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Page last updated: 14/11/2017


News Alerts

Britannica School - Learning Resources for Young People

​The Essex Virtual School is pleased to announce a new learning resources for all children and young people in care. A licence has been purchased to provide every child and young person, from 4 to 18, access to Encyclopaedia Britannica Digital Learning Platform called Britannica School.

Linked to the National Curriculum, this resource is a safe and secure site to help young people with their learning - something that young people have told us they have difficulties getting help with.

Letters are going to all children in care, and their carers, to support this initiative.

For further information please see our Britannica School​ page


Current Training Opportunities 2017-18

Early Years

Please see our Early Years​ section for details of 2017-18 training programmes
Further information is on our Early Years​ page

Become an Attachment Aware School

We are pleased to confirm 6 February 2018 as the date for the next Attachment Aware Schools training session. Please see the flyer ​and complete the booking form and return it to  

Places on this training are limited and therefore initally we can only accommodate one delegate from a school. Should space become available we will offer subsequent places, but this will not be known until late January at the very earliest. As this popular course is always oversubscribed can you please let us know as soon as you can if you book a place and then cannot attend. We have turned down many applications, onto to find we have 4-5 places available due to non-attendance.

Further information on attachment can be found on our Attachment page

Designated Teacher Training
Our next Designated Teacher training session will take place on 1 March 2018. Please see the flyer and complete the booking form​.  Please return to

Supporting Children in Care
Could your provision for Children in Care benefit from expert training and vast networking opportunities? Coast 2 Coast Teaching School Alliance is offering free training.
Please see this flyer​ for more information and how to book.


Virtual School Heads

Contact details​ for Virtual School Heads in other Local Authorities. Correct as at April 2017

Supporting adopted children in school

Supporting adopted children in school

​New content has been added to our Adopted Children pages, including a frequently asked questions​ document to guide parents through the education process.

Much of the information also applies to children who leave care through Adoption, Special Guardianship Orders (SGO) or Child Arrangement Orders (CAO)

Government Consultation

The government is currently consulting on two documents. The revised statutory guidance ‘Promoting the Education of Looked After and previously Looked After Children and The Designated Teacher for Looked After and previously Looked After Children.

The guidance will support the Children and Social Work Act 2017 which extends the role of the Local Authority and Designated Teachers to include those children that have left care through adoption, Special Guardianship (SGO) and Child Arrangement Orders (CAO).

Headteachers, governing bodies and designated teachers to contribute to the consultation by following the link.


The closing date is the 27th November 2017​

Web links​ ​
          Britannica School                CLA Tracker


A message Cathryn Adams, Lead Commissioner for Children in Care and Safeguarding, and Virtual School Head.

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome back to the start of the new school year. I hope you have all had a good break. It’s strange that the summer holiday which is, in essence, a half term, passes so quickly!!

As partners of the Essex Virtual School I want to take this opportunity to remind you of our shared priorities to improve the educational outcomes for children in care:

  • Raise attainment and accelerate progress for children in care across all key stages
  • Improve school attendance and reduce exclusion 
  • Improve the quality of Personal Education Plans
  • Support school leadership to enhance a shared objective of improving life opportunities through education.
  • Provide access to advice, support and intervention for children adopted, Special Guardianship Order and Child Arrangement Order to schools and families

The Virtual School has added a priority following the passing of the Children and Social Work Act 2017. This means that the Virtual School will have an additional responsibility to support schools and families of children that are adopted, or subject to either a Special Guardianship Order (SGO) or Child Arrangement Order (CAO). We are waiting for the DfE to publish the guidance to accompany the legislation. Included within the law is the requirement for schools to have a named Designated Teacher for this group of children.  As a Virtual School we will be developing our offer and ensuring that school staff have the right skills and knowledge to support these vulnerable learners.

We have further training planned this coming year, in October there is training for Designated Teachers which covers everything you need to know to fulfil your role and in particular improving the quality of Personal Education Plans.

There is also a link to a range of training opportunities for Early Years practitioners via the website.

There are also further training days on Attachment Aware Schools. This training has been in demand and over-subscribed. The spring 2018 session is scheduled for 6 February. PLease visit our Designated Teacher training page or the current training opportunities link above. Designated Teacher training is scheduled for March 2018 and further details will be released soon.

One thing that our children and young people in care often say is that they would like more support at home for learning. As a result of what children and young people have said, the Virtual School has recently purchased access to Britannica School, from Encyclopaedia Britannica for all children in care aged between 4 and 18 years old. This is an on-line resource that is accessed via a portal. The resources are tailored to different age groups and the school curriculum.  We are communicating with Designated Teachers at school and carers to encourage children and young people to make use of this resource and to support them to do so. 

