Barnsley Virtual School

How do I support my child’s education?

Children grow and change so fast, your child’s time in school is a precious time to learn and thrive. We want to support you and your child to be able to make the most of this important stage of their lives. 

Previously looked after children have their own unique needs. Below you will find a variety of advice and guidance to help your child succeed at school.

‘There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.’

Deepak Chopra

Support for parents and carers

We're committed to helping the parents and carers of previously looked after children support their child's education.

How we can help you

As parents or carers of previously looked after children, our team can give you advice to help your child's educational. Our aim is to help you to advocate for your child. Our advice includes support for parents of children who have been:

  • adopted
  • subject of a special guardianship order
  • subject of a child arrangement order

Our support is for children who are in early years settings as well as those of school age.

We work towards the best outcomes for our previously looked after children. Our team includes Liz Gibson (Virtual School Head) and the following education advocates: 

  • Alison Green (early years to year 1 - ages 2 to 7)
  • Karen Harkness (year 2 to year 9 - ages 7 to 13)
  • Jude Cooper (year 10 to year 12+ - ages 13 to 16+)

We can help you around:

  • choosing a school and the admission process
  • getting the best out of the pupil premium grant
  • encouraging good school attendance
  • special educational needs and inclusion, including the EHCP process
  • behaviour and exclusion
  • any other issue with your child’s education

Who we work with

We work with the following teams:

Post-adoption support team 

The post-adoption support (PAS) team offer support to families around interventions. The team can access funding called the Adoption Support Fund (ASF). This gives access to a range of therapies to support children and families. You can contact the team on (01226) 775875. Read more about the ASF.

If you need information about special guardianship, please call (01226) 775876 to speak to our specialist social worker.

Public health nursing service 

When a child leaves care they're transferred to the 0-19 public health nursing service. The service has three levels of care based on the child’s health needs. A child/young person can move up and down the levels when new health issues arise or are resolved.

If you have concerns about your child’s health please call (01226) 774411. A health visitor or school nurse will contact you to speak about your concerns.

Other services that can help

If you need practical help in advocating for your child, the following agencies/teams may be able offer more direct support:

  • Adoption UK - (01295) 752240
  • Barnsley Post-Adoption Support Team - (01226) 775875
  • Adopter Voice
  • SENDIASS - (01226) 787234
  • KIDS SEND Mediation Service - 03330 062835

Your role as a parent in supporting your child's education

It's important parents and carers play an active role in their child's education and build positive relationships with school.

Ways you can support your child

You are your child's most influential teacher.  Research shows that children do better at school if their parent or carer actively supports them with their homework.  Below is a list of things you can do that will help your child achieve their potential.

  • Attend meetings, parents' evenings and information events, to build rapport with staff at your child's school.
  • Share information that might impact on your child’s learning and behaviour with key staff.
  • Support home learning expectations. Find out what homework your child's expected to do when, and build these times into your weekly schedule.
  • Send them to school ready to learn each morning.
  • Set bedtime routines that work for your child's age.
  • Make sure they eat breakfast, and talk positively to them about what they'll be doing at school that day.
  • Get them to school on time and develop a habit of good attendance.
  • Take an interest in their school experiences. Make time at the end of the school day to ask them about their day and encourage them to share their learning.
  • Teach them skills to help them organise; help them to pack their school bag the night before and develop independence.
  • Teach them study skills. Help them to identify what helps them to learn.
  • Encourage them to see the value of their learning and understand why they need the skills they're developing. Talk to them about their aspirations.
  • Read the school behaviour policy.

What to do if you've got concerns

If you're concerned about the education your child's receiving, follow the steps below. By following this guidance, you should be able to sort things out with your child's school quickly. This is so that things you're concerned about don't get any worse.

Step 1

Talk to your child's class teacher, form tutor or the school's designated teacher for previously looked after children first. Tell them about your concerns. It's probably best if you pre-arrange a meeting with them. This is so that they've got time to listen to you.

Step 2

When you meet, discuss and agree a set of actions to try to resolve the issues you've raised. At the same time, agree a date for a second meeting to review the impact of the actions you've agreed.

