Keith Morrison, senior adviser and virtual head teacher, Medway Council

Friday, November 16, 2007

The virtual head teacher role is one that was introduced in the Care Matters green paper and involves assigning an individual with the responsibility for all looked-after children in schools in a particular area.

When Medway was looking for someone to fill this role, the council wanted somebody well connected and not afraid to speak their mind.

“So they thought of me,” says Morrison. “I’m fairly well known across the council and the directorate. And I have a reputation for being blunt. The whole point of the council appointing me is that they wanted someone to give them a hard time on behalf of Medway’s looked-after children. Where necessary, I stir things up a bit. In short, I will be a pain in the backside if I think we should be doing more.”

Indeed, one of the parts of the job Morrison most enjoys is the “robust” conversations he has with the council director. Clearly, this role benefits from an extrovert and a good communicator.

Theoretically, Morrison should only spend one day a month on the “virtual head teacher” part of his remit. Practically, this is unrealistic to do justice to the job and he ends up spending much more, integrating this “day” into his normal working month as a senior adviser.

One of the biggest challenges is getting the various different agencies involved with looked-after children to view their achievement at school as important as finding them a placement in school or with a foster family.

“Before this appointment,” he says. “There wasn’t the same drive to ensure we cared in the whole sense, rather just saying ‘we’ve got them a safe placement and so that’s the end of the story’.”

However, when the team does take this holistic view, it is extremely satisfying for Morrison to witness the positive outcomes achieved by looked-after children.

My day

8am: arrive at the office. Check email and news feeds, while drinking a coffee.

10am: meeting within the council discussing how we can improve the care of looked-after children.

11am: visit a local school for the first time to meet a head teacher, explain my role and introduce myself to the teacher designated to oversee looked-after children.

12.30pm: walk into Rochester to buy a sandwich and get some fresh air.

1pm: visit another local school. Speak to the head teacher about an individual young person that needs some additional support.

3pm: Back to the office to prepare a presentation to the council reporting on the achievements of looked-after children.

5pm: Catch up with colleagues in informal meetings.

6pm: Try to leave the office by this time.

Evening: Log on to the computer system from home to catch up on emails and admin.

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