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Aspens Fest 2020

Aspens Fest 2020, save the date!

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Aspens Fest 2020, will take place Saturday 18th - Sunday 19th July. Make sure you save the date! The weekend will be full of virtual activities and workshops, all themed around ‘Transitions’.

Aspens fest is a hub of mental health, wellbeing, music, sport, sensory and transition workshops tailored to parents, carers, siblings, children and young people with ASC, mental health difficulties and/or SEN.

To register for the festival, head to: aspensfest2020.aspens.org.uk

An update about NCS 2020

The following is an update about NCS 2020.

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National Citizen Service (NCS)*   *

*The normal summer programme is unfortunately not able to go ahead and so in its place we are offering a completely free NCS experience available to all young people. *

Everyone who was previously signed up to a programme should have been contacted to have the new offer explained to them and will have been given an option of remaining involved in this summer’s experience, as well as deferring their place to next summer, if they are still age eligible.

*The summer 2020 experience includes a huge range of digital workshops, events and opportunities that can be accessed at  https://wearencs.com/.  Please do feel free to share these details with others. In addition, as we move further out of lockdown and things become safer we hope to arrange some volunteering and social action days for young people to join in with. *

Survey Update!

A huge thank you to everyone that took the time to submit a feedback survey during this lockdown period!

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Everyone at VSK would like to thank all of you who have completed our surveys that we have posted on the website. Understanding your views about lockdown has given us a valuable insight as to how we can improve our services to benefit you in the future! During these uncertain times it has been really helpful to get some direct feedback from you, helping us to make things a little bit easier during lockdown. As a thank you we have selected at random, two lucky winners of £50 vouchers! These will be sent out to you and can be spent at a variety of different shops!

We will be adding new surveys periodically to the website for you to take part in so keep your eyes open for those!

Thank you again, and we hope to see as many of you as possible very soon!

The Participation Team.

The Summer Reading Challenge is Back!

Silly Squad, the Summer Reading Challenge 2020 started on Friday 5th June and runs throughout the summer holidays, finishing at the end of September. It’s for children aged 4 – 11 and is completely free.

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Even though libraries are closed at the moment and lots of you are learning at home, you can still take part! For the first time ever in Kent, the Summer Reading Challenge is going to be a digital only activity so you can access it at home using your laptop, tablet or phone.

This year’s theme is “Silly Squad” – focussing on funny books, happiness and things that make us laugh. If you take part in the Challenge, you can join the Silly Squad, an adventurous team of animals who love to have a laugh and get stuck into many different kinds of funny books.

In the past, you might have visited your local library to register and collect a wallet, stickers and other rewards as you progressed through the challenge, reading a total of six books. This year’s Challenge is different – it’s a digital Challenge! It’s free to access and there are games, quizzes and downloadable activities to try. You can choose your own reading goals, create book reviews, play games and collect virtual rewards. If you want to take part, ask your Foster Carer to register you online at www.sillysquad.org.uk via the safe, sign-up process.

And don’t forget, although libraries are closed, eBooks and eAudio books are free to borrow from www.kent.gov.uk/libraries.  You can have a look at what’s available to read here https://kent.overdrive.com/ and even download a free app so you can read as much as you want! Downloaded EBooks and eAudio books are automatically returned so you don’t need to keep an eye on the due date! If you need help with the online catalogue, contact our Ask A Kent Librarian Team https://www.kent.gov.uk/leisure-and-community/libraries/free-computers-and-wifi/ask-a-kent-librarian

Get Involved with a Virtual Group!

Missing your after school clubs or youth group? Want the opportunity to meet other Young People in Care or Adopted Young People, have fun and maybe even get to have your say on how care experienced and adopted young people are supported in Kent? Then, why not join the VSK Participation Team for a virtual session!

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The VSK Participation Team are running regular virtual groups for Kent Children in Care, Adopted Young People and the Sons and Daughters of Foster Carers.  These are run via Microsoft Teams, a safe video calling program.


So, what can you join?

Children in Care Councils

The Super Council (for 5 -11 year olds), OCYPC (for 11-16 year olds) and Young Adult Council (for 16+) are taking place virtually every two weeks.  Members get the chance to have their say on issues that affect them and others in care or those who have left care.  They make positive changes both in their own lives and for others.  Elected Members and senior staff at Kent County Council regularly come to meet with the members of the Children in Care Councils to hear their views too (even virtually!). During meetings, there will also be fun games and quizzes to take part in as well!

You can have a look at the timetable for Children in Care Councils here and the timetable for the Young Adult Council here.

These groups are only open to Children in Care.

Social Groups

The VSK Participation Team are now also offering a series of virtual social groups for our Young People in Care and the Sons and Daughters of Foster Carers. These are fun and informal sessions with the Participation Team’s Support Officers and Apprentices.  These groups are a great opportunity to socialise and have fun.  We’ll do quizzes, fun challenges, read stories together and much more.  They take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays and there are sessions for preschool children, 5 - 11 year olds and 11 – 16 year olds.

Find the timetable here!

To find out more about joining a Children in Care Council or coming along to a virtual Social Group, contact VSK_Participation@kent.gov.uk.

The Kent Adoptables

The Kent Adoptables is a group for Adopted Young People aged 12 - 18. Come along to a Kent Adoptables Virtual Meeting to help increase understanding of the issues young people may face due to being adopted, and reduce the stigma around it. Members have the chance to make positive changes for adopted young people in Kent and influence the services they and their family receive! We also do fun quizzes, play games and much more too!

To find out more about the Kent Adoptables contact Sarah.Newman@kent.gov.uk

We may not be able to meet in person, but we can still stay in touch virtually! Why not get in touch and find out how you can get involved too?

Engineering Apprenticeship with Southeastern

Southeastern are looking to recruit new apprentices to become fully qualified service engineers, over a 4 year course.

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Southeastern are offering a Level 3 Engineering Apprenticeship. This 4 year scheme is designed to provide the successful applicant(s) with the appropriate training and qualifications to have a successful career as a service engineer for Southeastern.

Candidates will need to fill out an online application form, it is advised that you register and sign up for job alerts to receive notification of new jobs that are advertised. Successfully screened applicants will then go into the selection process, consisting of 3 stages: Assessment, Interview and Medical. 

The closing date for applicants is May 3rd, so if you’re looking to begin a career in engineering, head over to the site to apply now by clicking here.

An information pack, outlining the roles and responsibilities of a Southeastern apprentice can be found here.

 

Kent Fire & Rescue Service recruitment

The Kent Fire & Rescue Service will shortly be recruiting for Wholetime Firefighters 

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The Kent Fire & Rescue Service will be recruiting for Wholetime Firefighters.

In order to be considered for the recruitment process you must first register your interest. The registration will open on Monday 4th May at 10am and will be available on the Kent Fire & Rescue Service website

If you do not register you will not be eligible to apply. The registration will close on Sunday 17th May or when no further spaces are available. Spaces will be given on a first come first serve basis, so be quick to ensure you do not miss out. 

To register, click the link on the website which will bring up an event by Eventbrite, register for a ticket and fill in your personal details. Please note - the online event to register will not require you to physically attend. 

Further details and updates will be shared regularly over the course of the next few weeks so keep an eye on your emails and the Kent Fire & Rescue Service website. 

E-Life Hacks, Boredom Busters and More!

Keep your eyes open for further updates from The Participation Team!

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To make sure we are staying in contact with all of you, we are putting together a series of E-Life Hacks, Boredom Busters and Top Tips to help you stay positive and busy during this difficult time! We will be uploading these tips and tricks twice a week so make sure you keep coming back to stay updated. 

From all of us at VSK, stay safe and stay home!

Click here for an update from The Participation Team!

Barclays Life Skills

Barclays LifeSkills is a fantastic way to boost your CV and find virtual work experience.

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Barclays LifeSkills is a fantastic way to help boost your CV, prepare for work and find work experience. It is a platform that can be used by Young People, Educators and businesses. It allows you to develop skills necessary to find employment and help you make decisions on your future career.