Step 3

If this doesn't resolve the issue, you're not happy with the response, or you still have concerns, you can escalate the matter.  For primary this would be to the headteacher, or for secondary, the head of year.  You should also tell your child's adoption worker or SGO support worker about your concerns, if you have one.

Step 4

You, your child’s adoption worker or special guardian (SGO) support worker may contact the Virtual School Head for advice. They can help guide you on how to best resolve the matter. You can take a look at our Barnsley Virtual School support offer.

Step 5

If the matter isn't resolved, you may wish to submit a complaint. Each schools complaint procedures will be different and can be found on the schools own  website 

Step 6

It's really important that anyone supporting your child recognises the need to work together towards a positive outcome. Make sure your child's views are central to any decisions that are made.

Choosing the right school and the school admissions process

Finding the right school for you and your child is an important part of your child's learning journey.

Which school is best for my child?

As parents of previously looked after children, you face the task of finding the best school setting for your child. You'll have knowledge of both your child’s early experiences and their present interests, strengths, difficulties and needs. 

Finding the right school is about selecting the best possible match. This should be a balance between your child’s whole development needs and the quality of provision offered. To this extent, it is an individual match. 

Ofsted reports will inform you about the overall quality of education. Those which are rated good or better have evidenced good standards. They will have done this in a range of areas including the quality of education, behaviour and attitudes. They also display good personal development, leadership and management.

Who should I ask?

To get a full picture of what a school can offer, you'll need to speak with someone senior enough to fully answer questions.  This may be the:

  • headteacher or principal
  • deputy or assistant headteacher/principal
  • special needs and disabilities co-ordinator (SENDCo)
  • designated teacher for looked after and previously looked after children. This is as long as this member of staff has a senior enough leadership role
  • dedicated admissions officer, if the school has one

It will need to be someone who really knows the whole school system and the approaches taken. It may also be useful to speak to whoever is the lead for pastoral support in school. You will need to inform the school of your child’s needs.

What should I ask?

The most inclusive schools understand the importance of strong, positive and nurturing relationships. This is important in helping children to feel settled and to learn.

Children who have experienced neglect or trauma in their early lives will often have a heightened need to feel secure. This may show in anxiety and an increased need to know that they belong and that someone knows and understands them well.

Some children may have high needs at times in learning to manage their social and emotional lives. This may impact on their behaviour in school. This may mean they need a school which understands and prizes the bonds between staff and pupils. It may also mean they need a school who can adapt their teaching and management approaches. This is needed so children with high or additional needs have their needs met.

Speaking with the special needs co-ordinator (SENCo) can help you understand how the school provides for pupils. Especially those with similar needs to those of your child. All children benefit from consistent, well understood, fair approaches and open, two-way dialogue with parents and carers.

These questions have been informed by insights from recent research and guidance around supportive school culture.* They are designed as a menu from which parents can select and adapt to their own need. They are meant to supplement other questions you may wish to ask concerning the curriculum, teaching methods etc. 

* Improving Behaviour in Schools Education Endowment Foundation(EEF). June 2019 and Parental Engagement Guidance Report EEF December 2018

Knowing my Child

  • Who greets children in school each morning?
  • Do all teachers greet children at the classroom door?
  • How do you consult with parents about the needs of their child?
  • How do you share information about a student’s needs with different teachers?
  • How do you ensure that a student will have a supportive relationship with a designated member of school staff?
  • How does your school foster a sense of belonging for children?

Behaviour for learning

  • What are the aims of your behaviour policy?
  • How do you go about teaching good learning behaviours in school?
  • Do all the teachers have the same approach to behaviour with children?
  • How do you encourage children to reflect on their own behaviour?
  • What reward systems for behaviour are in place?
  • Can you give me an example of how you adapt your behaviour systems to meet the needs of each child? 
  • How do you manage those who may have high behaviour needs?
  • What kind of behaviour management training do your staff have? Does this include an understanding of attachment and the impact of early trauma on learning?

