Virtual heads take care matters in hand

24th August 2007 at 01:00
The first group of "virtual headteachers" are being appointed by local authorities as part of a government initiative to transform the education of children in care, writes Nick Hilborne.

Based at council offices, virtual heads will work with teachers, social workers and foster parents to improve the education of all the looked-after children in their local authority.

Under the scheme announced in the Care Matters White Paper in June, 11 councils will appoint virtual heads over the next few weeks. If the pilot goes well, the Government plans to extend the initiative to the whole country.

Anne Hawker (right), the deputy head at Liskeard school in Cornwall, has been appointed a virtual head by Warwickshire county council and will start next term. "I'm going back to my roots," she said.

During 16 years as a deputy head, she said she had moved away from pastoral work to responsibility for the curriculum. "I very much enjoyed the pastoral role and I'm looking forward to having that as my prime focus again."

Mrs Hawker said that as well as overseeing the education of looked-after children, virtual heads could help to smooth the transition when they move home and have to go to new schools.

Warwickshire is also involved in a pound;1 million initiative to provide private tutors for children in care, funded by the HSBC's Global Education Trust. Gateshead, Dudley and Merton in south-west London also having funding. The qualified tutors will be responsible for the children's education as a whole, not just their academic progress.

A Department of Children, Schools and Families spokeswoman said success would be measured in terms of children's involvement in social activities, improved self-esteem, as well as academic results.

Photograph: Jim Wileman

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