Due to the current health crisis this tool could be more useful than ever, for Young People to register it is free and gives you access to interactive tools and resources that can get you ready for the workplace. This will allow you to continue to develop skills with the support of businesses, educators and parents/carers.

Virtual Work Experience gives you the opportunity to work within a company that you may not have access to normally, allowing you to highlight key skills you may need to secure employment in the future. 

Further information for Young People can be found here.

Further information for Parents/Carers can be found here.

Essential information for Students at The University of Greenwich

The following is an update for all care leavers/care experienced students from Chris Colson

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This update comes as the current health crisis continues to slow down/close many essential aspects of our lives. For those of you in education this can be an increasingly worrying time, however staff are working tirelessly to ensure you have the best chance at success. 

The virtual campus for The University of Greenwich is now up and running, the services available to you are:

- Student Centre

- Student Finance

- Student Well Being

- Accommodation 

- Academic Support

- IT Service Desk.

The details on how to access all services listed can be found here.

All Libraries have closed, until further notice. This is in line with Government advice surrounding COVID-19. Full details can be found here.

In addition to the above support services, Jan Orlebar, Enhanced Support Officer, is running a daily Skype Drop-in session, Monday to Friday 10:30 – 12:30, for any care leavers/care experienced students who need information and guidance or would just like a chat.

Finally, course leaders are keeping students in the loop re course related changes and the Student Union shops are continuing to support any students currently living on campus.

With regard to prospective students currently holding offers, the University have been advised by the Department of Education and the Universities Minister that universities should not make any changes to students’ offers at the current time in order to allow time for exams and admissions contingency plans to be worked through.  If students have any queries, they should contact courseinfo@gre.ac.uk, call 020 8331 9000 or visit our website to access LiveChat.

An update from OFQUAL

The following is an update from The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation

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With the recent announcement that all summer exams will be cancelled due to the current COVID-19 epidemic, many of you will be left feeling anxious and worrying about how you will receive your grades. 

OFQUAL have released a letter outlining how you will be graded if you are not sitting exams and have aimed to answer any questions you may have about how this may affect your future. 

To read the full letter, please click here.

Coping Calendar

Coping calendar dated 6th April - 5th May 2020

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In these uncertain times with many of us stuck at home, we want to help you cope with life at home. This calendar has different ways to keep you busy from April 6th, all the way through to May 5th. With each small task keeping your mind occupied this is a great way to focus on something other than the changing world around us and help boost your mood. It is important now, more so than ever, to take care of ourselves physically and mentally. To view and download our coping calendar, click here.

Stay home, saty safe. 

New Competitions

Keep your eyes open for more regular competitions!

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With these uncertain times ahead of us we want to stay in contact with all of you and see some of the amazing work you are doing at home. We will be running regular competitions where you can send us your very best artwork,to be in with the chance of winning some prizes! Our first competition will be Easter themed, click here to head over to the competitions page and get more info!

The Children's Commissioner's Childrens Guide to Coronavirus

An update from the Children's Commissioner's office.

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In light of the current Coronavirus situation, the Children’s Commissioner’s office has released a children’s guide to help answer some questions many of you may have about recent events. 

The guide answers various frequently asked questions, tells you how to stay safe and protect those around you and how to make the best out of your time spent at home. There are loads of helpful tips on how to be creative at home and how to stay positive during this time of social distancing. 

Click here to find the document. Stay home, stay safe!

Student Finance England Guide to Loans 2020/21

The new academic year is just around the corner, and Student Finance England have released a helpful guide for all of you considering University as your next step or anyone confused about how they are repaying their loans.

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As the new Academic Year is fast approaching, Student Finance England wants to fully prepare everyone for the terms and conditions that impact you when repaying University loans.

The guide outlines eligibility for different grants and how the payments will be sent to your account. It also gives you a guide to what you will pay back and when. The amount you pay back is dependent on your salary after leaving University, as your income increases, so will the repayments. 

This guide clearly outlines the different roles that different organisations play when repaying your loans, and what is your responsibility. It is crucial that you read and understand these responsibilities as if you provide incorrect/inaccurate information you may be subject to a fine. 

If you’re unsure of how and when you will pay your loan, make sure you read the repayment plan section. Here it outlines the different types of repayment plans and what that means, it also shows you how each payment should be made. There are 3 payment plans, repayment plan 1 is for students who started their course before 1st September 2012. Repayment plan 2 - for those who started their course on OR after 1st September 2012. And finally, the postgraduate loan - for those who started a postgraduate Master’s course on OR after 1st August 2016 or a Doctoral course on OR after 1st August 2018.

Click here for the full document.

Kent Apprenticeship Opportunities

There are hundreds of opportunities across Kent and Medway to kick start your career and secure an Apprenticeship.

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There are loads of new apprenticeship opportunities in Kent for those aged 16 and over, looking to kick start their careers in a wide range of sectors. These files are for reference only and it is advised that applicants still use Find An Apprenticeship to see the most up to date details. Details on how to apply can be found either on Find An Apprenticeship or through the employer’s website.

For Apprenticeship opportunities in Ashford, click here.

Bexley, click here. Canterbury, click here.

Dartford, click here. Dover, click here.

Gravesham, click here. Maidstone, click here.

Medway, click here.  Sevenoaks, click here.

Shepway, click here. Swale, click here

Thanet, click here. Tonbridge and Malling, click here.

Tunbridge Wells, click here.

 

 

NHS Smartphone Apps

Smartphone apps available to download.

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The NHS have a huge variety of apps available to download onto any smartphone that can help to support individuals suffering from mental health conditions. The majority of the apps are free to download and can be accessed anytime, anywhere once downloaded. Any Young Person can download these apps, whether it is for personal support or to help support someone they are working with. The full list can be accessed here.

Mote Park Apprenticeship Fair 2020

Don't miss out on an opportunity to meet a huge variety of employers!

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On Friday 7th February 2020, there is an apprenticeship fair being held at Mote Park, ME15 7RN. The fair will take place from 9:30am - 1:30pm and is an opportunity for you to meet your future potential employer and begin an apprenticeship. 

There is a wide range of companies attending from Aldi to The Royal Air Force. You can view the full list here.

Apprenticeship fairs are an opportunity like no other. They offer the chance to interact with former apprentices and people in management positions from a wide range of companies. You can find out first hand what they expect of new apprentices and what the apprenticeship involves. This is the opportunity to potentially find your dream job and kick start your career. 

The Summer that turns "No You Can't" into "No We Can"

Virtual Schools Kent has a fantastic offer for your teens and we wanted to give you more information about this incredible opportunity available in the summer!

 

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NCS is a 4 week course where you will be given the opportunity to “Be Epic”, “Live Life”, “Do Good” and “Go Party”. For the first 5 days, you will live away from home and take part in various adventurous activities. From high ropes to rock climbing you will tackle as many different challenges as you can! You will have the weekend at home before kick starting week 2!

Week 2 you will enjoy another 5 days away from home with your new friends. Here you will learn different tricks and tips to prepare you for adult life. By the time you’re done you will be confident with speaking in front of people and have a better understanding of what you want from life, after school.

With your confidence at an all time high after the first 2 weeks, you will have the opportunity to have your voice heard and influence your local community whilst developing a ‘Passion Project’. 

Finally, week 4. By the time you have completed the course, you will have learned a lot. So there is only one way to celebrate what you have achieved. A celebration event will be held to recognise YOUR achievements, you will also receive a signed certificate from the Prime Minister!

Luckily, VSK are offering this opportunity for FREE. To register your interest and find out more information, email Catherine.Thompson@kent.gov.uk. Or call 03000 415221 and someone from NCS will be in contact.

Coram Voice - Voices 2020 Competition

Coram Voice are holding a competition for creative writing! ‘Voices 2020’ is a competition for all Children in Care and Care Leavers under the age of 25.

