Evaluation Of Virtual School Heads For Looked After Children


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Evaluation Of Virtual School Heads For Looked After Children

  1. 1. DCSF RESEARCH CONFERENCE Evaluation of Virtual School Heads for Looked After Children <ul><li>Michael Allured </li></ul><ul><li>Department for Children, Schools and Families </li></ul><ul><li>Children in Care Division </li></ul><ul><li>Education, health and wellbeing team </li></ul><ul><li>David Berridge </li></ul><ul><li>University of Bristol </li></ul><ul><li>School for Policy Studies </li></ul>
  2. 2. 1 Where does the concept of the Virtual School Head come from? <ul><li>Grew out of: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>an increasing focus by Government from 1998 onwards on the importance of improving education outcomes for looked after children. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A bottom up approach model from one or two local authorities who wanted to track their looked after children’s attainment as if they were in a single school </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A senior educationalist championing the education of looked after children was one way of demonstrating compliance with the LA duty to promote educational achievement of looked after children </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A Care Matters Green Paper commitment to pilot the model and identify its strongest features with a view to national roll-out </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>Berridge, D., Henry, L., Jackson, S. and Turney, D. (2009) </li></ul><ul><li>Looked After and Learning: Evaluation of the Virtual School Head Pilot . Research Report DCSF-RR144. London: DCSF. </li></ul>
  4. 4. 3 Research and the policy process <ul><li>Jowell (2003) </li></ul><ul><li>- value of pilots undertaken in a spirit of experimentation </li></ul><ul><li>- independence of pilots is important </li></ul><ul><li>- multiple methods should be considered. </li></ul><ul><li>Burton (2006): Theorising the policy process </li></ul><ul><li>- The Stages model </li></ul><ul><li>- Advocacy coalition framework </li></ul><ul><li>- The Argumentative turn </li></ul>
  5. 5. 4 Pawson and Tilley (1996) Realistic Evaluation <ul><li>Limitations of traditional scientific approach </li></ul><ul><li>Random allocation not always possible </li></ul><ul><li>Not just ‘what works’ but what works for whom in what circumstances </li></ul><ul><li>Causal mechanisms difficult to untangle </li></ul><ul><li>Awareness of the context in which an intervention is delivered. Importance of local conditions. </li></ul>
  6. 6. 5 Research/evaluation of pilots with government departments <ul><li>Timescales </li></ul><ul><li>Baseline information </li></ul><ul><li>Anonymity? Research ethics </li></ul><ul><li>Nature of role/independence </li></ul><ul><li>Whether or not a Pilot continues or fine-tuning? Types of data to inform these decisions </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Analysts’ or ‘researchers’? </li></ul><ul><li>Positive experience with Virtual School Heads (VSH) study </li></ul>
  7. 7. 6 Evaluation - objectives <ul><li>11 pilot authorities chosen by DCSF. Pilots ran for two years 2007-09. Research occupied nine months at final stage of the pilots. To address low educational attainment of looked after children. </li></ul><ul><li>map the range of activities undertaken by the VSHs </li></ul><ul><li>examine professionals’ and children’s awareness and experiences of the VSH </li></ul><ul><li>investigate the educational outcomes for looked after children and the influences on them; and </li></ul><ul><li>identify examples of ‘good practice’. </li></ul>
  8. 8. 7 Methods <ul><li>Some data from all 11; also more intensive sub-group of 5 </li></ul><ul><li>official educational outcome indicator statistics published by DCSF </li></ul><ul><li>progress reports for the first year of the pilots which had been submitted by the VSHs (11) </li></ul><ul><li>background questionnaires for VSHs (11) </li></ul><ul><li>semi-structured interviews with VSHs (11) and directors of children’s services or their senior representative (5) </li></ul><ul><li>group- or individual interviews with social workers (39) </li></ul><ul><li>web surveys of young people (7-16 yrs) (31), foster and residential carers (25), designated teachers (21) and social workers (10) </li></ul><ul><li>involvement in developing methodology </li></ul><ul><li>eclectic approach. Cautious with conclusions. Causality. </li></ul>
  9. 9. 8 Findings 1 <ul><li>Over period of the pilot, the 11 authorities performed well compared to national average and most improved GCSE results. </li></ul><ul><li>VSHs appointed were senior educationists but often with some social work/special ed experience </li></ul><ul><li>Several appointed part-time: unusual for school heads </li></ul><ul><li>VSHs appointed at different levels of seniority </li></ul><ul><li>Key role (with their teams) forging successful relationships with local school heads – advocate for children re exclusions/extra support etc </li></ul><ul><li>VSHs backgrounds and structural position influenced this. </li></ul>
  10. 10. 9 Findings 2 <ul><li>VSHs worked in different ways. Mainly strategic </li></ul><ul><li>Numerous local initiatives eg innovative governors models; dedicated phone lines for help with homework; emphasis on the arts etc </li></ul><ul><li>Social workers often lacked confidence in school issues. Welcomed role of VSH </li></ul><ul><li>Children bemused by the title ‘VSH’. Mainly made educational progress over the duration of the pilots but this is a wider finding too. </li></ul><ul><li>Social workers and children who responded very positive about individual tutoring. Some communication issues. </li></ul>
  11. 11. 10 Conclusions <ul><li>VSHs had successfully raised the profile of LAC’s education locally. Therefore a valuable role. ‘Champion’ </li></ul><ul><li>Causality complex. Many national initiatives on this issue </li></ul><ul><li>Appropriateness of methods? </li></ul><ul><li>The 11 had made better progress nationally as a group. Secondary statistics/cohorts. </li></ul><ul><li>Working at the heart of complex interprofessional issues </li></ul><ul><li>Title ‘Virtual School Head’. (Not a school) </li></ul><ul><li>Is the school analogy helpful? External and internal implications </li></ul><ul><li>Some confusion with role of pre-existing Looked After Children Education Support Teams (‘LACES’). Suggested integration </li></ul>
  12. 12. 11 References <ul><li>Burton, P (2006) ‘Modernising the policy process’, Policy Studies , 27, 3, 173-196. </li></ul><ul><li>Jowell, R. (2003) Trying it Out: The Role of Pilots in Policy Making . London: Cabinet Office. </li></ul><ul><li>Pawson, R. and Tilley, N. (1996) Realistic Evaluation . London: Sage. </li></ul>
