The Portsmouth Virtual School and College

Portsmouth College

The focus on improving outcomes for pupils in our schools also extends to the work of the Virtual School and improving outcomes for children who are looked after whether they be in Portsmouth’s schools or colleges or in schools/colleges outside of the area (Virtual School Action Plan / Virtual School Annual Report). The Virtual School takes a lead role in ensuring that all children and young people who are looked after have educational provision that meets their needs and that they receive the support they need to fulfil their potential, removing any barriers and ensuring every child has a Personal Education Plan or Personal Opportunity Plan (post-16) which is reviewed at least once a term.

The Portsmouth Virtual School and College team comprises a Virtual School Headteacher (VSHT) – Tina Henley, a Deputy Headteacher – Victoria Reynish, one senior caseworker – Sarah Major, eight caseworkers – Aimee Benfield, Jessica Blake, Annette Bradshaw, Lucy Head, Sarah Horne, Lisa House, Michelle Loveday, Kirstie McQuarrie, and a PAPA (Positive Attendance and Progression Advisor) worker – Ann-Marie O’Brien. A data officer from the education team, Annelise Tyrrell, a business support officer, Sue Presdee-Davis and business support assistant, Jackie Rumer completes the team.

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 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 good educational outcomes. 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 team will also provide advice support and guidance to support children who were previously looked after (PLAC) to include:

  • Adoption Order
  • Special Guardianship Order
  • Child Arrangement Order


What is a virtual school?

  • 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.

Why are we here?

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.

What we do

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.

How we do it

  • 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.

Virtual School and College team

The Virtual School and College team

Contact Details

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

Unaccompanied Refugees and Asylum-Seekers

The Ethnic Minority Achievement Service (EMAS) is working extensively with the Virtual School and College to support unaccompanied refugees and asylum-seekers in the city. These young people are often the most challenging for schools to work with. 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 English sessions to support them to build social emotional and educational skills.

For secondary schools with late arrival unaccompanied asylum-seeking pupils, 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.

Attachment Aware School Project

The Attachment Aware Schools Project is part of a city-wide initiative promoting a relationship based approach to inclusion.

The project aims to:

  • Raise awareness of the need for children to feel safe and secure in school so they can achieve their best.
  • Empower staff to support children, particularly those who are looked after (LAC), through positive relationships.
  • Facilitate a sustainable whole-school approach.
  • Offer a strategy which enables children to learn to self-regulate, manage anxiety and their response to stress.

Commitment from schools…

  • Identify and have a named staff member responsible for leading the project.
  • Complete an initial ‘Attachment Aware Schools’ consultation with an allocated EP.
  • All staff to attend a half-day initial training session.
  • Implement and review actions arising from an agreed action plan. 

Commitment from us…

  • Work with the school project lead to develop a bespoke support package which is needs led.
  • Deliver the initial training session.
  • Provide follow up support to schools in accordance with the agreed action plan.
  • Jointly evaluate the effectiveness of the project with schools.

For more information if you are interested in joining please contact:

Vicki Reynish
Virtual School Deputy Headteacher
[email protected]

Andrea Findlay
Educational Psychologist
[email protected]