Reflections on Virtual School Leaders Conference and Exhibition 2024

Go Higher West Yorkshire (GHWY) recently attended the Virtual School Leaders Conference and Exhibition 2024. The Virtual School is responsible for ensuring that all children looked after (CLA) fulfil their educational potential. 

The event included a presentation from Paul Dix, who gave highlights from his book ‘When the Adults Change, Everything Changes: Seismic Shifts in School Behaviour’. Delegates were then led through workshops that considered how they could bring this knowledge directly into their own practice in school. 

Held at Elland Road in Leeds, it was attended by around 150 delegates. These included primary and secondary school staff, Virtual School staff, youth justice workers, and local organisations supporting care-experienced young people. This variety led to some interesting conversations on supporting care-experienced students from a range of perspectives.  

The main talking point of the day was different educational styles. This included lively conversations around degree apprenticeships and part-time study, especially for schools that are still experiencing students who struggle with full-time classroom education. Options available to these students include degree apprenticeships, which allow individuals to study while they also work, as well as part-time study. 

GHWY spoke to staff from a few different alternative provision settings who were encouraged to hear about the variety of work undertaken by GHWY and our 13 members, such as the Care to Go Higher programme and Go Higher In events. They were also pleased to learn about the supportive environment Higher Education can provide to care-experienced and disabled/SEND students. Our resources, such as the disabled learners transition pack, were well received. These are designed to give students access to information on how to transition from Further to Higher Education. 

Having collaborated with the Leeds Virtual School on multiple occasions, it was great to have a chance to discuss where those collaborations have led and what opportunities have come from them. These include an invitation-only event we are running for care-experienced students in April, which was partly inspired by a meeting with the Virtual School.  

The event gave us a chance to make new contacts as well as meet current ones face to face. We also got to speak with multiple staff from our members, and we shared our excitement for upcoming collaborations and opportunities in the next few months. All of this was in addition to the guest speakers, discussions, and networking opportunities, which overall made for a very successful event.  

We are happy to have once again been involved in developing support for care-experienced students in West Yorkshire and across the country, and were happy to see so many others sharing the same intentions. 


Dominic House, GHWY Care to Go Higher Delivery Officer