Graduation ceremony celebrates virtual school success

This story was published 31 July 2019

Children in care and care leavers are celebrating after graduating with flying colours from North Yorkshire’s virtual school.

Stuart Carlton presents a graduation certificate to Keeley Clayton

The graduation ceremony has been held for those who have completed their secondary, post-16 or graduation course. It brought together young people and their guests, along with county councillors and staff who have supported them.

The school supports all children in care in North Yorkshire. Although children may attend other schools, the virtual school operates as one school with pupils on a virtual roll, ensuring that all looked-after children can make the best possible progress.

Guest speaker Keeley Clayton, a virtual school student who has now graduated from university, gave an inspirational talk about her journey from coming into care until her employment as a social worker with North Yorkshire County Council.

“The virtual school provided me with equipment such as a laptop, which meant that I was able to complete work I had for college and then on to university,” said Keeley. “During my GCSEs I changed address and was travelling to and from different areas to complete my exams. Despite this, teachers were very accommodating to enable me to complete them with the rest of my peers.

“During my time in education I feel I have learnt so much thanks to the support from specialist staff. I am now a newly qualified social worker, so have been able to learn new skills along the way and I can’t wait to see what my future holds.”

Julie Bunn, head of the virtual school, was on hand to congratulate the students, and scrolls were awarded by Stuart Carlton, Corporate Director for the Children and Young People’s Service.

“The virtual school is very proud of our students and we are excited to celebrate all their accomplishments,” said Julie. “We have 22 students at university and six students intending to start in September. We also have students embarking on an exciting range of apprenticeships and scholarships, including engineering and football.”

Councillor Patrick Mulligan, Executive Member for Education and Skills, said: “I’d like to say a big congratulations to the staff and students at our virtual school for achieving their educational goals. We are committed to celebrating the success of students and the graduation ceremony is a great way to do this.

“Evidence shows that looked-after and previously looked-after children don’t meet national expectations as well as other children. However, the specialist support team at our virtual school does a great job in raising the attainment, progress and aspirations of all students, and helps those at risk of underachieving to have the same chance of success as anybody else.”