A day in the life of: Virtual School Deputy Headteacher

As the oldest of seven siblings and coming from what could be described as an ‘under-privileged’ area, we learn what a typical day looks like for Michael Guard, Deputy Headteacher, Children Virtual College (part of Achieving for Children Virtual School).

Tell us a little bit about what you do and what a typical day looks like

My role is a really varied one. Essentially, I support over 600 young people, aged 16-25 who have a foster care background, overseeing the help they receive to ensure they are happy, independent and successful in education and work.

This can mean a number of things. For some young people my team or I can be sitting down with them to discuss exactly what their goals are and how they can achieve this through applications, CV writing, interview practice and much much more. For other young people, we might work in the background (we are aware of the number of professionals a young person comes into contact with and try to minimise this), offering opportunities and guidance to people they have a strong relationship with.

At a strategic level I meet and train social worker teams, schools and colleges, foster carers and even employers to highlight the importance of understanding the context of the people I support and why working in a trauma and attachment informed way is so important.

In particular, I’m actually really proud of some of the initiatives such as our Attachment Aware Schools and College programme, The Welcome Programme (which is a six week ESOL and trips course) and our Better Futures events and work to help businesses become more foster-care friendly.

How did you become a Virtual School Deputy Headteacher?

I have always loved working with children and young people (I am the oldest of seven siblings) and worked in holiday play-schemes before qualifying as a teacher 16 years ago as a Secondary English specialist.

As someone who would be considered to have grown-up in an ‘under-privileged’ area, I was keenly aware of the need to work hard and to help others to be at their best. This meant that I always took an interest in helping those considered ‘disadvantaged’ and undertook various strategies to help them. When I was promoted to Assistant Headteacher I oversaw the ‘closing of the PP gap’ and was proud of the work we did to eliminate that in many subject areas.

I then had the opportunity to work within an Edtech company to provide teacher training to various international governments, and whilst I enjoyed the role, I saw an opportunity to work at Achieving for Children and jumped at the chance to work more directly with young people again. I am really glad I did and have now been here for four years.

I saw an opportunity to work at Achieving for Children and jumped at the chance to work more directly with young people again. I am really glad I did.

Michael GuardDeputy Headteacher Children Virtual College (part of Achieving for Children Virtual School)

What expectations did you have of the job before you started and how do these differ from the day to day?

I knew that it would be challenging and very different to working in a single group of schools. I was aware of the importance of the work Virtual Schools do but I don’t think I was prepared for the number of professionals and meetings (and work in between meetings) to ensure young people are getting exactly what they require to remain stable and successful.

What advice would you give someone thinking of working in a Virtual School?

Building relationships is always important but it’s clear that to be successful in a Virtual School, building positive relationships with young people, their network, schools, colleges, employers and various charities is critical. Positive relationships can be the difference between success and failure.

At AfC Virtual College we work under the mantra ‘urgent and preventative’. I think this is key because everyone is extremely busy so if we can project manage the support young people receive this can again be the difference in ensuring they keep their place in college or get the job they want.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Keep being polite, work hard and remain curious!