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Welcome to the Virtual School Aberdeen

Virtual School Aberdeen

This website aims to be a one stop portal for Children and Young people who are Looked After (Care Experienced),  Parents and Carers and professionals working with our Looked After Children. It is a place to access information, advice and guidance on education supports, share best practice and gain a complete picture of the multi-agency work which goes on in support of our Looked After Children. I hope that you will find this website useful and I would welcome any feedback on it as we continue to develop it so that it meets all of your needs.

Larissa Gordon
Virtual School Head Teacher


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What is a Virtual School?

The Virtual School acts as a local authority champion to bring about improvements in the education of our Looked After(Care Experienced) Children and to promote their educational achievement as if they were in a single school. Ensuring that they receive a high quality education is the foundation for improving their lives.
The school does not exist in real terms, or as a building. Children do not attend it - they remain the responsibility of the school at which they are enrolled. Virtual School Aberdeen is simply an organisational tool which has been created for the effective co-ordination of support for this vulnerable group at a strategic and operational level.

What do we do?

  • Influence policy and develop and improve services for Looked After (Care Experienced) Children
  • Promote individual achievement, health, and wellbeing.
  • Provide advice, support and training to professionals, schools and carers
  • Improve access to specialist services, including health assessments, mental health assessments and treatment.
  • Provide access to professional advice and guidance on education, training and employment.
  • Promote additional opportunities for out of school learning and leisure.

How are we organised?

Virtual School Aberdeen comprises of a Headteacher and a Looked After Teacher. 
We are supported by colleagues in social work, the 3rd sector, The Education Inclusion team and a LAC Nurse.

Meet the Team

Larissa Gordon Virtual School Head Teacher

Larissa took up post of Virtual School Head Teacher in November 2015.  This post is the first of its kind in Scotland and demonstrates the commitment of Aberdeen City Council to its Looked After (Care Experienced) Children.  Prior to taking up this post, Larissa was Depute Head at Oldmachar Academy in Aberdeen.  She brings with her a wealth of experience in learning and teaching, curriculum design, leadership and management and pastoral care.

As a Depute Head, she developed effective partnerships with a range of organisations and businesses, implemented procedures to raise achievement and attainment and successfully supported children and families.  Whilst a DHT Larissa was appointed as Aberdeen City Council's representative for School Leaders Scotland (SLS) which enables her to keep abreast of the latest developments in Scottish education.
Larissa is passionate about young people being supported to succeed in all aspects of their life.  As lead corporate parent for education she aims to make sure that Looked After (Care Experienced) Children and Young People have the same opportunities as their peers who are not Looked After (Care Experienced) to benefit from high quality education through Curriculum for Excellence, including progression to further and higher education. Through an effective multi-agency and strategically co-ordinated approach she aims to level the playing field for our Looked After (Care Experienced) Children in Aberdeen City.

Jacinta Birchley - Looked After Children Teacher

Jacinta has been in this role since 2005. During this time she has been responsible for rolling out the Scottish Governments policy and legislation in relation to looked after children and education within Aberdeen City. This is based on the Scottish Governments "We Can and Must Do Better" suite of publications and the Children & Young Persons (Scotland) Act (2014). She has been chair of the Scottish Looked After (Care Experienced) Children Education Forum and contributed to national developments.

Jacinta's main roles are:

  • Supporting Education Pathways for Looked After (Care Experienced) Children and Young people
  • Delivering training to professionals

Currently Jacinta is involved in the Keen4Work supported work experience programme run in partnership with Action for Children for care experienced young people aged between 16 and 26. She is particularly interested in this transition time in care experienced young people's lives as they navigate their way to having a positive adult life.
Her research interests are in corporate parenting, social justice and looked after children.


Contact us

For further information contact Larissa:

Larissa Gordon
Virtual School Headteacher
Inclusion Team
Education and Children's Services
Aberdeen City Council
Business Hub 13
Marischal College
AB10 1AB
01224 523580

Further Information and Resources

The links below will take you to additional pages on the Virtual School Aberdeen website giving more detailed information relating to:


Third Sector Organisations web links:


  • Aberlour Families Service Aberdeen
    Aberlour Family Service - Aberdeen provides a 'core service' to assess and support parents with a learning disability, who have children aged 0 - 12 years.
  • Action For Children
    In Scotland we help 8,000 of the country's most vulnerable children; run 84 services; work in partnership with local authorities and other agencies; give young people the change to fulfill their potential, and to make the most of their lives.
  • Alcohol and Drugs Action (ADA)
    A range of services are provided 7 days a week for people who use drugs and alcohol, and those in recovery. We also support concerned family members, young people and children affected by someone else's drug or alcohol use. You can find out more about our full range of services in the Services Directory on our website.
  • Barnardos
    Offering the following services.

    Youth justice: Providing advice to support positive choices. Aims to reduce the risk of offending and anti-social behaviour through 1:1 intensive support, mentoring, diversionary and preventative activities.