Communication with parents

  • How do you communicate with me about my child’s behaviour?
  • How do you communicate with parents on a day to day basis? 
  • What meetings are there for parents to understand how their child is progressing?
  • Do you use text messaging or e-mail to communicate positive news?

The role of the school in supporting my child

Find out about the duties schools have to support previously looked after children and the use of additional funding called pupil premium.

Pupil premium grants

The government provides pupil premium plus funding to schools for those previously looked after children identified on the January census. This funding is to support schools to improve the educational achievement of previously looked after children. It aims to close the attainment gap between this group of children and other children. Head teachers identify the best use of the funding to support both individuals and the whole group

Other children who were adopted from 'state care' outside England and Wales are entitled to the advice and support. They don't however attract pupil premium plus funding. 'State care' is care provided by an organisation whose sole or main purpose is to benefit society. This may be a public authority, a religious organisation, or similar.

A school has a statutory duty to appoint a designated teacher for looked after children and previously looked after children. This should ideally be a senior teacher. Someone who is able to influence and monitor the best outcomes for this group of children. Previously looked after children will no longer have a Termly Personal Education Plan (TPEP). The funding school receives directly should benefit them in supporting their educational outcomes.

Pupil premium plus for previously looked after children

Pupil premium plus is:

  • managed by the school's headteacher and designated teacher
  • used for the benefit of the group of previously looked after children
  • not a personal budget but can be used to support individual need
  • allocated directly to schools
  • reported on annually through the pupil premium report to evaluate impact

The Virtual School will support early education settings and schools help previously looked after children. The aim is to help them to achieve their full potential in education. The school’s designated teacher should understand the support available to previously looked after children (eg mental health services). They should be able to liaise effectively with service providers and signpost parents to those services. These may include social care partners, health visitors, the youth support service among other agencies and services. This may for example focus on supporting the child to develop supportive friendships and relationships with key people. It may also include therapy to support positive mental health. These in turn can have a positive impact in supporting attendance and behaviour for learning.

The extra funding should take into account the specific needs of eligible pupils. The funding provided by the pupil premium plus grant reflects the significant additional barriers faced by previously looked after children. The designated teacher has an important role. They ensure the needs of previously looked after are understood by the school’s staff. This should also be reflected in how the school uses pupil premium plus to support these children. Part of the role is ensuring that they, and other school staff, have a strong awareness, training and skills. Notably around the specific needs of previously looked after children. They should also know how best to support them.

Getting the most from pupil premium plus 

The document ‘The designated teacher for looked after and previously looked after children. Statutory guidance on their roles and responsibilities’ 2018 sets out the duties of schools. It outlines how schools can ensure that the special education and mental health needs of previously looked after children can best be met. It also gives a summary of how schools can get the most out of the pupil premium plus grants. They can do this by using approaches which are effective. Ones that focus on developing relationships and emotional security and development. 

Approaches that are:

  • tailored to the needs and strengths of each pupil
  • consistent; based on agreed core principles and components, but also flexible and responsive
  • based on evidence of what works
  • focused on clear short-term goals which give pupils the chance to experience success
  • including regular, high quality feedback from teaching staff
  • engaging parents/carers in the agreement and evaluation of arrangements for education support (eg via the Personal Education Plan)
  • supporting pupil transition (eg primary to secondary/key stage 3 to key stage 4)
  • raising aspirations through access to high-quality educational experiences
  • promoting the young person’s awareness and understanding of their own thought process and help to develop problem-solving strategies

Which emphasise:

  • building bonds, both with appropriate adults and with peers
  • an emotionally intelligent approach to the setting of clear behaviour boundaries
  • increasing pupil’s understanding of their own emotions and identity
  • positive reinforcement
  • building self-esteem
  • relevance to the learner; relate to pupil’s interests where possible - make it matter to them
  • a joined-up approach involving social worker/carer/Virtual School Head and other relevant professionals
  • strong and visionary leadership on the part of both of the pupil’s head teachers
  • a child centred approach to assessment for learning

Information produced by Darren Martindale, Virtual School Head for City of Wolverhampton Council. Found in ‘The designated teacher for looked-after and previously looked after children statutory guidance on their roles and responsibilities 2018'.