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‘Voices’ is a celebration of creativity and imagination, and Coram Voice want you to enter a piece of writing themed around Dreams. You could write about a dream you have had in the past, what your dreams are for the future or anything you can imagine. Coram Voice are encouraging creativity and want imaginative pieces of writing.

There will also be prizes up for grabs! These will be awarded to the 24 shortlisted candidates, with the possibility of further prizes being announced throughout the competition. The lucky winner will receive a £100 Love-To-Shop Voucher! The competition will close on 12th February 2020.

The competition is now open, head over to the competition page by clicking here. Full Terms and Conditions are on the website.

Good Luck!!

Looking After Teenagers in Today’s Modern World’ and the Association of Kent Headteachers Conferences

The Virtual School Kent Participation Team were proud to support Kent Fostering to deliver the ‘Looking After Teenagers in today’s Modern World’ Conference on 13th November.

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After a powerful and inspiring keynote speech from the care experienced author, Jenny Molloy, the younger members of the Participation Team, many of whom are still teenagers themselves, took over!  They wanted to help the foster carers and practitioners in the audience understand what it is really like to be a teenager today and the pressures and challenges they face, particularly if they are growing up in care.  Many of them shared their own personal stories about growing up in care and reflected on those things that helped them the most.  Mark Vening, head of Fostering, also discussed the development of teenagers’ brains and how this can affect their behaviour and there was a trip back in time to the 1980s to remind foster carers of their own teenage years!

Then, on 21st November, the team presented to over 200 Kent headteachers at the Kent Association of Headteachers Conference in Ashford.  With the theme of the conference being how to create schools that are inclusive, aspirational and supportive of learners and staff, the Apprentice Participation Workers were pleased to be able to share with the delegates the voices of vulnerable learners.  They wanted the headteachers in the room to really put themselves in the place of a vulnerable learner whether this is a child in care, an adopted young person, a child for whom English isn’t their first language or one that may be suffering upheaval or trauma in their lives.  The Apprentices shared the strategies and ideas that young people have told them support them at school to learn so they can do their best.

The team was pleased that at both conferences the voices of young people were kept at the centre!

KFRS Road Savvy Event November 16th.

The Kent Fire and Rescue Service are kick starting Brake Road Safety Week, with an event allowing a glimpse into the work our emergency services do.

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On November 16th, Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) are offering 300 FREE tickets to their first ever, ‘Road Savvy’ event. This will kick start the ‘Brake Road Safety Week’. 

KFRS carry out over 1000 car crash rescues every year, and to drive these numbers down they will be hosting a Road Savvy event. For anyone who manages to get hold of one of the 300 free tickets, they have the opportunity to get a glimpse into the work that our emergency services carry out. 

This event plans to inform people about safety behind the wheel and the potential impact of their actions whether they are driving, a passenger or a pedestrian. 

With a huge amount of interest already in this event, KFRS are hoping they can inform and educate people of all ages to be more aware of safety on the roads.

For more information and to register for your FREE ticket, click here. 

 

Virtual Tour de Kent

On Wednesday 23rd October, Kent Care Leavers embarked on a 229-mile virtual ‘Tour De Kent’ to raise money for a fantastic charity - the Young Lives Foundation.

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Members of Kent’s Young Adult Council, the Participation Team and other Kent County Council staff took over County Hall in Maidstone to complete the challenge.  As well as raising lots of money for charity, the event marked this year’s Care Leavers’ Week (28th Oct – 3rd Nov).

The Tour de Kent was designed by the VSK Participation Team and highlighted key areas in Kent that Young People in Care and Care Leavers might be familiar with. Starting from County Hall in Maidstone, we ran, cycled, walked and rowed the distance to Dover, then to Margate, into Gravesend, down to Royal Tunbridge Wells, through Ashford, into Canterbury and finishing, 229 miles later, back at County Hall.

Charlotte Creasy, a member of the Young Adult Council said: “This is a great way to get involved and give back, it was a great day and a fun way to fundraise.”

We know how important Care Leavers week is and it’s during this week that Kent County Council highlight the needs of Care Leavers and renews its commitment to providing support for Young People turning 18, to give them the best start in life.

We are proud to have raised an incredible amount of money for our chosen charity. The Young Lives Foundation provides dedicated support for over 3,500 young people within Kent every year! The support they offer includes mentoring support, advocacy work, befriending schemes and activity days. The money raised will help to continue to deliver this service and support for Kent Care Leavers.

Hearing the voice of Kent children and young people is important and to mark Care Leavers’ Week Kent County Council will be sending out a survey to all of its Care Leavers seeking their views on what it’s like to be a Care Leaver in Kent.  Find it here.

We cannot thank everyone enough for taking part and donating!

Have Your Say on the Care Leavers 18+ Service

Our Young Adult Council (YAC) wants to hear your views about the services the Care Leavers 18+ Service provides again this year.

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To do this, they have launched a survey designed to find out about your experiences of leaving care and identify where the 18+ Service can improve.  This survey is open to all Care Leavers aged 18 and over who were in the care of Kent County Council and are now supported by the Care Leavers 18+ Service.

Click here to access the survey.  You can answer in a variety of languages such as Pashto or Tigriyan and all your answers are anonymous, so you can be as honest as you want - tell us what you really think!  It’s easy to complete and should only take about 5 minutes.

YAC is urging as many care leavers as possible to take part as you are best placed to tell the Care Leavers 18+ Service what being a care leaver is really like and how they can make things better for you and others.  It’s your chance to rate the 18+ Service and let them know your views about Pathway Planning, your placement and how informed you feel about the services they provide. 

SHARE YOUR VIEWS AND HAVE YOUR SAY! The survey closes on 17th November.

Young Inspectors

An exciting new opportunity for you to have your voice heard and make a difference! The Young Inspectors is a brand new volunteering initiative designed specifically for Care Leavers aged 18 - 25.

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The Young Inspector’s scheme is a project that allows you to have the opportunity to review the services that directly impact your life. The scheme aims to provide this opportunity for Care Leavers aged 18 – 25. With the help of apprentices, the Young Inspectors will produce projects that impact and reflect the experience of other Care Leavers within Kent. The scheme aims to target the accommodation in which care leavers live between the ages of 18 – 21 as the pilot phase of the project is introduced.

As well as producing projects of interest, the Young Inspectors will be testing how well different areas of the service works, celebrating in the success of positive practice and identifying areas of improvement. This means that you as volunteers will be at the centre of changing and developing policies that directly impact yours and others lives, allowing your voice to be heard. This also means that any concerns you may have can be directly acted upon by the appropriate people, making a real difference to the service. The projects overall aims are to reduce the amount of evictions, reduce the amount of warnings and increase the amount of Young people over the age of 21 living independently, and needs your help to make these goals a reality.  

There are four methods of inspection that Young Inspectors will do, they are:

MysteryInspecting a service in secret.

ObservationPeople are told that you are coming, often watching how people work within their service.

QuestionnaireUsually sent out with little to none face to face contact.

Focus GroupsSmall group meetings, asking direct questions.

All forms of inspection also follow the same inspection process which has 5 aspects:

PrepareMeet with Project Lead, plan inspection, meet with Young Inspectors.

DoComplete the Inspection.

Reflect and ReportFeedback meetings.

Action planShort term, mid-term, long term goals are set.

ReviewRecord changes and outcomes, re-inspection in 6 months.

This is the perfect opportunity to have your voice heard and make a real difference for Children and Young people throughout the county and encourage more people to speak up and make their voices heard. You can also receive a volunteer accreditation, which is a huge CV boost! The scheme offers continued support throughout with regular meetings taking place every 6-8 weeks to discuss future projects as well as progress on current projects. Once you have completed a successful period of volunteering you will also receive a gift voucher!

For further information about applying to become a volunteer, click here.

Click here to view an application form.

Starting College or University?

Going to College or University can be a very difficult time in anyone’s life. It can be unsettling and can require a complete change in routine, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Whether you’re deciding to go to college or choosing what university is best for you, don’t leave yourself in the dark!

