the social worker is ultimately responsible. However it is completed in partnership with the school, Foster Carers, Virtual School Staff and the Child/Young Person. Within school, the designated teacher has lead responsibility for the development and implementation of the PEP.

What should happen prior to the PEP meeting?

Everybody should complete a draft version of their section of the PEP on ePEP, in order to facilitate discussions in the PEP meeting.

Discussions should be had between the Child/Young Person and the designated teacher to discuss what they would like to say, how they feel they have progressed since the last review, and what support they would welcome during and after the meeting.

What does a good PEP look like?

PEPs must include a funding provision map linked to the SMART targets on ePEP detailing the intervention/action/resources required.

  • PEPs must give the general overview of the child, including their background, using signs of safety
  • They must record the child’s attainment and their levels of progress
  • There must be a record of the target levels and predicted grades
  • They must record the SMART targets and to say what the next steps will be
  • They must record what the Pupil Premium Plus+ will be spent on

Can the Personal Education Plan and the Looked After Child review be run together?

Yes. It makes sense to run an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP) review together with a PEP meeting and/or a LAC review once a year at least. This would save time, finance and paperwork. Good practice would be to send all documentation to the Independent Reviewing Officer two weeks in advance of the LAC Reviews.

FAQ Regarding the Virtual School

Does the Virtual School actually accommodate and teach children?

No, all children are placed on the roll of DfE registered schools. The Virtual School has a duty to promote educational achievement through the provision of information and advice, for Looked After Children and Previously Looked After Children.

Does the Virtual School Support other groups of vulnerable children?

The Virtual School has a remit to support, monitor and act as corporate parent for Looked After Children. It also manages and distributes the Pupil Premium for Looked After Children.

The Virtual School also offers guidance for Care Experienced Children. Please see our section on Previously Looked After Children for more details.

Does the Virtual School have Pupil Premium for Previously Looked After Children?

No, the Pupil Premium for Previously Looked After Children goes direct to schools based on the number of children it records on its January school census. Please see our section on Previously Looked After Children for more details.

How do you celebrate the achievements and attainment of LAC?

A child's educational and other achievements should always be acknowledged. Whether through PEP meetings or after exams, the Virtual School strives to ensure that the hard work and commitment made by the Looked After Child is celebrated.

The Virtual School holds monthly Resource Panel meetings, where applications to support Looked After Children are considered.

The Virtual School host an annual Graduation Ceremony for Looked After Children and Care Leavers to mark the successful completion of their Secondary, Post 16 or University courses. Awards are presented in the Grand Committee Room at County Hall followed by a celebratory meal at a local hotel. The young people are able to invite a guest of their choice and will receive photographs of the day.