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Education achievements of looked after children celebrated at annual awards

Published Friday, 18th October 2019

Several member of the Virtual School Team.

Children, their foster families and social workers gathered to celebrate and reward their education achievements at a special annual awards ceremony.

More than 175 people attended the 10th annual Southend Virtual School Awards Ceremony on Monday 14 October, at The Pod at South Essex College.

There are 11 award categories celebrating academic achievement, excellence in sports, personal development and overcoming challenges. There were also special musical performances from Sofia Jay and Levent and Taylor, plus a motivational speech from actor Ricky Champ, known for his roles in Eastenders and Game of Thrones.

Cllr Anne Jones, cabinet member for children and learning, said: “I was delighted to attend the awards this week. It was a wonderful event, celebrating these children and their academic successes. Unfortunately due to the nature of their situation, it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to name the winners, however I am glad we can highlight the awards ceremony as a whole and congratulate everyone who was involved. It's a night of music, food and fun and one which is an honour to attend.”

Looked after children is the umbrella term used for children who are in foster care within Southend-on-Sea. The youngsters were nominated for awards by their foster family or school.

New to this year’s event was recognition for schools who have gone above and beyond. The schools who were mentioned were St Nicholas School, Chase High School, Eastwood Primary School and Temple Sutton Primary School.

The awards are run by the Virtual School team, who support and monitor the academic outcomes of more than 300 children, from early years through to post 16 college courses. They are an extra layer to the education system, to ensure a looked after child makes the most of the opportunities presented to them.

Part of the evening included a photo booth, where children and foster carers were encouraged to write down what they loved about the foster care process at Southend-on-Sea and what could be improved, then hold up their words for a photo.

Cllr Jones added: “The virtual school team are a growing team, with nine staff now in place to help the children in our system. As corporate parents, the organisation has a responsibility to ensure the service we provide what our children need and want. The photo booth was an innovative way to get the children to give us their expert feedback and we will be using it improve the services we provide.”