Children in care education: The HOPE virtual school

Children in care education: The HOPE virtual school

Information about The HOPE virtual school and how it works

What is The HOPE - Bristol's virtual school?

The HOPE is the name of Bristol's virtual school . Its main purpose is to improve the education of Bristol’s children in care (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.

We've produced a HOPE leaflet that you can print off to help explain the work that we do.

Contact The HOPE virtual school

From September 2018, The HOPE had additional responsibility to provide information and advice about certain groups of previously looked after children.
We also have information for adoptive parents, guardians and carers of previously looked after children.

The HOPE is led by the head teacher, Rachael Pryor.

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.

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 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 HOPE is a 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.

Why children come into care and issues that affect their education (pdf, 18KB) (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 to see

  • how well they're attending their real school
  • how they're getting on in individual subjects
  • what help they need and what we can provide to support them to do the very best they can

Working with other local authorities

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.

Educational support for the children and young people 

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.

Working with other departments and organisations

The HOPE works across the council and involves many different departments and organisations. 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, 30KB) (opens new window) and Being a VS governor (pdf, 23KB) (opens new window) .

What The HOPE can do for you

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.


  • 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're looking for individual education advice and/or support for a pupil, you should contact the relevant staff members

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

The HOPE has produced an Expectations document (pdf, 186KB) (opens new window)  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 February 2018 statutory guidance: Promoting the Education of Looked After Children and Previously 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.

Role of other services

Many other services contribute to the work of The HOPE. 

  • Education Psychology Service (EPS)
  • Education Welfare Service (EWS)
  • Special Educational Needs  (SEN) Also visit Findability 
  • Placement Support Service: 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.
  • TFCO:  they provide support foster placements for children aged 7 to 11 years.  Children have an individualised programme that looks at consistency and clear strategies for managing any challenges.
    The programme also helps children to develop the skills that they need to be successful both at school and at home.  Carers are trained in the programme and receive 24/7 support from the team.
  • School Improvement Officers (SIOs) support schools to strengthen the understanding of their roles and responsibilities; ensure that they fulfill the statutory requirements and signpost support