Virtual School and Virtual School Headteacher: Report highlights progress of pilot


The progress made by Cardiff's Virtual School (VS) and Virtual School Headteacher (VSH) has been presented in a report to the Council's Children and Young Person's Scrutiny Committee.

Established in April 2023, the Welsh Government funded pilot aims to improve the educational progress and achievement of all children looked after by their authority, including those that have been placed in schools in other authorities.

As children in care are educated across numerous schools, the Virtual School Head Teacher undertakes the crucial responsibility of monitoring their progress as if they were attending a single institution.

The scheme fosters collaboration between education, social services, and other stakeholders and working in partnership with other authorities, supports the educational progress of these children.

The primary responsibilities of the Virtual School and Virtual School Headteacher include:

  • Establishing a rigorous tracking and monitoring system to ensure the academic attainment of looked after children.
  • Ensuring that every child in care has a robust and effective plan in place to facilitate access to timely and appropriate support.
  • Advocating for the educational needs of looked after children across the local authority and beyond.
  • Leading and managing the Virtual School Team to provide support and guidance to schools and other relevant agencies.
  • Influencing policy and decision-making processes related to the educational well-being of looked after children.

The Virtual School is not a physical building attended by the children in care, as they continue to attend the schools where they are registered.

Deborah Williams, Cardiff's Virtual School Headteacher said: "The role of the Virtual School team is to actively collaborate with teachers in all schools to establish strong and effective relationships, to improve communication and provide support in line with the plans agreed with learners and other agencies.

"To date, a great deal of work has been done to get to know our children and young people, develop relationships and expand the vision and strategic plan both short and long term.

"The report emphasises the need for collaborative efforts to achieve better outcomes for children and young people in care, acknowledging that their educational needs cannot be considered in isolation but must be addressed in conjunction with broader issues such as their well-being, health, and placement stability."

Deputy Leader for Cardiff Council and Cabinet Member for Education, Cllr Sarah Merry said: "Following Cardiff's successful application for funding, this ground-breaking pilot project will help ensure that we can deliver on our responsibility to improve the quality of school education and promote the educational achievement of children under Local Authority care, regardless of their placement locations.

"The report presented at the Council's Children and Young Person's Scrutiny Committee aligns with the Welsh Government's commitment to ensuring that every child in Wales, including those in care, receives an excellent education regardless of their circumstances."

Cabinet Member for Children's Social Services, Cllr Ash Lister added: "The project, which will run until March 2024, has already showcased promising outcomes and places the Virtual School Headteacher in a position to shape future policies and practices, ensuring the full participation of all looked after children and young people in decisions regarding their lives and future plans, actively engaging them in shaping their own future and that their perspectives are accurately represented."

"The initiative supports our commitment to improving the educational outcomes and life opportunities of children in care and through a holistic approach, supports Article 39 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which emphasises the importance of additional support for children who have experienced trauma to aid in their recovery, integration, and overall development.

"Looking ahead, the Virtual School Headteacher will continue to play a crucial role in shaping policy and practice with the goal to empower all looked after children and young people so that they can achieve."


You can read the report in full here:Agenda for Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday, 4th July, 2023, 4.30 pm : Cardiff Council (