07: Virtual Schools and Looked After Children Education Service (LACES)

Virtual Schools

Virtual Schools and LACES have been set up as a result of the National Strategy:

“The National Strategy aims to improve outcomes for Children in Care and includes key recommendations to help LAC and these are:”

Every Local Authority should have a Virtual School Headteacher (VSH) to champion the education of Children in Care and promote their educational achievement, (including those placed out of authority), as if they were in a single school. The VSH has the same responsibility for the pupils in their care as the Headteacher of any other school.

Local Authorities retain statutory obligations to promote the educational achievement of Children in Care, regardless of where they are placed and educated, as laid out in the Children Act 1989 and it is essential that they continue to focus on these priority areas using their targets.

What does the Virtual School for Looked After Children do?

Under the direction of its Headteacher the Virtual School exists to ensure the highest level of support and challenge to all those involved in the education of Looked After Children (LAC).  Its goal is to ensure a joined up and integrated approach to improving outcomes for LAC.  It does not replace the school or educational provision for LAC.

The focus for the Virtual School is:

  • improving school attendance;
  • raising attainment and accelerating learning;
  • promoting participation in activities in and out of school, and;
  • encouraging young people post 16+ to continue in employment, education and training.

Additionally, the Virtual School co-ordinates data and information about each LAC to support the LA’s LAC Strategy.

VSH are experienced teachers in charge of overseeing the educational progress of all children in the care of the local authority that appoints them.

A single school may have had only a small number of LAC, or even no prior experience of working with children in care, and will therefore be unfamiliar with the issues. The VSH will have the specialist knowledge to support those head teachers in meeting any extra needs of LAC attending their school.

VSHs also work with the children’s services department of the Local Authority and with all schools in the area on initiatives to promote the education of children in care.

How do I find the Virtual School Head for my child?

You need to know the Education Authority responsible for your child which may not be the LA they are living in. Most LA web sites will have the information you need. The Essex LA web site contains a list of all VSHs and this can be found at:


NB: This list was correct in May 2014 but care should be taken as it may not be updated: it should be seen as a useful starting point.

Looked After Children’s Educational Support Team (LACES)

LACES teams have a statutory duty under the Children and Young Persons Act 2008 to promote the education of Looked After Children. They provide help, advice, training, educational support and information to LAC, schools and carers.  They support schools specifically around statutory guidance for school governors regarding the role of the designated teacher. The manager of the service is the VSH and your child’s social worker should be able to help you to contact the relevant team.

Who are they?

LACES stands for the Looked After Children Education Service – though they sometimes have different names depending on the Local Authority. They are a dedicated group of staff available to support LAC in their education.

What do they do?

The LACES team’s task is to help every Looked After Child make the most of their talents and enable them to maximise their learning opportunities and progress.  The LACES team:

  • Provides or commissions advice and training for social workers, designated teachers etc.
  • Works in partnership with schools to ensure the best educational outcomes for LAC.
  • Provides foster carers and children’s homes with advice about the education of LAC.
  • Offers advice on the completion of PEPs, sometimes they may attend PEP meetings.
  • Helps set up inter-agency meetings and initiatives.
  • Where appropriate attends planning meetings and statutory reviews.
  • Helps to organise out of school learning activities for LAC and encourages them to attend.
  • Contributes to information required for school audits, the Designated Teacher list and monitoring of PEPs.

The Service will give priority to children who are:

  • without an educational placement.
  • at risk of exclusion.
  • in need of support in order to return to or start a new school.
  • transferring between Year 6 and Year 7.
  • approaching the end of the primary or secondary phase and require support to raise their attainment in Key Stage 2 National Tests or Key Stage 4 GCSE exams.
  • in need of individual support in any year to accelerate progress and raise attainment
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