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The City of London Corporation Virtual School

The City of London Corporation runs a Virtual School, which caters for ‘young people in care’, the majority of whom are unaccompanied asylum-seeking refugees. CLS has pioneered a ground-breaking programme with the Virtual School. In 2019 a group of young asylum-seekers visited CLS for paired-reading and enrichment sessions in Art, Music, Science and Drama. There were visits to the Tate Modern, work produced by the group was exhibited in the Summer Exhibition and they participated in a ‘Film School’ run by the Young Film Academy. The programme concluded with a celebration event. Although the Coronavirus pandemic has limited the development of the project, the ties with the Virtual School remain strong, with a previous participant delivering an amazing assembly at CLS.

Aims

At CLS, we are active partners. We have a strong relationship with the City of London Corporation and the other City Schools, including the City of London School for Girls.

A key element of our Strategic Vision 2019-24 is: 'We are proud to be part of the City of London Corporation’s family of schools, and we realise that this provides opportunities both to learn and contribute. We will seek to expand the scope for our boys to work and learn with pupils from City of London School for Girls, so they understand that through working with and understanding others, we are strengthened ourselves. We will also develop our partnership work with the City of London academies, learning from each other to improve what we do, for the benefit of young people from across London.'

The City of London Corporation Virtual School is dependent on CLS for providing this enrichment project.

Background

Like all local authorities across the country, the City of London corporation has young people in their care. Usually, this means young people who have been taken away from their parents because they are not able to look after them properly or keep them safe. Every local authority has a ‘Virtual School’ team that works with schools and social workers and carers to ensure these young people get the best educational outcomes possible. One of the things that makes the City of London Corporation unique is that almost all these young people are unaccompanied asylum seeking (refugee) young people. These are not young people that have been taken away from their parents, rather, in many cases their parents have found money to pay traffickers to send them to the UK.

The young people arrive in the UK, often in Kent or in London having spent 6-20 months on the road in terrible conditions. The City of London corporation cohort come from countries such as Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran and Syria. Some will have seen family members murdered or jailed and tortured. All will have suffered some form of trauma and loss.

Depending on where they arrive, they will become ‘looked after’ by the relevant local authority whilst their Home Office application proceeds, often at a slow place. The role of the Virtual School is to find local schools and colleges for them to attend. The nature of the City of London means that there are no foster carers living in the square mile so the young people actually live in a variety of London boroughs in a ten mile radius.

Most of these young people have little or no English. In most cases they will have only had 3-4 years of education in their home countries. Their ages range from 15 to 18.

The Head of the Virtual School and the Deputy Head Co-curricular and Operations collaborated to create the  enrichment programme for the group of young asylum seekers.

Resources

In reThe annual 10 week enrichment programme is funded and delivered by CLS. All the activities take place at the School. It is overseen by the Deputy Head Co-curricular and Operations, with support from the Modern Lanuagues Department and wide range of teaching and support staff.

 

Impact

The impact of this project is reflected in the words of Andrew Russell, The Head of the Virtual School. He writes, ‘I was absolutely delighted by the project with City of London School. The enthusiasm from the boys and staff was infectious and the young people from the Virtual School benefitted enormously from the programme of enrichment activities. Many of them have endured terrible hardship, so to see them so engaged, developing their skills and visibly growing in confidence was amazing. I really am grateful for everything CLS did to make this happen.’

In reference to the ongoing relationship Andrew writes, 'The young people in the care of the City of London Corporation have had their educational experience hugely enriched by the project run by the City of London School with the City of London Virtual School. The partnership is strong and plans are afoot to develop it further in 2021. The students involved previously still talk about how much they benefitted from it.'

The project has helped raise awareness of the plight of young asylum seekers, and Bushra, one of the participants in the programme gave an extraordinary assembly to the pupils at CLS.

Pupil Involvement

A significant number of boys in Year 12 participate in this programme, playing an extensive role in hosting, supporting and planning the activities for our visitors.

Frequency

An annual 10 week programme.