Success for students with North Yorkshire’s Virtual School

This story was published 6 September 2022

The achievements of children in care and care leavers are being celebrated as they prepare to embark on the next chapter of their education.

North Yorkshire’s Virtual School head and chair of the National Association of Virtual School Heads, Julie Bunn

Our Virtual School supports young people throughout their education, including their progression to further and higher education, apprenticeships and employment. This year the service will see three young people go onto university to study degrees in law, psychology and criminology and international business. Others will be starting undergraduate and foundation courses, as well as vocational and skills courses.

The county council’s Virtual School works with children and young people in care and care leavers, whether they are placed in a North Yorkshire setting, or elsewhere in the country. It monitors their progress and provides specialist support to help them overcome any additional challenges they may encounter while studying.

The service operates in a similar way to a traditional school, but without a physical building. It organises bespoke education for children and young people which is often one-to-one. Often this is provided outside school buildings due to the young person’s anxiety or trauma.

It also provides advice and information for care experienced young people and their parents, foster carers, residential carers, guardians and the schools they attend.

The education support has been celebrating its students’ results in their GCSE and A-level courses and making sure they can move on confidently to their next stage in education, employment or training.

As well as A-levels, the Virtual School’s young people in post-16 education are studying, or about to study, a range of vocational courses such as construction, childcare, engineering, animal care and English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). Others are studying functional skills courses.

Our Virtual School head, Julie Bunn, said: “Each of these young people have plans in place to continue their education next year.  

“We also have three young people from Virtual School who are this year going on to university after successfully getting the A-level results they needed. One student will be studying Law at York St John, and two will be going to Leeds Beckett to study psychology and criminology and international business.

“There are further 10 care leavers starting undergraduate and foundation courses. 

“We now have nearly 40 young people in university and we are so proud of the achievements of each and every student.”

Foster carer Ronald Deakin fosters unaccompanied child asylum seekers and has five young people who are currently studying further who are receiving support from the Virtual School.

Mr Deakin said: “The Virtual School has been really, really supportive. That help has ranged from supporting children going into their new UK school for the first time - which can be difficult - to helping supply IT equipment.

“We currently have a 16-year-old from Iran, who is going to the virtual school graduation day in Northallerton following his GCSEs. Another of our teenagers, has just passed his A-levels after getting 12 GCSEs and he is now going on to university.

“He is the first foster child we have had who is going on to university and has been mentoring our other foster children, telling them what they can achieve if they engage.

“I think for all foster carers, the virtual schools is really essential. They give the kind of support some children really need. You have to remember that most unaccompanied asylum seekers are studying for qualifications here, when English isn’t their first language.

“I put great store in education. You don’t want them to leave school at 15 or 16 – it’s vital they get qualifications and go on to create a good adult life for themselves.”

Executive member for children’s services, Cllr Janet Sanderson, said: “We are immensely proud of all of the achievements of the children and young people with the Virtual School and how many of them have overcome their own individual challenges to persevere with their studies.

“To see so many of them continuing into further and higher education and into their chosen careers is testament to their hard work.”