£16 million to support young people with a social worker

Children with a social worker in England will benefit from further dedicated support in school and at college to help level up their outcomes in education and reach their full potential.

The government has announced more than £16 million for councils to extend the role of Virtual School Heads from September this year, meaning there will be a local champion for children with a social worker in every local authority in England.

A further £3 million in funding has also been confirmed for a new pilot, where Virtual School Heads will support looked-after children and care leavers in post-16 education. Launching in October, the pilot will enable Virtual School Heads to expand their work into further education settings.

Both programmes will build on the existing role of a Virtual School Head, who help champion and improve the educational outcomes for children in or on the edge of care, enhancing relationships between schools, colleges and local authorities so that pupils receive support from professionals that will help them develop and progress throughout their time in education.

Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford said: “Every child or young person should be given opportunities to fulfil their potential regardless of their background. For children in care, or those who are known to social care teams, it is absolutely vital we help them to overcome the barriers they can face in education so that they have the best chance to succeed in life.

“Our Virtual School Heads are already doing a phenomenal job supporting children in care, and working closely with schools and delivering significant improvements to their educational outcomes. That’s why we are extending their role, so that their leadership and experience can benefit other children with social workers, boosting their attainment and attendance and ensuring they can access support that meets their needs.”

The pilot programme for looked-after children and care leavers in post-16 education will run in a selected group of local authorities for six months. Local authorities interested in the pilot will be able to apply through an expression of interest process to be launched next month.

Patrick Ward, chair of the National Association of Virtual School Heads, said: “It is particularly pleasing to note that sufficient additional resources have been allocated to deliver on the aims identified. It has been refreshing to work in partnership with the Department for Education and colleagues from the Association of Directors of Children’s Services to make this happen. I hope this successful way of working continues in the future.”

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