Children in care education

What is The HOPE - Bristol's virtual school for children in care (CiC)?

The HOPE is the name of Bristol's virtual school for children in care and is a structure to improve the education of CiC. It enables the attainment, progression, attendance, exclusion and out of school hours learning of children in care to be monitored and tracked to enable support to be put in place where needed. The HOPE is led by the head teacher, Rachael Thomas.

The pupils of The HOPE attend real schools/settings. The head teacher and/or the designated teacher of each real school provide information to The HOPE's staff to allow them to monitor and track each pupil and to advise on any support available to help pupils achieve their potential.

The HOPE is a cross phase school and our pupils range from 2 to 18 years.

The HOPE virtual school and the former Education of Children Looked After Service (ECLAS) merged in September 2014 and we are now The HOPE. You can find out who is in the team and their role below.

Who is a pupil of The HOPE?

The HOPE includes three groups of children and young people who are:

  • in the care of / a care leaver of Bristol and educated in Bristol
  • in the care of / a care leaver of Bristol and educated in another local authority
  • in the care of another local authority but educated in Bristol

Why do we need a virtual school?

Many individual children and young people in care enjoy and do well at school. However, as a group, children in care do not perform as well in their education as their peers. The idea of The HOPE is to have an overarching structure to review how all the children and young people in the three groups mentioned above are doing, and to put in place systems to support and challenge schools and other agencies to help them do better.

You can find out more about why children come into care and issues that affect their education in Background information (pdf, 18 KB) (opens new window) .

What does The HOPE do and how does it work?

The job of The HOPE is to monitor and track how our pupils are doing and put systems, processes, structures and support in place to help our pupils do the best they can. The HOPE's head teacher doesn't work with individual pupils but she does check on all of our pupils e.g:

  • How well they are attending their real school
  • How they are getting on in individual subjects
  • What help they need and what we all might be able to provide to support them to do the very best they can.

The HOPE's head teacher also works with other local authorities who either have children looked after by Bristol in their schools/settings or that have placed children and young people that they look after in Bristol.

Some of The HOPE's staff team provide educational support for individual children and young people in care. For example, all children in care must have a Personal Education Plan (PEP). Members of The HOPE team attend as many first and transition PEP meetings as possible. Direct teaching support, in liaison with class or subject teachers, is sometimes provided where appropriate.

Information on The HOPE's team members and their roles can be found in THE HOPE team (pdf, 34 KB) (opens new window) .

The HOPE works across Bristol City Council and involves many different departments and organisations, all working together to try to deliver the best possible education for children and young people in care. We work with:

  • Individual schools
  • Social care staff
  • Carers
  • Elected members
  • Governors.

It is the role of the social worker and carer, (the latter supported by the Family Placement social worker) to promote good attendance of CiC.  Schools and settings are ultimately responsible for the attendance of CiC. Where attendance issues emerge, the local authority has a responsibility to challenge and support schools to improve attendance.

The HOPE has its own governing body. You can find out who is on the governing body and read a short piece from one of our governors about their work in Who's on the virtual school Governing body (pdf, 30 KB) (opens new window) and Being a VS Governor (pdf, 23 KB) (opens new window) .

The HOPE has its own Development Plan for 2014 - 2015 (pdf, 90 KB) (opens new window) .

What The HOPE can do for you

This depends on what you need. In general, the HOPE's head teacher is responsible for school-wide issues, and other team members support individual children and young people, as well as group projects. So:

  • if you have a question about systems or policies relating to the education of a CiC, you should contact the HOPE's head teacher
  • if you are looking for individual education advice and/or support for a pupil, you should contact the relevant staff members from the team list.

The HOPE’s Expectations for children and young people in care

The HOPE, Bristol’s Virtual School for Children in Care, has produced an Expectations document which sets out what other corporate parents can expect from The HOPE and what we, in return, expect from other stakeholders.

Much of the document is taken from statutory guidance. The duties of the Virtual Headteacher and other corporate parents can be found in the Department for Education’s July 2014 statutory guidance: Promoting the Education of Looked After Children. The joint Department for Education and Department of Health January 2015 statutory guidance: Special educational needs and disability code of practice: 0 to 25 years is also relevant to the Expectations document.

The document has a series of sections aimed at: education settings; social workers; carers; commissioners; independent reviewing officers (IROs); healthcare professionals, and staff in other local authorities. We hope that the Expectations document will be a means of clarifying roles and responsibilities and we encourage all corporate parents to become familiar with it.

HOPE's Expectations document

Role of other services

Many other services contribute to the work of The HOPE. You can find out more about them by clicking on the web links or reading the information below.

  • Bristol Collaborative Service (BCS)
    BCS is a multi-disciplinary approach to improving the stability of children in care by building resilience in the child/young person, the carer and the team around the child. The team works in partnership with those involved to plan consistent responses to presenting behaviours and to plan around the child's education and social care needs. Referrals are made on Protocol via the child's social worker.
  • School Improvement Officers (SIOs)
    SIOs support schools to strengthen the understanding of their roles and responsibilities; ensure that they fulfill the statutory requirements and signpost and broker support when appropriate.