Our first Governors meeting for this academic year took place on 20th September. On the agenda is a review of the Virtual School SEF and Development Plan along with a review of Pupil Premium Plus.  In addition we will be considering the feedback from the Ofsted pilot inspection that took place in August 2017. Minutes from the governors meetings are available on the Virtual School website.

Best wishes for a successful new year,


Cathryn Adams

 Cathryn Adams, Virtual School Head

Arrangements for PEPs and PPG

Sabrina Stanley is currently on maternity leave. We are pleased to inform you that Sharon Halsey is providing cover for this period. Sharon can be contacted on 033303 21200 or via email .CLA Tracker issues, including locked accounts, pupil queries and changes to Designated Teachers should be directed to

Our pages are regularly updated so please pop back periodically to check the latest news and information from the Virtual School.

Further information can be found on our subpages - 

Virtual School Handbook

A new handbook on the Essex Virtual School​​ has been produced.​

The Pledge

The County Council is determined to ensure that Children in Care and care leavers receive the very best chance possible to go on and lead fulfilled and successful adult lives.

Our pledge is a marker to remind everyone how important and special these children and young people are and of the significant responsibility we have.

The Pledge

The Pledge Easy Read version​​

Contacts, structure and strategy

The Essex Virtual School has oversight for all Essex children in care from Early Years, throughout their statutory education years and through post 16 further education. The role of the local authority is set out in the DfE document Promoting the education of looked after children Statutory Guidance for local authorities July 2014

The service also maintains an oversight for children from other local authorities placed in Essex schools.  Essex has produced a document to support other LAs​ who place children in care in the Essex area.​

If you have children that are in the care of another Local Authority, please try to ensure that you are also aware of their Virtual Head de​tails. This is the current list of Virtual School Heads​​​ for the Eastern Region.
Virtual School Team​​​ (including all contact details of the team)

​National Association of Virtual School Heads

Cathryn Adams is a member of the National Association of Virtual School Heads.

​The Research and Improvement Priorities 2016/17

1. Establish The National Association of Virtual School Heads and links with key partners.

2. Develop a robust means of measuring attainment and progress based on recent research demonstrating what impacts most on educational outcomes for children in care.

3. Uphold high quality educational provision for all children in care.

4. Research and develop best practice use of Pupil Premium Plus to maximise its impact.

5. Support schools to implement the NICE Guidance on Attachment.

6. Promote engagement with Children in Care Councils and ensure the voice of children in care and care leavers is at the centre of our work.

7. Support the ongoing professional development of Virtual School Heads, Designated Teachers and other professionals working with children in care.

Further details can be found on the website​.

Free Music Opportunities for Children in Care

Essex Music Services

Essex Music Services (lead partner in Essex Music Education Hub) and the Essex Virtual School are working together to enable musical opportunities for all Looked After Children (LAC), children subject to a Special Guardianship Order (SGO), Child Arrangement Order (CAO) or Children adopted from care are offered the following musical opportunities by Essex Music Education Hub completely free of charge. This covers school based music tuition, instrument hire and access to ensembles through the Music Schools. Further information and an application form can be found on the Essex Music Service website. Please note the above offer is applicable to music tuition in Essex County Council Schools and EMS community Music Schools; it cannot be used at schools in other local authorities or for at-home provision. For ECC LAC, SGO, CAO or Children Adopted from Care that are receiving their education at another local authority school, please contact the Virtual School​ who will be able to advise you further.

Essex Music Services now hire hire complete music technology packages to support budding young songwriters, producers and sound engineers!

£20 per term with additional subsidy for low-income families, and completely free to children in care.

For more info email or click here​​​

Ofsted Evidence Form S5

Improving outcomes for children in care is a priority for Ofsted and forms part of the school inspection. Inspectors will use the S5 Evidence Form​ to support their judgement. 

Personal Education Plans

It is recommended that the PEP1 is completed in the first three weeks of the term as this will be an essential element of planning and assessment for children in care. In the first three weeks of term new targets following a gap analysis will need to be incorporated into the PEP1 document to enable progress to be assessed at the end of the term. Please remember that  the  learning objectives should be challenging and reflect targets for the whole term.

Please visit our PEP page for exemplar PEPs, or contact us at

Supporting documents from

The website contains a wealth of information to support schools and colleges in relation to children in care and it has been handily packaged together on this link​.​

Included are documents on advocacy, SEND, health and wellbeing, support in education, special guardianship, social care and research.​​


ESI ContactUs

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Cathryn Adams, Virtual School Head


033301 31077


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