Virtual School launches new opportunities for Oxfordshire’s children in care

Children in care in Oxfordshire are being given new opportunities for cultural and academic development, made possible by virtual classroom learning.

Oxfordshire Virtual School – run by the County Council – has teamed-up with Oxford University to develop a partnership of engagement and outreach for children in care.

Initiatives include ‘university sampling’, where one day each term Magdalen College invite nine to 12 years olds to connect with experts about their research and learning.

Children have already had an opportunity to work in the university, eat in the dining hall and meet students; carefully managed to ensure COVID-19 social distancing.

Oxfordshire Kindness Wave will be digitally linking with young people, streaming creative challenges and promotional videos, designed to encourage sharing and empathy in a fun and informative online environment.

The Virtual School will also provide training for teachers. Trauma awareness tutorials will enhance their knowledge; and show that Oxfordshire County Council values their work and commitment to support children in care.

Mental Health research will be shared with school heads and chairs – again for the benefit of care leavers and children in care.

Luke, aged 12, is already benefiting from participating in the University outreach sessions. He said:

“Going to Magdalen College was pretty inspiring really, it was interesting to meet people who actually work there.

“The guy who is an expert on C.S. Lewis was brilliant. He knew everything about ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’! I am looking forward to going back.”

County Councillor Lorraine Lindsay-Gale, Cabinet Member for Education and Cultural Services, said:

“I am proud of the Virtual School and its collaboration with higher education establishments.

“The school is committed to enhancing the life-chances and choices of ‘Children We Care For’ (children in care) and care leavers, up to the age of 25.

“It is motivated to be the most ambitious and aspirational corporate parent it can be.

“And sharing the Council’s vision, like all good parents it is determined to maximise opportunities. This partnership with Oxford University is a shining example of such commitment. I wish participating young people all the best.”

Professor Martin Williams the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education at the University, said:

“Oxford University and its colleges have been inspired by the wonderful work of the Oxfordshire Virtual School, and we’re proud to collaborate with it on initiatives to promote self-confidence and love of learning among its students.

“We hope that through continued close working, we can support the Virtual School to give more young people the enriching academic experiences which are so vital to their wellbeing and their future opportunities.”

For further information about Oxfordshire Virtual School, visit the website https://www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/residents/schools/our-work-schools/virtual-school-looked-after-children-and-care-leavers-0-25