Circle Insights

Virtual schools – improving outcomes for looked after children

Marcus Le Brocq

The personal education plan (PEP) and attendance monitoring of looked after children (LAC) are vital in ensuring that they are being appropriately provisioned for and educated. They are vital components of the virtual schools  framework, too. The PEP ensures that their education is on the right track; attendance monitoring provides robust information as to their whereabouts for five days of the week, placed in or out of authority. Such information is important to schools, local authorities, social and care workers and other professionals involved in their journey. Monitoring and provision of the information is the responsibility of the child’s local authority, their corporate parent. But how can this information be seamlessly gathered, recorded and shared across all relevant parties to the ultimate benefit of each child?

Real-time virtual schools monitoring

Having attendance information in real-time is a clear advantage. Where information takes time to filter through, vital intervention opportunities can be lost. In a manual world, where information is discovered twice daily by phoning the school the child attends, the data takes time to filter through the system to reach the decision makers.

Implementing a digital process, with registration data entered at the point of contact by the child’s school, helps local authorities to raise red flags and implement action quickly. Virtual schools

Each local authority will have its own plan of action for looked after children found to not be attending school. How is the point of action reached? With real-time data, actions can be implemented at exactly the right moment. No delays, just a clear understanding of the sequence of events and the next steps.

Equally, monitoring each PEP is crucial in ensuring that each child is receiving the educational opportunities deemed necessary at the outset of their journey. If targets are not being met, it is the role of the corporate parent to step in and find out why.

This can only be done with up to date information. Reducing the manual process of requesting, recording and interpreting the information in each PEP will expedite the process of acting upon it. Having a mechanism to seamlessly share the outcomes with other relevant parties will help them to make informed decisions in relation to the child.

Sharing virtual school information

There are often multiple agencies involved in the journey of a looked after child. It is, therefore, important that the information is made available to them. Any education welfare, social care or youth justice workers will need the information to create their own holistic view of the child and inform their own responses to their story.

Information becoming siloed only acts to the detriment of the child. Technology can certainly help, but it can also hinder. Interoperability of software is important in improving outcomes.

Attendance and PEP data can be useful to other agencies in the same way that information from them can be useful to the corporate parent. Disparate agencies working to the same goal of improving outcomes for vulnerable children will do just that.

Securing virtual school data

Recording attendance and PEP data is one thing, but how will the information be secured and shared? Working with a trusted technology partner is an important part of the process. Ensuring relevant security certificates are achieved and that the process is in place to record and make the data available to relevant colleagues and third parties.

What will this process look like? Handling sensitive data is a complex issue, so breaking through this complexity and making life easy for your school, local authority and associated parties is beneficial. IMPULSE Nexus features accessible portals through which only relevant data is shared with only relevant parties. There are school, parent, professional and provider portals. Data is input once, then can be redacted and shared with others. Rules for what data can be shared with whom are established at the outset and can be altered as necessary as you go, with the ability to manually override.

Background security is an important consideration, too. What if there is a data breach or physical hard drives get damaged? Robust backing up and disaster recovery planning is essential. Selecting a provider that can partner with you on this and provide a robust security framework for your data should be a primary consideration. Opting for a fully managed hosting solution with your software provider can also realise benefits in terms of cost and efficiency, as well as security. Leveraging the security spend of a provider can help to keep your data secure and takes it off your table. It also makes implementing updates much easier, with these done off-premise on your behalf.

Making virtual schools easy with IMPULSE Nexus from CACI

We understand the complexity you and your teams face. Our team is itself made up of former youth workers and experts from the education sector. That’s why we’ve designed IMPULSE Nexus to be modular and interoperable. Our virtual schools module can be used in isolation and plugged into the rest of your software solutions to provide a complete picture. You can use as much or as little of IMPULSE Nexus as you need.

Our Core record enables you to record all PEP and attendance data in one place against a child’s file. When certain criteria aren’t met, e.g. they’ve missed a set number of am/pm attendances, alerts can be raised in the system to notify relevant people. This helps to remove the manual strain in sifting through records or calling schools in search of information. Creating efficiency in the process frees up time to focus on interpreting data and improving their outcomes.

Once the process is established, the data is recorded at source in schools and uploaded in real-time to the children’s records. You can edit and adapt the rules underlining this process as you need going forward. Our team is always on hand to help.

Getting the virtual schools process right is fundamental to improving outcomes for looked after children. Receiving data late, misinterpreting it and missing intervention opportunities make a difficult task and impossible one. Having a system and process in place that facilitates swift and efficient PEP and attendance monitoring will help schools, authorities and children across the UK.

For more information on how IMPULSE Nexus can support virtual school requirements, you can view our IMPULSE Nexus virtual schools fact sheet here.

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Marcus Le Brocq