Portsmouth Virtual School and College

In this section:

The focus on improving outcomes for pupils in our schools also extends to the work of the Virtual School and College and improving outcomes for children who are looked after, whether they be in Portsmouth’s schools or colleges or in other local authorities.

The Virtual School and College takes a lead role in ensuring that all children and young people who are looked after have educational provision that meets their need and that they receive the support they need to fulfil their potential. Every young person has a Personal Education Plan or Personal Opportunity Plan (post-16) which is reviewed at least once a term and every young person has a named education advocate to support them on their education journey.

The Portsmouth Virtual School and College team comprises of:

  • Virtual School headteacher (VSHT) – Tina Henley
  • Deputy headteacher – Victoria Reynish
  • Senior advocate (PLAC) – Sarah Major
  • Senior SEND advocate – Sarah Pearce
  • Education advocates – Annette Bradshaw, Alanna Burchett, Paisley Cliffe, Lucy Head, Lisa House, Michelle Loveday, Kirstie McQuarrie and Jessica Blake
  • Positive attendance lead – Jenni Giles
  • Careers and progression advisor – Ann-Marie O’Brien
  • Data officer from the education team – Laura Oakley-Brown
  • Business support officer – Sue Presdee-Davis

The VSHT is the lead ensuring that arrangements are in place to improve the educational experiences and outcomes of those children and young people who are looked after by Portsmouth. ‘Looked After’ is the legal term for children in care, taken from the Children Act 1989.

The Virtual School and College monitors the educational progress and attendance of all children looked after by Portsmouth providing advice and support to those children and the adults working with them. In particular, the team supports social workers, carers and designated teachers in planning for both good educational outcomes and holistic opportunities and development. The team also provides training and development for a range of stakeholders including schools, foster carers and social workers. Personal Education Plans (PEPs) and Personal Opportunity Plans (POPs) are completed electronically provided by Welfare Call.

The Virtual School PLAC Lead (Sarah Major) will provide information, advice and guidance to support children who were previously looked after (PLAC) to include:

  • Adoption order
  • Special guardianship order
  • Child arrangement order

The Virtual School headteacher will provide advice, support and guidance to support Care leavers (up to aged 25) and professionals supporting young people who have, or who ever have had a social worker.


  • A virtual school has no building. Students are enrolled at real schools and remain the responsibility of that school.
  • Virtual schools exist across the country to help to improve the educational outcome of children and young people who are looked after.
  • Statutory since September 2014.
  • The virtual school approach is to work with looked after children as if they were in a single school:
    • providing support and challenge to the schools they attend
    • tracking their progress, attendance and attainment
    • supporting them to achieve as well as possible.

We are here to:

  • support the child/young person, the school and foster carers.
  • challenge the schools to ensure the best possible provision and support is given to the child/young person.
  • ensure that all who work with LAC and care leavers have high educational aspirations for them so that they are given the best opportunities to engage, progress and achieve to their full potential (in and out of the borough, LA schools and academies).

The attainment and progress of this group of children continues to be considerably lower than that of their peers.

The team takes the lead role in:

  • Seek to develop an in-depth understanding of the child’s educational needs and challenges
  • Advise on, secure and maintain best possible educational provision according to the identified needs
  • Raise awareness of attachment issues and barriers to learning with schools and providers
  • Collect and analyse engagement, progress and achievement data in order to track, monitor, support and challenge
  • Coordinate, chair and process high quality and robust PEP meetings and documentation
  • Advise on, track and monitor the use of Pupil Premium Plus and its impact
  • Deliver training to partners: DTs, FC, SW and external partners
  • Challenge low expectations, stereotypes and misconceptions around this group of children and young people
  • Keep a school roll for 0–18-year-olds with individual allocated Education Workers
  • High quality and robust termly PEPs (leading on 2/3 per year) and POPs (leading on 1/3 a year)
  • Tracking and monitoring of attendance and attainment
  • Allocate Pupil Premium Plus to support the identified needs
  • Develop and maintain close working relationships and regular contact with our students, carers, social workers, schools and wider agencies
  • Ensure opportunities for children to develop interests and hobbies (in and out of school)
  • We endeavour to be proactive, not reactive

Previously looked after children

Why are we offering this support?

In February 2018, the Department for Education produced statutory guidance placing responsibility on local authorities to ‘promote the educational achievement of previously looked after children’ from September 2018.

Virtual schools should be a source of advice and information to any person with parental responsibility, providers of funded early years education, designated teachers and any other person considered appropriate, to help to advocate for these children as effectively as possible.

Who is eligible for this support?

Previously looked after children (PLAC) are defined as those who are no longer looked after by a local authority in England and Wales because they are the subject of an adoption, special guardianship or child arrangements order. The duties also extend to children who were adopted from ‘state care’ outside of England and Wales, if the ‘state care’ was provided by a public authority, a religious organisation or any other organisation whose sole or main purpose is to benefit society.

These duties apply to children who are in early years provision and continue throughout the compulsory years of education, where the child is in provision funded in part or in full by the state.

What support do we offer?

  • A dedicated PLAC lead advocate who attends training and disseminates key information from updated government guidance and publications, relevant training courses and any other key information to the Virtual School team and colleagues across other connected services.
  • Monitoring of all Portsmouth looked after children on placement orders or those with parallel plans towards adoption to ensure that they have PEPs in place and to ensure key information is communicated between the Virtual School and College and social care around their educational needs.
  • Advice and information around educational matters for parents and guardians of previously looked after children on request.
  • Formal consultation sessions with parents and guardians (these can also include schools and other key involvements at parent or guardian’s request). Follow up advice may include liaison with key involvements and attendance at a one-off meeting to confirm support plans.
  • Generic advice and information for social workers and schools around educational matters for previously looked after children.
  • Development of a PLAC personal education plan (PEP) document and transition plan which are available to all Portsmouth schools and nurseries.
  • Regular training and updates offered to designated teachers.
  • Development and distribution of guides, documentation and resources to support parents, guardians and education colleagues.
  • Close partnership working with neighbouring authority virtual school PLAC leads.
  • Close partnership working with regional adoption agency Adopt South, including the development and delivery of training around educational matters.
  • Close partnership working with Portsmouth Special Guardianship Support team and the Educational Psychology service.

Guides and documents:

For more information, please contact Sarah Major, PLAC lead for the Virtual School and College:

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 023 9268 8108

Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Young People

The Ethnic Minority Achievement Service (EMAS) is working extensively with the Virtual School and College to support unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people in the city. These young people are often the most challenging for schools to work with due to their lived experiences and past trauma. We have therefore produced guidance in the form of a practical toolkit for supporting refugee and asylum-seekers in secondary schools.

Advice and Information Cards

Whilst the newly arrived young people are waiting for education placements and full-time provision to be secured, EMAS facilitate weekly ‘starting out’ sessions to support them to build social, emotional and educational skills.

Where unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people arrive out of usual transition times, there is also a useful online phrasebook, including some phonetic translations. However, it needs discretion with its use as it covers vocabulary for issues that educational providers will wish to deal with more sensitively rather than giving directly as a resource to students and young people.

Contact us

Tina Henley (Headteacher)

Email: [email protected]
Work phone: 02392 688076
Work mobile: 07984 579475

Victoria Reynish (Deputy Headteacher)

Email: [email protected]
Work phone: 02392 688641