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Outgoing NAVSH Chair Alan Clifton's Conference Speech March 2017

posted Aug 29, 2017, 4:08 PM by Jane Pickthall   [ updated Aug 29, 2017, 4:26 PM ]

The Journey So Far

Fo a good number of years there has been some excellent partnership work between Virtual School Heads both regionally and nationally.  The work of the former ‘Steering Group’ was valued and the work undertaken benefitted children in our care.  So the question that arises is why change - has the establishment of the National Association of Virtual School Heads (NAVSH) made a difference?  For me it has been a good start, but it is only a start.

As the first Chair of NAVSH, there were two main aims:

The first one was quite simply to encourage local authorities and Virtual School Heads to become members.  Clearly to encourage membership, we needed to set out our vision and priorities as well as communicating the benefits of membership.  To create a national voice we needed the vast majority of local authorities to be ‘on board.’ We currently have133 local authorities as members.  Our aim has to be to get all local authorities ‘signed up’ to give NAVSH a regionally represented mandate that matches our ambitions.  

The second aim was to establish the NAVSH organisation as a Charity and to communicate the vision we had for children in care.  (Priority 1 in our published priorities for 2016 -17.)  I can, with confidence, state the acronym NAVSH is well known by key partners and whilst there is always more that can be done, we are being contacted and lobbied by other organisations, to provide a view, possibly even more so than we are contacting others.  

I have to be constantly reminded that the formal launch of NAVSH was only in June 2016 at Local Government House in Westminster. At the NAVSH launch in June 2016, I said that I thought there were strong working relationships within the board that enabled us to be an effective team. However, I also said strong working relationships were not enough, by themselves, we needed to have a clear vision of what we wanted to achieve and by when.  Developing our priorities into a three year plan is a logical next step.

Key Partners

NAVSH are working in partnership with the DFE over a number important work streams:

  • Contributing to a Children in Care Expert Seminar Group across health, care and education.

  • Being represented at a Multi Academy Trust (MAT) / DFE discussion group to consider and address the needs of those exhibiting SEND, as well as the needs of Children in Care.  

  • Reviewing the impact of the Pupil Premium Plus.  Are schools using it differently for children in care?  Sharing examples of good practice and the results of our own survey and research.

  • With NCER, DFE and ADCS we have the new data tool we had demonstrations of yesterday

Senior colleagues at the DFE, have assured the Board that we will be able to contribute to new guidance for Designated Teachers, last updated in 2009 and statutory guidance for local authorities on Promoting the Education of looked after children 2014.  We welcome the opportunity to be involved in this work.

The OFSTED Social care report was very helpful around recognising that children in care often make significant progress later than their peers and the schools report highlighted the impact of Virtual School Heads.  Ongoing discussions with OFSTED are important

Attending and being provided with a platform to speak at ADCS and NCASC conference has been especially helpful. Although the experience of seeing photographs and direct quotes on twitter by the time you sit down was a new and somewhat disconcerting experience.

We will hear from adoption UK and PAC UK later this morning along with NNECL they are key partners going forward.


We will in the future undertake and commission our own research. We have developed good working relations with the Institute of Education - University of London.  It is important to highlight the work around Promoting the Achievement of Looked After Children (PALAC)  This work builds on the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as well as work from Bath Spa University and Kate Cains Associates(KCA) to name but two organisation/institutions.  The Attachment Research Community (ARC) has been set up, separately to NAVSH.  The aim being to support and develop best practice for children with unmet attachment needs and trauma.

We have maintained our strong links to the Rees Centre, University of Oxford, and have offered to provide a NAVSH Board member to be part of the, still to be established, research oversight group pertaining to research around attachment.  More of this I am sure from Judy Sebba.  As a national charity it is important to state: NAVSH is ready to work with any organisation with compatible aims and purposes.

I’d like to conclude my year as Chair with a thank you to members and the Board, but more specifically with a special thank you to Jane Pickthall.  Throughout the last year we have lobbied, listened and when necessary argued a case on behalf of NAVSH and Children in our Care together.  I know she doesn’t need me to say it but I wish her and the newly established board, every success in 2017-18.  I know the future of NAVSH is in good hands.  Although I am stepping down from my own role, in North Yorkshire, this summer I will continue in the role of Immediate Past Chair until March 2018 and hopefully, as an Associate member after this.  It has been a pleasure and a privilege being your first Chair and I look forward to NAVSH going from strength to strength in the future.