31 August 2021

Boost for Scotland's Virtual School Head Teachers' Network

The Scottish Government has awarded further funding to CELCIS to invest in the continued development of Scotland’s Virtual School Head Teachers’ Network.

Established to share learning on how Virtual School Head Teachers (VSHTs) can best support pupils with care experience, the network and its members will be bolstered by the continued support of CELCIS in hosting and supporting the development of the network which now represents these roles in 16 local authority areas.

The network brings the Virtual School Head Teachers together to consider the challenges and opportunities facing children and young people in their education including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the learning shared through the briefing papers and reports the network has published recently is a practice document to provide practical advice for schools and local authorities during the SQA 2021 exam diet.

In partnership with the Scottish Government and Education Scotland, over the last year the network has focused on supporting children who moved to a school in a different local authority, for example, if the place where they’re cared for has changed; measuring the impact the work VSHTs are supporting is having for children and families; and undertaking work to support the aims of The Promise of the Independent Care Review.

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

“This additional investment of more than £59,000 will support CELCIS and the network of Virtual School Head Teachers in our shared mission to improve the lives of care experienced children and young people and their families.

“I am grateful to our partners at CELCIS and the 16 local authorities involved for their leadership, enthusiasm and commitment in driving this work forward.”

Claire Burns, Director of CELCIS, said:

“We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of the challenges already faced by pupils with care experience and their families and carers. Now, as many children and young people return to school, Virtual School Head Teachers are needed more than ever to drive progress towards better educational outcomes and experiences for all.

“This additional funding will enable us to continue to strengthen the VSHT Network in Scotland, creating environments where children and their families and carers are supported; their distinct needs, which are often unseen, can be met; and their views and experiences are embedded throughout their journeys into, through and beyond formal education. In doing so, we remain dedicated to supporting the implementation of the UNCRC into domestic law, embedding the recommendations of the Additional Support for Learning (ASL) review, and realising The Promise of the Independent Care Review.”

A Virtual School Head Teacher is a senior member of education staff in a local authority who works at a strategic level, with their focus on improving the educational experiences and outcomes of all care experienced children and young people in their local authority area. Virtual School Head Teachers also provide key links between multi-agency teams and advocate for the needs and rights of care experienced children and young people.

CELCIS established the Virtual School Head Teachers’ Network in 2019 and has hosted it since then. As a ‘Virtual School Head Teacher’ is a relatively new role in Scotland, the network provides an opportunity for all local authorities involved to link in with each other through regular meetings, build good connections, and share knowledge and experiences to respond quickly to meet the needs of children and young people and their families and carers.