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All Colleges and Universities offer the opportunity to go and view the campus and facilities by organising open days. These are a great way to familiarise yourself with your new potential surroundings. Often current students will offer tours where you can be shown all the areas of the college or university that you will use the most so that when you start it isn’t unfamiliar. Open days are a great way to get more information that will help you make the all-important decision. You will have the opportunity to ask students and tutors about your chosen courses and what life at the college/university is really like.

Top Tips!

  • Make sure you are booked in for a tour of the campus/site if necessary, not all Open Days allow you to walk straight in.
  • Be prepared, make sure you have a clear idea of the information you want to gain from attending the Open Day, perhaps make a list of questions.
  • Picture yourself there, going to college and university is a big commitment and you need to be sure it is suited to you.
  • Check out the other facilities. Where is the gym? Are there any clubs you can join? Where’s the restaurant/café?
  • Get to know the surrounding area, Open Days give you the chance to explore the surrounding areas so you can work out the easiest way to get home.

College and university Open Days are taking place throughout November and December.  You can find College Open Day dates here. Click to find out more information about visiting The University of Kent, The University for the Creative Arts or Canterbury Christ Church University here.  Don’t worry if you miss an Open Day.  You can often arrange to visit informally – just give the college or university a ring to find out more.

Don’t forget there are also advisers in Virtual School Kent and the Care Leavers 18+ Service who can help you too.  Talk to your Social Worker or PA who can put you in touch with the right person.

 

 

Kent Youth County Council Elections 2019

Calling all our Children in Care aged 11-19 years old! Registers are now open for you to sign up and become a candidate for the KYCC Elections.

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KYCC stands for ‘Kent Youth County Council’. The KYCC voice the views and opinions of young people in Kent. KYCC work on multiple campaigns every year; last November the following campaigns were voted in by young people across Kent:

• Curriculum for life • Mental Health • Anti-Bullying • Developing emotional Resilience.

Not only do KYCC members work on the campaigns chosen by Kent’s young people each year they also work in project groups that cover topics such as: Transport, environmental issues, promoting equality, tackling racial and religious discrimination, positive stories etc.

You can stand for election by becoming part of the following:

District Seats

You could be elected as a ‘Member’ or a ‘Deputy Member’. You will have the opportunity to get involved in lots of opportunities including campaigning and make important decisions about changes happening. KYCC Members meet regularly with KCC Members and can get involved in making a difference to the lives of young people in Kent. KYCC Members also elect 7 young people to represent Kent nationally at UK Youth Parliament, which includes the incredible opportunity to debate in the House of Commons!

Community Seats

We also elect a Member to ‘Community Seats’, to make sure KYCC represents all communities within Kent. If you are a young person and feel you could represent a minority community, complete the attached registration form.

You don’t need any experience to get involved, just a desire to get involved, make a stand and make a difference.

Young people who would like to stand as either a District or Community seat can access the opportunity here.

If you would like further information - email kycc@kent.gov.uk or visit www.kent.gov.uk/kycc

If you’re interested in registering your school as a polling station, or if you’re interested in registering to stand for election, you can sign up now www.kent.gov.uk/kyccelections

Talk to the Top

On Thursday 5th September, Matt Dunkley, the Corporate Director for Children Young People and Education attended one of the Young Adult Council’s monthly meeting. YAC members had the opportunity to ask Matt a series of questions about the kind of stuff that affect Young People in Kent.  Here are the ten questions the YAC member came up with and Matt’s responses…

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Q1 How are you going to help support Young People with disabilities in education?

One thing we need to do is to ensure Young People with disabilities have the Education and Disabilities Teams that support them working alongside each other, and if necessary, in conjunction with Social Workers. There needs to be more opportunities and more support for Young People to be in their local mainstream school, rather than Young People having to commute far distances to find a school that meets the Young Person’s needs. Young People should be able to connect to their local communities.

Q2 What about separate induction days for Young People in Colleges who have disabilities?

I know that they are mixed up together at present.  If you would like a more bespoke induction I will make sure when I meet all the colleges’ principals in Kent I will give them your suggestions.

Q3 What is your main priority as Corporate Director for all Children in Kent?

That all Children & Young People should have a great childhood so they feel happy, secure and loved. I want people to look at the whole child, not only things like exam results but to help them to achieve their full potential - socially as well as academically so they can build connections and feel supported in life.

Q4 Is there any advice you would give us as a Corporate Parent?

Yes, the same advice as I would give my own children - focus on your own happiness, don’t sweat about the small stuff, bad times will pass. Treat people the way you want to be treated yourself, and that you can determine your own destiny.

Q4 What role does Kent County Council have in challenging bullying in our schools?

If we hear about an individual child, we can raise this with the school. If we see multiple issues, we can alert the education safeguarding team to look into the situation. Many secondary schools are academies which we do have strong relationships with, but we don’t have as much power to address all issues. Some schools do a fantastic job and some still have some work to do, so my honest answer is it isn’t always easy.

Q5 How do you support Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Young People with housing?

We have workers and funding for this specific support. For unaccompanied care leavers, it is not easy for us to find housing as we are not a housing authority. But there is the Rent Guarantor Scheme which has been recently introduced. Some young people are entitled to housing grants so can rent through their local councils.

Q6 Why did you want to do this job? 

I was Director in East Sussex for 8 years, then worked with schools in Australia for 4 years.  I missed working with Children in Care in Australia and when this job came up and I jumped at the opportunity. I think I have always had a connection with Children in Care and young people like yourselves. My parents were foster carers and I am very passionate about making things better for Children in Care.

Q7 What do you do on a day to day basis?

Well, my youngest son – who is 15 – said when he was younger ‘my dad’s job is going to meetings!’ He’s not wrong as I do go to a lot of meetings. I normally meet with politicians and my staff. Today, I went to visit an academy in Canterbury and met with Headteachers. Then, I went back to Maidstone and had another meeting with politicians about the budget and looked at some inspection reports . Then I had some supervisor meetings with members of staff before coming to this YAC meeting.  

Q8 Are there any big changes coming up that could affect Young People in this room?

There are a few changes that are happening locally, change of Kent County Council’s Leader and nationally Brexit being two big things. Kent is doing an enormous amount of planning around Brexit. Young people have grown up in a period of austerity i.e. cuts etc. We have 45% less money then in 2010. But, for the first time in 10 years we have been promised more money by the government, although not enough to cover what we lost. This could mean there could be more support for young people and Care Leavers.

Q10 If you think about what the state does, not much is more dramatic than being the Corporate Parent for a child.  What do you think about this?

I agree. If we are going to place children in the state’s care, we need to make sure it is the best it can possibly be.  We can be the pushy, most demanding parents as we all have the advantages - we know the schools, police NHS etc. Care should be a positive experience and once you are in care, we should ensure it is just that. 

 

Come Along to the Young Adult Council

Our Young Adult Council is one of three councils created by young people and supported by the Participation Team within Virtual School Kent. We are made up of passionate Children in Care and Care Leavers aged 16+.

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Being the eldest of our councils; we have a great opportunity to speak up and represent the voices of those starting their adult lives. Our council is commonly called YAC; our meetings are held once a month, in alternating areas so everyone has the chance to share their views and opinions. Membership has grown immensely, and we continue to become more and more involved with our Corporate Parents too. Earlier this year; we had an amazing experience at our Corporate Parent Takeover Day in which all our young people became a member of the Corporate Parenting Panel. We got to know the Corporate Parents and voice our views to some of the most important people in Kent County Council who represent us.

At YAC, we have lots of important discussions ranging from accommodation, life skills and further education, to our comments on the services we have received from KCC and how they can be improved. Another fabulous aspect of our Young Adult Council is the involvement of guest speakers that come and see us and give us fantastic information. Previously, we have had the guru of Universal Credit help us with all our questions about benefits and our entitlements; an Addaction spokesperson enabled our discussion around addiction, drug use and support that is out there for anyone who may be struggling; and some Looked After Children nurses gave us some top tips about keeping healthy.

