Virtual head teacher appointed

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A virtual head teacher is being appointed by Derbyshire County Council to help children in care do better at school.

They will be responsible for setting up a virtual school with a teacher from every Derbyshire school designated to provide support and mentoring to boost attainment.

Led by the virtual head, these designated teachers would work together to ensure children in care receive the right support to help them achieve as they progress through school.

Currently performance of young people in care at Key Stage 4 across the county is well below the national average.

Just 24.1 per cent of Derbyshire children in care got five good GCSEs – compared to 36.8 per cent nationally.

And the gap between these young people and their peers is even greater - nationally 83.2 per cent achieve five good grades at GCSE.

Ian Thomas, Derbyshire County Council’s strategic director children and younger adults, said: “We know that poor results lead to poor outcomes.

“Only 6 per cent of care leavers go to university while 40 per cent of prisoners under 21 were in care.

“Research also shows that children in care are more likely to become teenage parents, be unemployed and are more likely to need mental health services.

“We’re working hard to change this. The virtual head teacher will act as a champion with schools to seize opportunities and drive forward innovative ideas to help children in care succeed.”

The county council’s decision to appoint a virtual head teacher comes ahead of Government plans to make the role statutory and follows successful pilots in 11 other areas.

The county council has also launched its own Uni-fi programme to help children in care fulfil their potential. It has received £180,000 from Creative Councils after being selected from more than 130 bids from across the country.

A further £1.11 million investment, over three years, from the county council will expand opportunities on offer, including:

* Giving children in care from school year 4 onwards a clear offer of financial and practical support

* Working in partnership with Derby University to develop a ground-breaking qualification to help county council employees and carers realise the potential of each child

* Developing an e-portfolio to create networks between young people in care – and those who support them – and record achievement to help the authority reward successes through incentives

* Pairing young people with mentors of their choice to help them succeed.

Ian added: “We want every child to do well. By awakening a young person’s ambition early and giving them access to inspirational experiences we hope to help them fulfil their potential.”