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Torbay Virtual School

Find out how we support the education of children aged 0 to 19 who are in our care.

The Virtual School

When a child/young person (CYP) comes into our care as a local authority, they become our responsibility. This is makes us their corporate parent. The corporate parent is made up of:

  • all professionals working with the CYP
  • all carers
  • elected members

Every parent has high aspirations. They want to enable them to achieve their fullest potential. They want their children to have the best possible:

  • education provision
  • experiences
  • opportunities

These children attend different schools across Torbay and in other local authorities. The Virtual School ensures that their educational attainment and progress is monitored. They are evaluated as if they attend a single school.

The role of the Virtual School has been statutory for all local authorities since 2014. We support the educational attainment of all children cared for and care experienced up to the age of 19. This starts with children in early years settings through to young people who may want to re-enter education.

Since 2018, Virtual Schools must also be there to offer advice and guidance to parents or carers of children who left care by:

From September 2024 Virtual Schools have new Extended Duties to develop their strategic leadership role in promoting the educational outcomes for children in Kinship Care arrangements.

Virtual Schools will be asked to:

  • Raise awareness of and promote the educational achievement, progress and attendance for this group of children, including advising schools on how to avoid exclusion for example
  • Provide advice and information to Kinship Carers who support their children under a Special Guardianship Order or Child Arrangements Order, regardless of whether the child was Looked-After by the Local Authority. (Virtual Schools are not expected to provide advice where there is an informal kinship arrangement i.e. the carer does not have parental responsibility for the child. For more information on informal arrangements, visit the Kinship Care Charity’s guide on Informal Kinship Arrangements.
  • Answer queries from schools/settings where permission has been given.

The reason for Virtual Schools having this extended duty is because research indicates that the outcomes for children who grow up in kinship care are generally better than those in ‘non-parental care’. However, their outcomes can still be below those of children who have a social worker. This information is sourced from the GOV.UK website on kinship care outcomes.

For detailed guidance on the extended role of virtual school heads, please refer to the GOV.UK guidance on promoting the education of children with a social worker and those in kinship care arrangements.

For further information about support and advice available from the Kinship Care charity, please explore Kinship, which offers a range of resources for kinship care. For more detailed guidance, Kinship Compass serves as a valuable resource hub for kinship carers.

The Virtual School champions our responsibilities regarding the education of cared for children. We want the gap in attainment of those children and their ‘non-cared for’ peers to get smaller.

The Virtual School works closely with other local authorities. We work together to look after:

  • Torbay CYP educated outside of the borough
  • CYP from other local authorities placed in Torbay

The responsibilities of the Virtual School

The role of the Virtual School is supporting the education of cared for children (CFC). This includes ensuring there are effective systems in place to:

  • Maintain an up-to-date roll of CFC in school or college setting. Gather information about education placements, attendance, and progress.
  • Ensure we have all information about each CYP’s:
    • mental health
    • Special Educational Needs (SEN)
    • disability

We can then make sure appropriate support is available in their educational setting.

  • Inform relevant school staff if there is a CYP on roll who we care for.
  • Ensure everyone involved understand their roles and responsibilities. This includes:
    • social workers (SWs)
    • designated teachers (DTs)
    • schools
    • carers
    • Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs)

This involves initiating, developing, reviewing, and updating the CYP’s Personal Education Plan (PEP). Working out how they may help meet the needs identified in that PEP. A PEP toolkit is available on request.

  • Avoid drift and delay in providing suitable educational provision. Include SEN provision and unplanned termination of educational arrangements, through proactive, multi-agency cooperation. Where this requires negotiation with other authorities, this should be timely. The central focus should be the best interests of the CYP.
  • We want to promote the welfare and wellbeing of our CFC. In doing this we must make sure the educational achievement of our CFC is a top priority.
  • Report regularly on the attainment, progress, and school attendance of CFC. We do this through the authority’s corporate parenting structures.
  • Promote a culture that takes account of the CYP’s view according to age and understanding. We must use this to identify and meet their educational needs.


Contact Torbay Virtual School