Spotlight on how the virtual school is helping children with a social worker

Children with a social worker deserve the same high quality education as everyone else, but statistics show that they often fall behind their peers in school.

This is especially true in a town like Middlesbrough, which has a much higher proportion of children who have a social worker or are in care than the national average.

This is where Middlesbrough Virtual School comes in.

The service works in all educational settings to create a culture of high aspirations to help every child progress well in education – which aims to raise the standard and accelerate the progress of young people, improve school attendance and reduce exclusion, and improve life opportunities.

And the virtual school‘s excellent work in promoting education for children with a social worker was showcased at a conference at Riverside Stadium on Friday, hosted with its counterpart in Redcar and Cleveland.

About 150 people were on hand to hear keynote speakers, including some of the most respected names in the field, including Dr Nikki Luke from Oxford University, Elspeth Soutar, Lisa Cherry and Lemn Sissay.

Middlesbrough Director of Children’s Services, Sue Butcher, opened the conference, referring to levels of child deprivation and poverty in Middlesbrough, which are among the highest in England.

The public learned that almost one in five children will have been cared for by a social worker between the ages of 6 and 16 in the city.

Sue Butcher said: “Those who face trauma and deprivation are more likely to struggle to achieve high academic achievement.

“Middlesbrough Children Matter, and it is in this context that the work of our virtual school is so vital.”

Victoria Banks, Head of Virtual School Middlesbrough, said: “Our job at Virtual School is to advocate for children with a social worker across the city to ensure the most vulnerable children get the best education. .

“We work with schools to try to identify special educational needs, offer support and seek to minimize any issues of exclusion or challenges.

“A lot of people might not understand what we’re doing and think a virtual school is an online education platform, but that’s completely different.

“It was wonderful that we were able to host this conference, alongside Redcar and the Cleveland Virtual School, to share best practices and hear from amazing speakers on how we can continue to improve outcomes for our young people. “

One of the speakers at the conference was Luke Rodgers, who drew on his personal experiences to provide a moving account of how a young person reacts to care – loss of control and feelings of anxiety, confusion and sometimes justified anger.

He reminded conference attendees that children have a social worker for things that have happened to them – and they are not responsible for having a social worker.

To applause from the audience, he said, “Let’s stop judging (young people) on a story they didn’t write.

Pictured: Middlesbrough Virtual School Principal Victoria Banks (second left) and event speakers (LR) Elspeth Soutar, Karen Beach, Lisa Cherry, Charlotte O’Donovan, Luke Rodgers, Lisa Garforth and Rezina Kelly

Perry A. Thomasson