All local authorities in England are required to have a virtual school head and I have the privilege of fulfilling that role at the Aspire Virtual School.

For those of you unfamiliar with a ‘virtual school’, we are not a teaching tool or online learning environment. We don’t replace schools or educational provision. We are an additional resource, a local authority champion, that supports and challenges all those involved in the education of looked after children, bringing about improvements and promoting achievement as if they were in a single school. 

Education is crucial to every child’s wellbeing and improves their life chances. Looked after and previously looked-after children who have faced challenging situations, can start at a disadvantage and often have special educational needs. At Aspire, we provide them with the support and advice they need to maximise their potential by monitoring their progress, co-ordinating their educational services and putting support in place when it’s needed.

The Aspire Virtual School works closely with colleagues both in education settings and social care. We provide training, information and support to schools, designated teachers, social workers and carers so they can understand the needs of look after children and support them effectively. We share best practice with colleagues to improve behaviour and attendance, promote improved outcomes and school stability, and identify and address barriers to learning

We also develop and commission educational activities for our students, working with partners ranging from mentoring organisations to play therapists. These include Integra People, The Transformed You, Dare to Differ, Protocol Education, Fleet Tutors, The Goblin's Chest, Winchmore Tutors, Target Tutors, Third Space Learning, Magic Behaviour, Coram, and Remedy Education.

And, as our name suggests, we have the highest expectations of our students. We are delighted that they rise to the challenge and consistently outperform their national peers. We are also the first virtual school in the UK to win the Jack Petchey Award, which celebrates and rewards young people’s achievements.

This website aims to be a focal point for those working with looked after children in the care of Barking and Dagenham local authority. We hope you find it useful and welcome your feedback so we can continue to develop it to meet your needs.

Janet Cassford