Designated teachers newsletter

Autumn Term 2020

Virtual School Head Update

Welcome to our first Surrey Virtual School newsletter. We will aim produce this once every term in order to provide useful information, dates for the diary and support you further in your role as Designated Teacher for children in care. We also aim to share the improvement journey which has been underway over the past year to address the key areas highlighted by OFSTED where the Virtual School has needed to improve its performance.

I joined the Surrey Virtual School team in June 2020 during the lockdown, and have literally got to know the team and other colleagues 'virtually' during this time. I'm new to Surrey but not to the role of Virtual School Head (VSH) as I have been the VSH for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight for the past five and a half years.

The Surrey Virtual School or SVS has in the past few years been through some turbulent times with several changes of leadership and a full restructure back in May 2019. However, following this, there has been a full and stable team in place, we are fully engaged and progressing well with the improvement journey within Children's Services after the local authority was judged inadequate overall by OFSTED in May 2018.

I look forward to working with you as Designated Teachers (DT) for children in care over the next weeks, months and terms. We will of course be focussing very much initially on the transition back to school and the specific needs of our care experienced cohort of children, their carers and yourselves as DTs in this particular context. We will also want to gain your insight and feedback around some of our key areas of SVS priority which include:

  • Improving the quality of Personal Education Plans (PEPs) further, paricularly in relation to analysis of need and action planning to secure measurable improvement in progress and outcomes.
  • Developing a more robust Virtual School 'support and challenge' approach in relation to individual pupil progress and outcomes.
  • Our dialogue with you around the progress children make and ways this is recorded on their PEP.
  • Ensuring consistent and purposeful use of Pupil Premium Plus that is linked to individual children's identified needs.
  • Being more transparent about the support and services provided by the Virtual School and what we offer.
    Thank you for your support for the Surrey Virtual School and all your hard work on behalf of our care experienced children. Please do get in touch with me if you have particular comments or feedback to give around the contents of this newsletter, I will be very pleased to hear from you. Sending you all good wishes for a successful and productive Autumn term.

Anwen Foy – Surrey Virtual School Head

Personal Education Plans

PEP deadlines:

Please complete all PEPS on Welfare Call by:

  • Autumn Term: Friday 23 October 2020
  • Spring Term: Friday 12 February 2021
  • Summer Term 2021: Friday 28 May 2021

Autumn Term PEPs 2020: Guidance for Designated Teachers

Timing of autumn PEP

  • Please make sure that PEPs are booked as early as possible (ie within the first few weeks back at school) in the autumn term to allow the individual transition needs of looked after children to be included in their targets.
  • Please speak to your child's social worker about bringing these forward and where needed, or ask for support from your SVS Education Support Worker (See 'Contacting the Virtual School' section below.) At the PEP please book in PEP reviews for early in the term for spring and summer 2021 with your child's social worker and carer.
  • An early PEP also allows individual children, as experts on themselves, to share their thoughts, wishes and feelings around the support they need and want at this time.

Talk to your child's carers

  • Please check in early in the term with your child's carers as they will have invaluable and unique insight to share about their learning during lockdown as well as their current emotional health and wellbeing. For example, they will know how the child is feeling about full return to school, their experiences during lockdown, any approaches which have been particularly successful in engaging them with their home learning and any factors or events which may impact (e.g. family illness) on their smooth transition back to school with their peer group.
  • Please talk to your child's carers about the provision in place for them when they return to school and how this will differ from what they have experienced previously so that they can offer support and reassurance.
  • Please agree how you will keep in touch with carers and how frequently whilst the child is transitioning back to full time education with their peers. This will help to support shared, consistent approaches and early intervention where needed.
  • DTs will want to be mindful that carers may have their own anxieties and will have had their own unique lockdown experiences.
  • Please take account of the most recent government guidance around returning to school and expectations around attendance, including consideration around using " the additional catch-up funding schools will receive, as well as existing pastoral and support services, attendance staff and resources and schools' pupil premium funding to put measures in place for those families who will need additional support to secure pupils' regular attendance….work closely with other professionals as appropriate to support the return to school, including continuing to notify the child's social worker, if they have one, of non-attendance."
  • Please also encourage carers to promote the positives around the child's return to school, such as seeing their friends, access to activities/resources/lessons they previously enjoyed.


Transition targets

SVS would expect to see targets on the autumn PEP which take account of each child's individual transition needs. These should be informed by an individual review and analysis of each child's needs but are likely to include some of the following:

  • Supporting the child/young person to adapt to the change from being with their carer for most of the day to being with different key adults, new members of staff
  • Adjusting to being with larger groups of children, the increased sensory as well as social/emotional demands this may place on a care experienced child, the support that may be needed to renew/ develop friendships and positive peer relationships
  • Supporting adjustment back to formal learning in the school environment
  • Relearning and adapting to daily routines, more structured days, relearning expectations around attendance, behaviour and Covid related changes such as social distancing involving physical space
  • Supporting children with anxiety, understanding triggers to anxiety and the different ways this may present
  • Supporting children's emotional and mental health needs, particularly in light of individual experiences of loss and bereavement and the triggering of emotions associated with previous childhood trauma and loss
  • Catching up academically and addressing gaps in learning. DTs will need to review the targets set at the Spring 2020 PEP to establish the progress achieved by the child/young person prior to the start of lockdown on the 23 March. It is important to consider academic needs alongside children's social and emotional needs as pre existing gaps in learning will have been exacerbated by the prolonged absence from school.

Pupil Premium Plus

In determining how Pupil Premium Plus should be used, DTs should consider how the interventions used link directly with the child's identified needs and the support needed to meet these needs.

Interventions should be tailored to the individual child, evidence based with clear review of the impact they are making for the child.

Feedback from our young people about their PEPs

Children and young people in care feedback regularly to the council about a range of issues affecting their lives via the 'User Voice and Participation' UVP groups. We have received feedback that some young people feel they do not see/are not shown their PEPs. Please could you carefully consider how you can appropriately share key information from the PEP – particularly the targets- with the child/young person. If you have a great way of doing this, please could you share that with us too!

Training for Designated Teachers 2020-21: Please save the dates!

To book your place: Please email virtual.school@surreycc.gov.uk with the subject "Training Booking" in the email subject title.
For more information: Please contact Anna MacLean, Assistant Head on anna.maclean@surreycc.gov.uk, copying in virtual.school@surreycc.gov.uk

Please note that unless stated otherwise, the SVS training offer will take place online via Zoom during the 2020-21 academic year. You will notice that there is progression built into our training offer, enabling DTs to build and extend their knowledge following from core training (essential for every new DT / or use as a refresher).

Attachment and Trauma Aware Schools Programme 2020 will be delivered by Kate Cairns Associates (KCA) Surrey Educational Psychology Service and Surrey Virtual School. The programme is fully funded by SVS through Pupil Premium Plus and is available to the DT and 1 other member of staff at your school.

DTs will need to commit to the full programme of webinars and workshops (i.e. Autumn webinar and workshop, Spring term webinar and workshop – a total of 5 hours of learning through the academic year). This will culminate in the SVS annual conference on June 25 2021 which will share the learning and impact from the different strands of CPD provided by SVS through the year.
Sign up for this programme begins next week. We will be contacting you with registration details shortly!

Further details of when training will be held can be found on our Training and Events for Designated Teachers page.

A reminder of your key contacts within the Surrey Virtual School can be found on our website.

We look forward to working with you.