  13. 13. 12 Implications for DCSF policy <ul><li>Maximising the impact of the role by reinforcing to local authorities the key messages which have come from the evaluation. These are: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The VSH had an impact on raising awareness about the educational needs of looked after children </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The VSH model can provide a structured focus and strategic direction for how a local authority promotes the education of looked after children </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Evidence suggests that that there is a relationship between the VSH model and educational outcomes for looked after children </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. 13 Some on-going challenges <ul><li>Data management, particularly in relation to out-of-authority placements </li></ul><ul><li>Broadening the understanding among social workers about the importance of education </li></ul><ul><li>The local authority interface with schools </li></ul><ul><li>The relationship of the virtual school with the dedicated education of looked after children team </li></ul><ul><li>Challenge of deciding what is strategic and what is operational </li></ul>
  15. 15. 14 Our vision for the future <ul><li>“ Every local authority has a senior manager, whether or not called a ‘virtual school head’ who takes lead responsibility for: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Monitoring the attainment of pupils as if they were in a single school </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rigorously tracking and monitoring data </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ensuring that every school has the information it needs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Making sure there is a personal education plan for the child and one-to-one support </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Promoting a focus on educational attainment of looked after children across the authority </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Working with others to improve behaviour and attendance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Maximising placement and school stability” </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. 15 The on-going challenge of implementation - What we need to do together <ul><li>“ It’s all about changing the behaviour of well intentioned people including practitioners, providers, community stakeholders, policy makers and funders ” </li></ul><ul><li>National Implementation Research Network (NIRN) </li></ul>
  17. 17. 16 The implementation gap <ul><li>It is one thing to say with the prophet Amos, “Let justice roll down like mighty waters,” and quite another to work out the irrigation system. </li></ul><ul><li>William Sloane Coffin </li></ul><ul><li>Social activist and clergyman </li></ul>
  18. 18. 18 The implementation gap – solved? <ul><li>The VSH with the right level of seniority can make a difference and make things happen by: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Having access to and influencing the DCS and lead members </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Being the grit in the oyster who doesn’t let anyone forget about the educational needs of looked after children </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Building a virtual team (a virtual governing body) made up of colleagues across the authority on whose budgets s/he can draw </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. 19 Supported by: <ul><li>Personalisation – Personal Education Allowances, Designated Teacher, fewer school moves. </li></ul><ul><li>Mainstreaming within broader programmes, e.g. Making Good Progress roll-out </li></ul><ul><li>New statutory guidance on the role and responsibilities of the designated teacher to sit alongside regulations </li></ul>
  20. 20. 20 Supported by: <ul><li>School Standards Advisers guidance for primary and secondary schools </li></ul><ul><li>Revised National Minimum Standards, care planning regulations and guidance, Children Act 1989 Guidance, revised education of looked after children statutory guidance </li></ul><ul><li>National Strategies </li></ul><ul><li>New OfSTED inspection framework </li></ul>
  21. 21. 21 OfSTED inspections of local authority looked after children services <ul><li>Will focus on, among other things: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>outcomes achieved </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>access to and attendance at suitable schools </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the quality of care planning and review and support, including in relation to PEPs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>effectiveness of corporate parenting approaches </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Inspections on LAC subject to limiting judgements </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Overall effectiveness likely to be inadequate if any outcome judgement inadequate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Overall effectiveness unlikely to be good if enjoying and achieving are not judged good </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Enjoying & achieving not likely to be good if LAC are not making at least good educational progress </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. 22 The VSH role is an integral part of the whole wider implementation of Care Matters <ul><li>Renewed focus on corporate parenting led by DCS and Lead Member </li></ul><ul><li>Children and Young People’s plans set out how children’s trust arrangements address needs of looked after children and care leavers </li></ul><ul><li>Local authorities have a Children in Care Council where every looked after child has the opportunity to air their views </li></ul><ul><li>Strengthened role of IROs </li></ul><ul><li>Stability of placements </li></ul><ul><li>Supporting education and training of care leavers and the transition to adulthood </li></ul><ul><li>Revised statutory guidance on the duty local authorities have to promote the educational achievement of looked after children </li></ul>
  23. 23. 23 Embedding the learning <ul><li>Sharing effective practice through: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>the nine regional Government Offices who support Virtual School Head networks </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A Virtual School Head newsletter </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Virtual School Head toolkit </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Continuing to build on the VSH pilots and evaluation findings to identify and embed the most powerful aspects of the VSH model that work </li></ul></ul><ul><li>VSH isn’t the total answer to narrowing the gap in attainment between looked after children and their peers but it’s a big part of the answer. </li></ul>