Some of our guest speakers are looking for advice and suggestions before making any changes or introducing new policies that affect children and young people in care or care leavers. We have even had Matt Dunkley, (Corporate Director Children, Young People and Education) come and speak to us and answer our questions! Furthermore, YAC challenges their Corporate Parents through the Challenge Card process – for example, we have successfully challenged Kent County Council to become our Rent Guarantor should a Care Leaver want to rent privately! It’s an opportunity to have your say, be listened to and make a difference to the lives of children and young people in care.

One of our favourite things to do is attend activity days and focus groups. We love to have fun and make new friends at YAC. We are very lucky to be given the opportunities we have, to voice our opinions and then be able to do things like: gliding, water sports, meals out and so much more! All these are free of charge; travel is paid for to our YAC meetings as well as getting food like pizza and snacky bits! We welcome all Children in Care over 16 and young Care Leavers to our Young Adult Council, and we promise that anyone who comes along will be guaranteed a rewarding time!

Get involved and contact us at: VSK_Participation@Kent.gov.uk

Have Your Say on Kent County Council's Plans for a Greener Future!

Kent County Council wants to hear what young people think about our plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and improve air quality in Kent and Medway.

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We have prepared a short version of our new strategy for you to read to explain what we think needs to happen and what we will do to protect our environment, but still make sure that Kent and Medway can continue to grow and develop.

We know that the decisions and actions we take today will affect the future of everyone, particularly young people. This is why we would like you to tell us what you think about the strategy by filling in a survey online at:  www.kent.gov.uk/energyandlowemissionsconsultation. You can do this until 23 September 2019.

This shortened version of the strategy will help you fill in the online survey. You can read the full version of the strategy and the full evidence document at www.kent.gov.uk/energyandlowemissionsconsultation.

Civil Service Internships

Are you interesting in a career in government? Want to develop some new skills, gain experience of working in central government and ultimately strengthen your career prospects in the longer term? Then, why not consider whether a paid 12 month internship in the Civil Service might be for you? 

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The internships will be in one of the Government Departments and agencies, working in roles that will be based in various locations across England, Scotland and Wales.  The 2018 interns are currently working across 17 Government Departments and their agencies that have offices around the country – information about locations for 2019 will be shared shortly. 

Have a look at the Civil Service careers website for more information about the different Government Departments that exist. 

To apply for the internships no qualifications are required, but applicants must be a care leaver aged between 18-30 years.  Successful applicants will however be asked to confirm their care leaver status (e.g. through a letter from your Personal Adviser, other officer from Kent County Council, or a named contact in your supporting organisation).

The internships will be offered at two levels: Administrative Officer (typical salary £18,000 per annum); or Executive Officer (typical salary £21,000 per annum).  London salaries may be higher.  Those that apply unsuccessfully for the Executive Officer role may be considered for the Administrative Officer role.

Administrative Officers work in a supporting administrative role with no line management responsibilities, and typically within a team structure.

Executive Officers are involved in problem solving, business planning and policymaking within Government. They usually work within a supportive team structure, under the direction of relevant team leaders. They can also hold individual responsibility for pieces of work within a programme or project.

The Civil Service uses an online application system, which will open for applications on Thursday 29 August and close at 23:59 hours on Thursday 26 September.  Go to the website to apply.

If you are interested in this opportunity, speak to your Personal Adviser!

Summer Reading Challenge 2019

This year’s Summer Reading Challenge ‘Space Chase’ is a fun out-of-this-world adventure!

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It takes place in all Kent Libraries from 13th July until 14th September. Children aged 4 – 11 can join and help super space family ‘The Rockets’ on a special mission, with tons of fun along the way – and it’s all completely free!

You can sign up for the Challenge at any Kent library and receive a special mission folder to keep a record of your reading. Your Challenge is to read 6 library books, collecting stickers & rewards for every 2 books read. When you’ve read all 6 books and completed the challenge, you’ll get a special medal and certificate to keep!

Check out the website, which has even more activities: www.spacechase.org.uk or read more here.

Adventure Under Sail

Ocean Youth Trust South is a charity which gives young people aged between 12 and 25 the opportunity to go to sea.  This year, Virtual School Kent was lucky enough to be able to offer 11 Children in Care an amazing adventure on the ocean!

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For 4 days between 29th May and 2nd June, young people got the chance to sail, keep watch, help to navigate and cook aboard the 30-metre vessel Prolific.  The group joined the boat in Southampton on Wednesday and sailed to Cowes on the first night. The next day, they sailed to Studland Bay and anchored with time to enjoy fishing over the side. Friday was another sail to Weymouth for the beach and ice cream, and Saturday was a long passage back to the Solent where they moored up for the night outside Yarmouth. They even spotted dolphins along the way! The voyage finished in Southampton on Sunday after 151 nautical miles.

The Voyage was a success and eight of the eleven participants also earned Royal Yachting Association Start Yachting certificates - this award is a recognised qualification which young people can keep in their Record of Achievement. It shows that they mastered some basic sailing skills but also demonstrates they were able to listen and concentrate, persevere when things got tough, cope with living in an entirely unfamiliar situation, take responsibility when asked, and much much more.

                                 They should all be proud of themselves for doing so well.

Corporate Parenting Panel Takeover Day!

Kent County Council’s Takeover Day on Wednesday, May 29 saw children in care, care leavers, adopted young people and the sons and daughters of foster carers take charge of the Corporate Parenting Panel and have their voices heard.

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Around 25 young people aged between 10 and 25 took part, shadowing KCC directors, officers and senior councillors to learn how the council is run and how decisions are made at County Hall in Maidstone.

Tabatha, 11, said: “It was a really great day with young people having the chance to lead the meeting with their own agenda.

“We had the chance to discuss important and current issues with our corporate parents such as social media, our dreams for the future and other topics that are important to us.”

Brad, 17, shadowed Ann Allen, chairman of the Corporate Parenting Panel. He said: “It was a phenomenal experience to be able to take over the Corporate Parenting Meeting and to co-chair the meeting with Ann.

“I would love to see this happen again and would highly recommend it as it was an amazing event to be part of.”

The Corporate Parenting Panel is a group of Kent County Council senior staff, elected members and workers from organisations across Kent who are responsible for supporting children in care to grow, thrive and lead happy, fulfilled lives.  The panel’s role is to act as an advocate for children in care and care leavers, make services better and to give young people a voice in decision making.  The young people well and truly took over, choosing topics to talk about and livening up the Council Chambers with balloons, debate and even a vote about the pros and cons of social media. 

Matt Dunkley, Corporate Director Children, Young People and Education said: “It was a memorable, moving, empowering and enlightening occasion. I was left feeling so proud of our young people for their confidence, resilience and good humour, and deeply proud to be a corporate parent.“

If you would like to get involved in activities like this or join one of our Children in Care Councils, then why not email us at VSK_Participation@kent.gov.uk.

Mind of My Own - how it can help you!

Mind of My Own is an award-winning app which allows children in care and care leavers to express their thoughts and feelings easily with the professionals they work with. Children as young as eight can sign up to a young person’s account and access their account whenever and wherever they want.  You can download the app to your phone or tablet or use the website, www.mindofmyown.org.uk

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The sign-up process is simple. All you have to do is give your name, email address and date of birth. If you get stuck, you should ask your Social Worker, Independent Reviewing Officer, Foster Carer or anyone you trust to help you sign up.

The app is very straight forward. There are so many different options to choose from!  You can choose from eight scenarios like ‘Prepare for a Meeting’, ‘Sort a Problem’ or even ‘Share Good News’. Within each scenario, you can answer different questions about what’s going well in your life, what might be more challenging and what you would like to change.  You can add as much information as you like.

Once the questions are completed, you can choose who you would like to send your statement to, whether this is your Social Worker, Independent Reviewing Officer, Virtual School Kent Worker or Personal Adviser.  Just remember to press send!

