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Realising the potential of Children in Care

National Nurture Award for Virtual School Kent

Posted on by Judy Molyneux

Virtual School Kent (VSK) has become the first virtual school to be awarded the National Nurturing Virtual School Programme Award.

NEWSThe NurtureUK award follows the school’s completion of the National Nurturing Schools Programme and recognises the high-quality whole school nurturing approach.

Virtual School Kent provides co-ordinated educational services to support both children and professionals promoting the progress and educational attainment of children and young people who are or who have been in care so that they achieve educational outcomes comparable to their peers and the foundation for improving their lives.

Achieving the award is an endorsement of the extensive work VSK has undertaken to ensure that the six principals of Nurture are embedded throughout its everyday practice in how young people, partners and staff are supported.

An essential part of this development is how VSK are using the Boxall Profile, an assessment tool for social emotional and behavioural difficulties for children and young people. This has improved the understanding of young people and enhanced their work with schools, social workers and foster carers to create better outcomes for children from early years all the way to those post 16 years.

One parent said: “As an adopted parent you are your child’s advocate and parent, but this can be emotional, lonely and difficult to achieve with objectivity. VSK were my advocates and problems solvers in aiding my child to reach their potential within the school environment. There are so many services out there that I did not know about until VSK became involved. Their support and friendly demeanour have been invaluable to my daughter and my own mental well-being.”

Nurtureuk noted the dedication and determination of VSK to develop the National Nurturing Virtual Schools Award Programme and ensure the child’s voice is at the heart of the service in the award assessment: “VSK is passionate and driven by their unwavering support for their children and Young People. This pilot National Nurturing Virtual Schools Award Programme (NNVSP), the first for a Virtual School has seen adaptations by the extended Leadership Team and the programme and its framework has evolved through reflective practice, collaboration and sheer determination. This has resulted in an inspiring version of the NNSP programme, the result of which has empowered not just the VSK’s pupils and staff but also their stakeholders such as Fostering Services, Kent County Council and Social Care services. The ripple effect of VSK’s hard work is tangible across the whole county of Kent and is a testament to their understanding of the power of the 6 Principles of Nurture. This pilot NNVSP was developed during a pandemic with all the extra issues and challenges that this had created and still creates. This is really most impressive and the commitment, creativity and passion involved shine through.

One of the key factors noted when working with VSK has been the emphasis on relationships. Pupils, parents and carers, outside agencies, and designated teachers all commented on the positive regard, positive approaches and creativity within VSK. VSK work from a strengths-based perspective and have the wellbeing of their pupils, staff and partners at the heart of everything they do, recognising that the nature of their work is often challenging and sometimes in traumatic circumstances. Their desire to inspire, engage and support their pupils, often thinking ‘out of the box’ in a creative way has resulted in successful outcomes, which are tangible and commendable.”

Tony Doran, VSK Headteacher said: “Nurture plays a pivotal role in our approach to supporting children in care, previously looked after children and children with a social worker. All our young people and their networks have been through so much, but also significantly impacted during the past two years, and we find living and breathing the principles of nurture, invaluable in creating and fostering positive collaborative relationships. I am so proud of all my team who have embraced the Nurture approach to how we work, as it is them who have enabled us to become the first Virtual School in the country to receive the NNSP (or NNVSP) Award.”

Read the full National Nurturing Schools Programme Assessment Report