Education, Training and Employment

The Virtual School

The Virtual School is an additional resource which exists to support and challenge all those involved in the education of children in care. It is involved in, or promotes nationally and locally, various initiatives to support the educational achievement of children in care.

The Virtual School Team is a small multi-disciplinary team working to raise the educational attainment and attendance of children and young people. It works in close collaboration with colleagues across the authority, and also in partnership with the third sector. It tracks educational progress, while supporting and monitoring work with children and young people in care. It works to help young people achieve their full potential, and offers support and advice to those who care and work with them.

Contact Information

Sarah Greaves - Virtual School Head teacher

Telephone: 01702 212415


Stacey Edwards – Virtual School Post 16 Advisor

Telephone: 01702 212803


Education, Employment and Training

The Leaving Care team are here to help you with your education at any time and whatever you would like to do. We can help you to continue in your education, make a change, a fresh start, or simply take the next steps towards your career and aspirations. We encourage all of our young people to continue with their education as far as they wish. Your allocated worker will help you decide what you would like to do. We can also put you in touch with careers advisors. Your Pathway plan will set out what you want to achieve in your education, training or work and how you are going to do it including thinking about your financial support.

The 16-19 Bursary

You could get a bursary to help with education-related costs if you’re aged 16 to 19 and:

  • studying at school or college (not university) in England
  • on a training course, including unpaid work experience

A bursary is money that you, or your education or training provider, can use to pay for things like:

  • clothing, books and other equipment for your course
  • transport and lunch on days you study or train

Your education provider will decide how you get your bursary. You might be:

  • paid in full or in installments
  • paid in cash or through a bank account
  • given a travel pass, free meals, books etc. instead of money

Some providers also offer one-off payments to cover study trips or travel for university interviews. Your provider could stop payments if you break their rules, e.g. about attendance or how your bursary is used. You could get a bursary of up to £1,200 for the year, depending on your circumstances. You apply to your school, college or training provider. Ask student services or your tutor to explain what you need to do.

Further Education and Training

There are many places in Southend where you can further your education. There are schools, colleges and institutions where you can study in the day or evening in a range of subjects.

  • academic courses help you prepare for higher education at a university or college. They aim to develop your analytical skills, critical thinking and knowledge. They will usually lead to a qualification, e.g. A levels, BTecs
  • vocational and professional courses give you the skills and qualifications you need to enter and succeed in your chosen career. They offer technical training and skills for the workplace

Many courses are free of charge, mainly if you are aged 16 to 18 years. If you are older, unemployed and in receipt of benefit or subsistence, the college fee will still be very reasonable. Fees are charged according to the length of the course and there may be extra charge if you need to borrow special tools. The classes are usually graded from Beginners (where you may know very little) to Intermediate (where you have some knowledge) and Advanced. Many classes are designed for a specific examination, such as GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) although people of any age can take the exam.

Higher Education

The Leaving Care Team has high aspirations for our care leavers. Our aim is to see that you are successful in education. We will support you to make progress and to equip you with the life tools to make appropriate good choices to progress through education and into employment. We can help you apply for student finances and look at the universities that you are interested in going to. We can advise you of organisations who can help you with your personal statements, if you need support.

Many universities give out bursaries which you may be able to claim as a care leaver. Contact the University student finance service to see what funds they have available. e.g., some provide £1000 per year to care leavers, or reduce fees. Please refer to the Become website for a list of Universities and what financial help they offer.

The Leaving Care Team will pay you a University Bursary on top of what you receive from student finance. This totals £2000 over the duration of your degree and it’s paid approximately a month into the new academic year and split as follows

£700 1stYear

£700 2nd Year

£600 3rd Year

We will also help with rent payments for Easter, summer and Christmas breaks. For Easter and Christmas we will pay up to £100 per week for a maximum of 3 weeks and for summer we will pay up to £100 per week for 14 weeks. You will need to give a copy of your tenancy agreement to your Personal Advisor. We will pay you a weekly food/living cost of £36.80 again paid into your bank account.