Mind of My Own is an amazing app and is an easy way for young people and care leavers to express how they are feeling at the time they want and not wait until they see their worker.  It’s particularly good if you sometimes find it difficult saying what you really feel face to face with your workers or need to get something off your chest then and there.  Your worker will receive your statement the next day they are in work and will let you know they have seen it.  

The Mind of My Own app is easily downloaded using the Apple App Store or the Google Play store on iPhone and Android. Any young person can also access the app through the internet by going to www.mindofmyown.org.uk.

So why not give Mind of My Own a go today?! Download the app and send a statement; make sure you have your voice heard!

Write, Speak, Share on IMO

We always love hearing your stories, poems and experiences of being in care and, with your permission, sharing these on this website. 

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You can contribute to Kent Cares Town by emailing VSK_Participation@kent.gov.uk or sending something to VSK, Kent County Council, Worrall House, 30 Kings Hill Avenue, Kings Hill, ME19 4AE.

However, you can also share your thoughts with young people around the country by sending your work to IMO – write, speak, share.

IMO is a voice for teenagers in care and for care leavers. It is somewhere you can share stories, experiences and achievements, get and give advice, and find loads of great free stuff!  They share blogs, vlogs, podcasts and more from teens in care, and they link Children in Care Councils in England together around common campaigns.  They also share opportunities for care leavers, like jobs and apprenticeships.

IMO was created by the Children’s Commissioner for England and a group of teens with care experience. If you would like to join this network and have a say in how IMO is run, get in touch with IMO!

What IMO says, “Whether you’re in care, leaving care, or a care leaver, IMO is here to represent you and your views. We need you to share your stories, experiences and advice with us, to help other teenagers and to make sure decision-makers know what you want. If you want to have your voice heard, send us stuff!”

So why not take a look at the website and see if there’s anything you can contribute to IMO (and Kent Cares Town!).

No Dream Is Too Big! Free Residential Workshop

The University of Greenwich is offering Young People, who are aged between 14 and 17 and have experience of care, the opportunity to take part in a free two-day residential workshop at a London Theatre. During the weekend, you will helped to think about your future using performance and fun drama techniques.

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The workshop will take place on the weekend of 8th and 9th June 2019 at the Bathway Theatre in Woolwich with your overnight stay at university accommodation in Avery Hill in Eltham.  The activities will be delivered by lecturers, drama practitioners and care leaver students. You will use performance not only to have fun but also think constructively about your next steps in life – whether this is applying to university or thinking about a career.  In the evening, you will get the chance to have food with the other young people attending and use the student facilities giving you a taste of university living!

Anyone with care experience aged between 14 and 17 can apply and it doesn’t matter if you haven’t had any experience of drama or performing before!  All of your travel expenses will be covered and your food and accommodation will be provided for free.

To find out more details take a look at the flyer and complete an application form.  The form should be returned to s.thompson@gre.ac.uk by 25th May.

We like to ride our bicycles!

On Tuesday 9th April, the Participation Team took two groups of young people to the Cyclopark in Gravesend.

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Despite the wet weather, we planned to have a great day, and that we did! We started the day by learning how to do ‘M’ checks (checking your bike is safe to ride), making sure we all knew how to ride safely and learning how to brake properly. Once we were all ready, we headed onto the road course.  We learnt how to ride as a ‘chain gang’ (groups of four taking it in turns to ride at the front of a line). After a few laps, we took a short break to have a drink (and a few cheeky biscuits).

After the break, we ventured on to the ‘off road’ trail. On the trail, there were lots of bumps and tight corners that both groups overcame fantastically. In the middle of the trail, we stopped to ride on a downhill mountain biking course. Within the course there were very tight corners with large berms and big mounds to ride over. Everyone had at least one go and thoroughly enjoyed the course. We soon headed back to base to get ready to go home.  We had a great day and really can’t wait to do something similar again!

We have some great activities coming up during the May half term holidays. If you’re interested in attending any of these days, please email us at VSK_Participation@kent.gov.uk.

Share your biggest achievement for your chance to win 40 hours of driving lessons with the AA

IMO, the website where Children in Care and Care Leavers can share their stories and experiences, is running an amazing competition for teenagers over 16 in care and Care Leavers up to the age of 25. 

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IMO is asking you to send in a blog post, short story, article, poem, photograph, video, vlog or podcast about your biggest achievement for your chance to win a full set of driving lessons.  As long as it fits the theme, you can be as creative as your want!  You could write about how you coped with being in care or moving to a new placement, passing your exams, starting a new job or taking on a new challenge.  It’s entirely up to you!

The competition will be judged by Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England.  The lucky winner will win 40 hours of driving lessons from the AA, whilst three runners up will each receive a pair of Curzon cinema tickets and a year long subscription to Tastecard. 

To find out where to send your entry, check out the T&Cs and find the competition entry form, go to https://imohub.org.uk/competition-win-driving-lessons-the-aa/

The deadline is midnight on Sunday 28 April 2019 so get creating!

The Care Leaver Covenant

The Care Leaver Covenant is a promise made by private, public or voluntary organisations to provide support for Care Leavers aged 16 – 25 to help them to live independently.

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In July 2016, the Government published ‘Keep On Caring’ to support young people from care to independence.

All young people who leave care are now provided with support in the form of a Local Offer.  This should include help with the transition to living independently; support with finding accommodation and with any costs of participation in education, training and employment.  Kent County Council’s Local Offer can be found here.

However, in order to help Care Leavers get the best possible start to adulthood, other organisations also need to play a part and that’s where the Care Leaver Covenant comes in!

Organisations that sign up to the Care Leaver Covenant are able to offer a support package to Care Leavers.  Some of the activities organisations might offer, include:

  • Providing care leavers with opportunities to enter the world of work, such as offering work experience placements, work shadowing placements, internships, traineeships and apprenticeships
  • Providing care leavers with additional support. For example, one-to-one mentoring or pastoral support and advice, such as financial guidance, career/employment guidance, educational prospects and opportunities
  • Providing care leavers with opportunities to try new things e.g. discounts for sport, leisure and cultural activities along with discounted retail offers
  • Providing or supporting Care Leavers in educational and training opportunities that will help open up future employment opportunities

To help you access this support, the Care Leaver Covenant App has been created to show you these useful offers provided by organisations, charities and businesses across the UK.  They are exclusive to Care Leavers, and are intended to help you start your career, stay healthy and make new friends.

Largely, this App is designed to work offline, so once it is installed you don’t need to rely on having WiFi or an internet connection to be able to use it. This also means it won’t be using any of your phone contract data. The App will be updated with new offers as they become available, and anything new will be automatically synced to your App when you have got a connection, such as in a library or a cafe.  Download it at Google Play or the Apple App Store!

Around the World in a Day

Over the February half term, there were two activity days held in Kings Hill and Canterbury.  Young People could come along and take part in different workshops - African Drumming, Chinese Dance and Asian Shadow Puppets - to learn about some arts from different countries. 

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The day started off with everyone arriving, saying hello and getting to know each other. Once everyone had arrived, we got into our groups which were team Panda, Lion and Asian elephant – named after the countries’ native animals. The group I was in was Lions and we started off the day with African Drumming.

We learnt that the African drum that we were playing was called a Djembe and it is normally found in West African Countries.  It is traditionally made from goat skin to provide the drum with high pitched tones. We also learnt there are three main sounds of the Djembe that can be played which are the bass, tone and slap. The bass sound is the low-pitched sound and it is made by hitting the drum in the middle with a heavy hand. The tone sound is the medium pitched sound and it is made by playing the drum on the edge with your fingers. Then the slap is the high-pitched sound (which is the hardest sound of the three to make) and is made by playing it near the edge but slightly further in than the tone sound using the palm of your hand. Once we had learnt the different sounds we could play, we started to learn rhythms on the Djembe which was so much fun. At first, it was difficult to remember the rhythms but with practice and help from the tutor and my group it became a lot easier to remember.

