'Virtual' heads to act as parents for pupils in care

5th June 2009 at 01:00

The system for educating looked-after children needs an urgent overhaul to stop teachers letting down those in care, Ed Balls has said.

The Schools Secretary has called for the "virtual headteacher" system - which gives the pupils a "corporate parent" to keep an eye on their progress, one-to-one tuition and free laptops - to be rolled out nationally.

It will also become a statutory duty from this September for all schools to have a teacher with responsibility for looked-after pupils.

The decision comes as figures show just 14 per cent of children in care got five top-grade GCSEs last summer.

Other statistics released by the Department for Children, Schools and Families show the number of looked-after pupils convicted of a crime is double that among other children. Pupils in care are also more likely to truant, be excluded from school and to have special educational needs.

The virtual headteacher scheme has so far been running in Bournemouth, Cambridgeshire, Dudley, Gateshead, Greenwich, Merton, Norfolk, Salford, Stockport, Walsall and Warwickshire, and will now be extended to all local authorities.

But the evaluation of the scheme, by Bristol University, is not due to be released until the summer.

Mr Balls thinks the educational achievements of looked-after children can be "transformed" by virtual heads as their appointment leads to school and social services staff working together more closely.

He wants the virtual head to ensure children in care are not moved from school to school, and for admissions powers and extra transport to be used if necessary.

The designated teacher will be required to give looked-after pupils one-to-one support. The pupils will also get a personal education allowance of Pounds 500 where appropriate.

Government guidance says many children in care do not "receive a quality learning experience".

No more excuses, pages 22-23.

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