In order to receive your bursary each academic year you will need to send evidence of your progression to your Personal Advisor, keep in touch with them and participate in home visits and your Pathway Plan reviews.

Housing Options for those at University

If you are in Semi-Independent accommodation, you will need to make arrangements to move into Student Halls (via the university), a student house or friend/family as soon as possible. You can also use the internet, newspapers or letting agents to rent a room.


Finding employment or the right kind of training is a major worry for many young people so it is important that you think about what type of job you want. Think about what training or qualifications you will need and then contact the companies directly to see if they can advise on the appropriate course to be completed. You should also contact your Personal Advisor, Connexions Advisor or Job Centre for advice.     

To start work you will need a National Insurance (N.I.) number. This is essential because it identifies you uniquely as a person who has a legal right to work in the United Kingdom. If you do not have a N.I. number then ask your Social Worker as this is issued at age 16.

The Job Centre can help to find you employment. Explain to the job centre that you are a care leaver. If you are an asylum seeker, you must tell them and also explain your current immigration status. There is an option of one to one support that is tailored to suit your needs delivered by a Job Centre Personal Advisor.

These support sessions include:

  • are you job ready?
  • how to complete a CV
  • interview skills
  • can you dress to impress on a budget?


Your CV is a document that details all of your work experience, education and other skills that make you attractive to employers. Having an up to date CV is essential as for many jobs it will provide the basis of your application. The quality of your CV could mean the difference between being asked for an interview or not, so it is in your interest to make the most of the help that is provided.

The Leaving Care team will support you by way of workshops or on a one to one basis with your personal development and career programme to equip you with the tools, confidence, motivation, direction and professional networks to take your first steps on the career ladder. Travel and lunch expenses will be provided if you attend this programme or workshop

For care leavers subject to Immigration Control (no leave to remain in the UK), you have to apply for permission to work from the Home Office. You must show written confirmation to your Personal Advisor/ Social Worker before taking up any part time or full time work.

Work Experience

If you have never worked, or have been out of a job for a long time, doing a work placement can be a great way of getting valuable, up-to-date experience and better preparing yourself for the world of work. It will also improve your CV and can be a good way of making professional contacts that could help your career.

If you are seeking a work experience placement at Southend-On-Sea Borough Council, please contact The Development Team with your CV and indicate which departments/area of work you are interested in, along with start and end dates of the placement.

The website has a range of useful information about how you can set up voluntary work placements, and make sure you get the most out of them. If you are interested in working in the public sector, for a charity, or even for an MP, you also might find some interesting internships advertised on the w4mp website


Apprenticeships are structured training programmes which give you a chance to work towards a qualification. They help you gain the skills and knowledge you need to succeed in your chosen industry.  Getting into employment earlier means there’s lots of potential for you to progress in your career quickly. You can also begin to earn a good salary much earlier on in your life.  Apprenticeships give you fantastic experience in the working world and show employers that you can ‘hit the ground running’. Hands-on training gives you a real chance to put your skills into practice and helps you to gain more confidence in a working environment.

If you are aged between 16 and 24 and need to improve your skills to get an apprenticeship you may be able to join the Access to Apprenticeship scheme. This scheme is run by the National Apprenticeship Service. For more information about this scheme please visit our Apprenticeship pages or discuss with your Social Worker / Personal Advisor.

Here are some of the top employers in our local area and central to Southend.

  • Argos
  • Amazon
  • Southend Airport (Stobart)
  • Fairfield (BMW
  • Southend Jobcentre
  • Ipeco Holdings Ltd (big apprenticeship provider, two intakes a year)
  • EGL
  • Albon Engineering and Manufacturing PLC
  • NatWest (including the now defunct RBS)
  • NHS
  • HMRC
  • South Essex College
  • Royal Mail
  • First Data Resources (regularly advertise for apprenticeships)
  • Southend-on-Sea Borough Council
  • Ventrica

For further information about how to apply for jobs with these employers, speak with advisors at:

  • Connexions
  • Job Centre
  • your Social Worker / Personal Advisor

Contact Leaving Care

Telephone: 01702 212087

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