Next, we had Chinese ribbon dance which is a traditional art form that originates from ancient China and is performed with a thick satin ribbon on a stick.  You use the ribbon to create patterns and designs in the air. At first, everyone felt a bit silly and shy to take part but once we went through the moves and had a giggle about how we all looked together, everyone enjoyed themselves. It took some practice to make certain patterns in the air because it was harder than it looked but it was so much fun. We performed our dance to traditional Chinese music. By the end, everyone had mastered the dance with one and two ribbons without getting them tangled, twisted or knotted.

Then we had lunch and played some games all together such as stuck in the mud and duck duck goose before we went to our last workshop.

Last but not least, we had Asian Shadow puppets. The puppeteer went through the different kinds of puppets there are such as finger puppet, hand puppet, marionette, and shadow puppets. We learnt that shadow puppets are a part of ancient Indian culture and deliver a good moral or message within the story. The shadow puppetry is performed behind a white sheet with a light beaming through so the figures of the shadow puppets are easier to see. We made our own shadow puppets with black card and a stick and used them to produce a story about an elephant and a dog which is an Indian folktale.

At the end of the day, we showed each other the arts we had learnt by performing them in our groups.  This was so much fun because we were working as a team and showed everyone what we had accomplished as a team.

Want to find out more about attending a VSK Activity Day or have an idea for our next day? Then why not contact us!

Chelsea Goodwin

Struggling to get your voice heard?

If you are worried about something related to your care, education or the adults who work with you, it is important that you feel able to talk to someone about it.  Often this could be someone you see regularly like your Social Worker or your Foster Carer but if you don’t want to talk to one of the people who works with you, you can talk to an advocate.

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An advocate is independent as they do not work for Kent County Council.  In Kent, they work for the Young Lives Foundation.  Their role is to listen to your concerns and support you to find solutions which are in your best interest. They make sure you understand your rights and what you are entitled to as a Child in Care or Care Leaver in Kent. Advocates can help you get your views across and help you have a say in the decisions made about your life. 

With your agreement, an advocate can support you at meetings and contact people who work with you on your behalf.  They can help you write letter and emails or even make a complaint if you’re unhappy about something.  They try to help you resolve your problems.  They will also keep any information you tell them confidential unless you tell them that it is ok to share (unless they are worried that you or someone else may not be safe).

You can contact the Young Lives Foundation directly or ask someone to telephone them for you. Their free phone number is 0808 164 0096 or you can email advocacy@ylf.org.uk.

Their website is https://ylf.org.uk/young-peoples-zone/ur-voice/

Win a Kindle Fire with Sam Learning!

At Virtual School Kent, we are always looking for ways to extend our students’ learning. We have subscribed to SAM Learning, a unique online service which offers educational support on multiple subjects.

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Studies show that students can achieve 2 GCSE grades on average better than expected with as little as 10 hours or more use of SAM Learning.

The Competition!

VSK will be awarding a Kindle Fire 7 to the Year 11 student who has demonstrated the most effective use of Sam Learning on their core GCSE subjects.

BUT any secondary school age student, who is in care, can obtain an account for Sam Learning to help their studying so please ask even if you are Year 7-10!

To arrange access to Sam Learning, please email eklipss@kent.gov.uk and we will send you your username, password and login instructions.

Taking Over Whitehall!

In November, Virtual School Kent was very excited to support two young people, Bradley and Chelsea, take part in the Whitehall Takeover, a month-long event organised by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner. 

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Before the Takeover began, Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England said, “Children in care are this month taking over the Government and experiencing Whitehall’s corridors of power first-hand.”  Young people from around the country got to spend a day in London with Government Ministers or officials finding out what it’s like to make decisions at the highest level.

Bradley shadowed Kent MP Kelly Tolhurst, the Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, whilst Virtual School Kent Apprentice, Chelsea got to experience decision making at the Department for Education with Lord Agnew, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System. 

Both of the young people were able to share their experiences and fresh ideas with key decision makers and see how central government works. 

Bradley enjoyed the opportunity to receive a personal tour of Parliament (including the roof garden!), watch a key Brexit debate from the public gallery in the House of Commons and accompany the Minister to debates and speeches. 

Chelsea loved listening to (and taking part in!) meetings about adoption and faith schools.  She also had the chance, alongside other young people in care, to share her views and experiences about not just education, but a range of issues that face Children in Care and Care Leavers with Damian Hinds, Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families and Anne Longfield herself.

The Takeover Challenge was a great way to get young people’s voices heard at the highest levels and give them experiences they otherwise wouldn’t receive.  

Want to get involved in opportunities like this? Contact us via the website!

Finding Accommodation as a Care Leaver

Moving on from Social Services accommodation is a big step, and you might have concerns about finding somewhere to live. Your Personal Advisor (PA) will be able to go through your options with you.

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Accommodation Types

You might have registered with Kent Homechoice and be hoping for an offer of Council or Housing Association accommodation. Unfortunately, there are many more people on the waiting list than there are homes, so you might not be offered anything. However, there are other options.

Private renting is a popular choice. Many landlords and letting agencies advertise their properties online. It might be more affordable to rent a room in a shared house, rather than renting a flat or house by yourself.    

Spareroom.co.uk is a popular website, which also gives advice and information for people who are looking for a flatshare. Many letting agencies also have shared houses to let. In shared accommodation, the cost of gas, electricity, water, TV Licence, Council Tax, maybe even Wifi is shared with the other tenants, and you pay less rent because you share.

What to think about

When looking for accommodation, think about what you would like to live near to: your workplace or college/university? Do you need to attend regular medical appointments? Perhaps you have friends and family who you would like to live near to? It is important to find out how much you should expect to pay for rent in the area you plan to live in. Rents can be high in Kent (although not as high as in most areas of London).

If the rent is too high, is there somewhere nearby that is cheaper? Maybe even a short bus journey or drive away? Whether you will be paying your rent out of your wages, or by claiming Housing Benefit/Universal Credit, you need to be sure that you can afford it before you sign the tenancy agreement.

Kent

In Kent, the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) doesn’t cover the full monthly rent for most rental properties. This means that you will need to have some way of paying whatever is owed to your landlord after you have paid your Housing Benefit to them (“the shortfall”). As a care leaver, you are entitled to a higher rate of Housing Benefit up to the age of 22. This is helpful when you are looking for somewhere to live, but you will need to think about how you will pay your rent after the age of 22, when your benefit is reduced to Single Room Rate. There is a lot to think about, but your PA can advise you on issues around rent benefits and tenancy agreements, to help you decide what is best for you.

Guarantor

Many lettings agents ask for a guarantor. A guarantor is a person you know – usually a family member - who will be responsible for paying your rent, if you can’t (or don’t). A guarantor is usually a home owner, in employment, earning over a certain amount of money. Not everybody knows someone who they can ask to be their guarantor. Kent County Council has recognised this difficulty and has introduced a rent guarantor scheme. In certain circumstances, Kent County Council can act as a rent guarantor on behalf of a young person aged over 18, where there is no family member willing/able to do so. Your PA can give you information on the guarantor scheme.

Setting Up Home

Setting up a home is expensive, but Kent County Council can offer a Setting Up Home Allowance up to the value of £2,000.00, to buy essential items when you move into your own home. From 1st October 2018, additional financial support can be provided to you, to cover your first month’s rent, deposit, and letting agent fees, when moving into private rented accommodation. This is in addition to the £2,000.00 Setting Up Home Allowance. The Council also provides an option to put some or all the Setting Up Home Allowance into an adult ISA or Help to Buy scheme, to help promote your financial security, financial independence, and savings for future accommodation. This is something else that your PA can speak to you about.

Want to find out more about accommodation as a Care Leaver? Click here.

 

Why go to a University or College Open Day?

Making decisions about your future can be confusing whether you are in Year 11, Year 13 or considering a return to education or training after a break.  Sixth form, college, university, apprenticeships, the world of work…the possibilities can sometimes seem endless!  But help is at hand!

