Minister’s visit highlights work to help vulnerable children

Nick BennettA SCHEME aimed at boosting the life prospects of children in care in East Sussex has been highlighted in a visit by a Government minister.

Children and families minister Edward Timpson visited the county to learn about the work of the East Sussex Virtual School, which provides extra support and services to around 400 looked-after children in 146 schools.

During the visit to Cross-In-Hand CE Primary School, in Heathfield, the minister met Virtual School Head Adrian Money, Cross-In-Hand head teacher Andrew Best, staff and children at the school who benefit from the service.

In 2013 just 15 per cent of children in care across the country attained five A* to C grade GCSEs including English and maths, compared with 58 per cent of non-looked after children.

The East Sussex Virtual School, set up in 2008, is aimed at narrowing this gap and boosting the educational achievement of children in care.

Cllr Sylvia Tidy, county council lead member for children and families, said: “Children in care have often experienced difficult periods in their upbringing which may have led to their learning being disrupted.

“They have as much right to a good start in life as any other child, and the aim of the Virtual School is to ensure they have the same opportunities to achieve their potential as their peers.

“Over the past five years GCSE figures for looked-after children in East Sussex have been higher than the national average and Cross-In-Hand is one of a number of schools recognised for the excellent work it does to help close the gap between the attainment of looked after children and their peers.

“The minister’s visit offered an ideal opportunity to show the good work being carried out both at this school and across the county as a whole.”

The Virtual School team monitors the educational achievement of children in its care and arranges for additional support, such as specialist tuition for gifted children or one-to-one catch-up sessions.

Changes to the law introduced last year mean all education authorities are now required to have in place a virtual school head, who is also now responsible for managing the Pupil Premium Plus, a fund which helps children in care achieve at school.