Supporting behaviour for learning

Find out more about school behaviour policies.

Positive attitude towards learning

Your child’s school will have a policy which is designed to help them build good learning behaviours. This includes all the actions which mean the child is ready and able to learn. It will include being organised and prepared to learn.  It will also include having a positive mental attitude to their work and progress. It will include respecting the right of other pupils to learn safely and not be disrupted. The better the parent and school understand the child’s needs, the more likely the behaviour will be positive.

It's vital that on starting a new school an effective induction process takes place. This can make clear what your child’s needs are and may include finding out some of the challenges they've faced. Issues data sharing need to be carefully considered. It may include a clear understanding of what triggers difficulties for your child which could change their behaviour for learning. It's also important at this stage that you're aware of the behaviour policy. Some schools have decided to call this theirs relationships policy. This is because they understand that the quality of relationships is key to positive behaviour for learning.

Working with your child's school

Some children struggle with good behaviour for learning. It's important for parents to work as closely with school as possible. They need to raise any behaviour problems at an early stage with school to help prevent it getting worse. It helps the child or young person to feel known and safe when school and home are working together. An ideal situation is when parents feel they can support the school in implementing their policies such as sanctions. A strong relationship between home and school is vital. It means that parents can also ask questions about the rationale for school decisions and feel heard. Ideally this is a working partnership.

A school’s behaviour policy will usually show how pupils are rewarded for positive behaviour. It will also show what their graduated approach to sanctions looks like. A good example is the decision to exclude. This should be taken at the end of a range of other measures taken to improve behaviour. The DfE publish guidance which headteachers need to follow regarding exclusions. Fixed term exclusions can be given for a period ranging from half a day to five days. A permanent exclusion means that the child cannot return to that school. The current DfE guidance (Sept 2017) states that:

‘…permanent exclusion should only be used as a last resort. It should only be in response to a serious breach or persistent breaches of the school's behaviour policy. It applies where allowing the pupil to remain in school would cause serious harm. Be that to the education or welfare of the pupil or others.’

Parents have a right to appeal if they feel an exclusion isn't warranted. This must be heard by the governing body of the school.

DfE guidance states that, ‘disruptive behaviour can be an indication of unmet needs. Where a school has concerns about a pupil’s behaviour, it should try to identify whether there are any causal factors. They should then intervene early. This will reduce the need for a subsequent exclusion. In this situation, schools should consider whether a multi-agency assessment that goes beyond the pupil’s educational needs is required.’

Should disagreements occur or difficulties persist, parents have a right to ask for support. The designated teacher for previously looked after children can help. They can discuss how the pupil premium can be used to support positive behaviour for learning.

The education, health and care plan (EHCP) process

Find out about what to do if you think your child may have special educational needs.

Supporting educational needs

Every child's educational needs are different. If you're worried about your child's development or educational progress, the first thing to do is talk to your child's teacher. Take a look in the my role in supporting my child's education section for more details. 

Every school has a teacher who is tasked to care for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). This person is called the special education needs co-ordinator (SENCO). You can ask for a meeting with the SENCO if you have concerns. The SENCO may start a school support plan for your child. This is a clear plan agreed with you which identifies your child's needs and how the school will support them.

Parents, carers or the education setting can request an education, health and care (EHC) plan. You can find out more about education, health and care plans and how this process works.  

If you think your child may need an EHC plan it's really important to talk to your child's school first. An assessment will also be needed.

If you need help with this process you can contact the EHC team on (01226) 773966 or email

SENDIASS is an independent advice service that you can also contact for advice. You can phone them on (01226) 787234.

The majority of children and young people with special education needs (SEN) or disabilities will have their needs met. Often within their local mainstream early years setting, school or college. Some children and young people may require an education health and care needs assessment. (SEND Code of Practice Jan 2015).

Health or development needs 

If your concerns are more about developmental or health needs it may be better to contact the 0-19 health practitioner. You might know these as health visitors or school nurses. You can phone them on (01226) 774411. They'll help you with any concerns you have and assess your child's health needs.

For more information email