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Organised Open Days are one way to find out about college or university life and get a sense of what studying at different institutions is really like.  You can discover more about your chosen courses and explore the college or university site at your own pace.  They are a unique opportunity to find out exactly what you will study and how, explore the facilities and gain further information directly from the teachers, tutors and students already there!

Top Tips for attending Open Days

  • Check if you can just turn up or whether you need to register or book on to a site/campus tour by visiting the college or university website before the Open Day.
  • Go with a list of questions and things you want to find out.  Open Days are a fantastic opportunity to actually speak to real people including students studying courses you are interested in!
  • Try to picture yourself studying there – different colleges/universities suit different people.  You need to find the right one for you.
  • Don’t forget to check out the other facilities.  What’s the café or restaurant like? Is there a gym or clubs you can join?
  • Open days are also a good way to get to know the local area, find where the college is and work out how easy it is to get to it from home.

College and university Open Days are taking place throughout November and December.  You can find College Open Day dates here and information about visiting Kent Universities here.  Don’t worry if you miss an Open Day.  You can often arrange to visit informally – just give the college or university a ring or visit their website to find out more.

Don’t forget there are also advisers in Virtual School Kent and the Care Leavers 18+ Service who can help you too.  Talk to your Social Worker or PA who can put you in touch with the right person.

16+ Awards Ceremony

Virtual School Kent held their fifth annual Post 16 Awards Ceremony.  This event recognises and celebrates the achievements of looked after post 16 young people and there were some amazing success stories.

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As in previous years, lots of nominations were received and 88 awards were presented to young people, many of whom attended the awards ceremony.  It was a truly fantastic evening with over 50 young people attending, supported by their friends, carers, social workers and personal advisers.  The event had a red, black and gold theme with red carpet, balloons, photo screen, sports activities and a delicious buffet.   Everyone was blown away by the young people’s achievements.  The event also included an entertaining quiz about the Young Adult Council led by the VSK Apprentices (some tables were very competitive!) and a talk about the National Citizen Service by Ben Powell.

Awards presented at the ceremony included:

  • Young people achieving excellent GCSE results
  • Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards for our post 16 students
  • Young Adult Council members received recognition for their commitment to the Council
  • National Citizen Service Award

There were some really inspiring stories from these young people and they rightly deserved the recognition of their achievements!

Well done again to all the winners!

Say Hello to Tia and Rob and well done Chelsea!

This summer, we have been incredibly happy to welcome two new apprentices to the Participation Team. You may have met Tia Pires Higgins and Rob Barton if you came to our activity days during the summer holidays but if not, let’s meet them…

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Rob

Hi, my name is Rob. I am now an Apprentice for the Virtual School Kent. An actor at heart, I love being able to express my feelings through shows and songs, so beware. I have become an apprentice for lots of reasons. The first reason would be because of my background - I grew up in foster care and I have a good my knowledge of the care system and how it affects young people. The second reason would be that I love seeing the enjoyment on a young person’s face when they know that things have been done for them and that rewards are coming to them as well. I’m really looking forward to my new role.

Tia

Hi, my name is Tia and I’m a new addition to the VSK Participation Team. My hobbies and interests are ice skating and horse riding. I really enjoyed doing some work experience in the summer with VSK which is when I decided I wanted to be part of the team. I am really looking forward to my role as an Apprentice Participation Worker as I can engage with and help lots of young people.

Chelsea

We are also happy to announce that Chelsea Goodwin will be continuing with the Virtual School Kent after successfully completing her level 2 Apprenticeship. She is now working towards a level 3 qualification, well done Chelsea!

All our Apprentice Participation Workers are undertaking an apprenticeship with Virtual School Kent and are here to help bridge the gap between you and the Kent County Council elected Members and Senior Directors. They have been in care at some point themselves or have had similar experiences. The role of an apprentice with VSK involves supporting young people, encouraging them to speak up about their views and experiences, and discussing what they would like to change about the care system. Their main responsibilities are to support the Children in Care Councils and organise the activity days that run during the school holidays.

If you are interested in becoming an apprentice within the Participation Team and would like to learn more, why not get in touch? Email VSK_Participation@kent.gov.uk to see if we are recruiting new apprentices!

The Annual Children in Care Countywide Event

Every year, Virtual School Kent’s Participation Team holds a celebration for the three Children in Care Councils. The council groups are The Super Council which is for 7-11 year olds, Our Children and Young People’s Council for 11-16 year olds and the Young Adult Council for age 16+.

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As well as celebrating the groups’ achievements, it’s a great chance for the Corporate Parents to meet young people and hear first-hand their views, opinions, and fresh ideas about the care they receive from Kent County Council. This year, the event took place on the 1st August in Maidstone.

What is a Corporate Parent?

The aim of the day was to explore what young people understand by the term ‘Corporate Parents’ and how Kent County Council can be the best corporate parent possible to all children in care and care leavers in Kent.

The young people had a chance to create their Corporate Parenting ‘top 10’, some of these included stability, to be given choices and to be listened to.

The young people also added their own feedback about what they would like Kent County Council and their Corporate Parents to do better, some of the things they said were:

  • Corporate Parents to attend more days/events with Children in Care
  • To be treated as a part of a family
  • Greater consistency
  • To widen opportunities for Children in Care and Care Leavers

The Participation Team will use the young people’s ideas and feedback to create a Young Person’s Guide to Corporate Parenting.

Then it was time for the fun part - the outdoor team game activities which included KCC staff and young people taking part in giant inflatable darts, limbo and a large inflatable climbing wall. Thank you to everyone who attended – your view and ideas are shaping the services that you and other children in care and care leavers receive!

If you are interested in joining one of the Children in Care Councils or just having your say, get in touch at VSK_Participation@kent.gov.uk.

MOMO Gets A New Look!

Mind of My Own (MOMO) is an app or website that allows you to share your thoughts and feelings with your social worker, independent reviewing officer, personal adviser and other professionals

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Once you have turned 8, you can sign up for your own account at http://mindofmyown.org.uk/ or by downloading the app on to a smart phone or tablet.

Choose the scenario you would like to talk about and off you go.

If you use the app regularly, you might have noticed a few changes recently:

  • A quicker sign up for young people – you can now create your new account in 3 easy steps!
  • The mood slider – drag the mood slider to show how you’re feeling.
  • Fun emojis – communicate more quickly and easily!
  • Improved link to Childline – MOMO One isn’t an emergency app so if you need to talk to someone urgently, you can contact Childline. If you use MOMO on a mobile phone and click the Childline logo, you have the option to make a free phone call to Childline immediately.
  • ‘My Profile’ page – You will be able to customise your ‘profile’ to include information about yourself. MOMO will be doing more work on the profile section in the coming months so look out for more features to come!

Want to find out more about MOMO One? Contact the Participation Team at VSK_Participation@kent.gov.uk or click on the MOMO section in the Primary or Secondary areas of Kent Cares Town.

A fantastic summer of activity days!

What a brilliant summer we have had! Hot, sunny and jam packed with fun!

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We started the summer trying some new sports – gliding in Ashford and water sports in Dover.

Next, a trip to Betteshanger Park near Deal gave us the chance to conquer an obstacle course, build shelters and try geocaching.

Animal lovers enjoyed trips to Howletts Zoo to see the gorillas, lions, elephants and more whilst at Huckleberry Woods in Faversham, we fed cute farm animals and even tried pig fishing! We finished the summer mountain biking and canoeing at Bewl Water and den building at Shorne County Park where even the rain couldn’t spoil our enjoyment of the day.

You told us that the activity days were a great way to try something new, have fun and meet new friends. We loved seeing so many new and familiar faces and look forward to seeing you all at another activity day in the future! If you haven’t been to one our activity days before, we’d love to meet you, give it a try! We will be running activity days during the October school holidays.

Our Activity Days are open to all children in the care of Kent County Council. We also run days for older young people in care and care leavers. If you want to find out about our next activity days or have a suggestion for something we could do, get in touch at VSK_Participation@kent.gov.uk.