    Family support: Supporting parents, carers and families in the community and in diverse cultural circumstances. Guidance and advice aimed at supporting vulnerable children and their families.

    Mentoring: Extended services- Supporting the move from Primary to Secondary education by building positive relationships. Access to mentoring services.

    Housing and homelessness: Housing support to assist and sustain independent living on leaving care. Providing access to supported accommodation, emergency short term or more long term bond schemes. Raising awareness through educational visits and improving the understanding of risks.

    Sexually harmful behaviour: Raising awareness and helping young people through a structured intervention to build a positive future. Aims to reduce offending behaviours and provide opportunities for intensive therapeutic support.

    Substance misuse: Supporting those affected by personal, adult or parental substance misuse. Advice and information on the impact of high risk behaviours, such as drug or alcohol misuse, violence and domestic abuse. Intervention and treatment services can be accessed, along with 1:1 and peer support.

    Missing: Providing direct support for those affected by missing episodes. May offer 1:1 case work with those deemed high risk to help and support them to manage their issues safely. Aiming to reduce risk taking behaviour and access to return home, interviews and prevention group work.
  • Befriend a Child
    At Befriend a Child we support children and young people growing up in difficult life circumstances across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire to achieve their full potential and develop into confident and competent adults.
  • Children 1st
    We help families to identify their strengths, and to make use of them to better meet their children's needs. We can support parents and carers to build their self-esteem, to improve family relationships, and to make better decisions for their children. Supporting children in their earliest years is crucial, so that they get the best start in life and are able to reach their potential.
  • Choices Aberdeen
    Choices Aberdeen is passionate about promoting and supporting positive relationships in young people and vulnerable adults. We have developed and researched engaging, quality and relevant resources which empower our service users to develop and maintain successful relationships.
  • Families First
    Families First is a well established dual agency service operating in Aberdeen city which incorporates the strong partnership between Alcohol & Drugs Action and Aberlour Child Care Trust. Families First works with children and young people (0 13 years) affected by parental drug and/or alcohol use and their parents/carers and extended family.
  • Families Outside
    Families Outside is the only national charity in Scotland that works solely to support the families of people affected by imprisonment. We work to mitigate the effects of imprisonment on children and families and consequently to reduce the likelihood of reoffending through support and information for families and for the people who work with them.
  • Family Information Service (FIS)
  • Foyer Futures
    We work with young people of secondary school age who are facing difficulties in their lives and have become disengaged from education (or perhaps statutory services), those who have either been excluded or at risk of exclusion, those who are disengaged and have low attendance, those who are not attaining anticipated potential and those who are not in training or employment.
  • Grampian Child Bereavement Network
    Grampian Child Bereavement Network is a dedicated resource that can refer on to national and local resources which can provide children with support when they are bereaved. This may include a referral for counselling. It will provide a central point of referral for children who have been bereaved.
  • Grampian Women's Aid
    Grampian Women's Aid offers a free, confidential, and non-judgemental service to women, who have experienced domestic abuse. The abuse may be from a partner, ex-partner. We aim to provide an inclusive service and support women from all backgrounds regardless of substance misuse issues, mental/physical health, race/ethnicity, religion, age, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • Homestart
    Home-Start Aberdeen has been supporting families in the city since 1987. Our trained home visiting volunteers spend 2-3 hours per week with a local family, providing them with emotional and practical support in their own home environment. Families who are mainly referred to Home-Start via health visitors and social workers may be facing a variety of challenges. These include, but are not restricted to, ill health, disability, domestic violence or substance misuse.
  • The Aberdeen Self Harm Service
    The Aberdeen Self Harm Service was opened in 2004 to provide a non-judgemental, young people friendly and user led support service to young people who self-harm in Aberdeen City. We also explore the needs of family, carers and professionals in contact with young people who self harm.
    The Service supports 16-25 years olds with a range of services including one to one and group support, as well as working throughout Aberdeen to raise awareness of self harm issues.
    Sacro provides a number of services specifically designed to support and encourage young people to desist from offending behaviour. Many of these services are based on restorative principles, which offer support to those affected by and those responsible for harm. The aim of services using restorative principles is to address behaviour in a way which empowers the people harmed, those responsible and the wider community members in order to resolve issues in a constructive way.
  • The St Machar Parent Support Project
    The St Machar Parent Support Project is a voluntary project part funded by Aberdeen City Council. The Project is based at the rear of St Machar Academy on Powis Crescent in the old Janitors Lodge. Our main objective is to provide information, advice, support and training to the parents of those children who attend school or live within the St Machar Academy's catchment area of Aberdeen.
  • SHMU
    shmuTRAIN is the employability arm of Shmu (Station House Media Unit) and supports 14-19yr olds who are in, or likely to fall into, the Opportunities For All category in the city, and encourages them on to a positive destination (education, employment or training); Early Interventions supports work in 4 Academies and runs the City Campus initiative; Positive Transitions support 16-19's with a 12-week full-time programme.
  • Sunrise Partnership
    Loss and Bereavement Support for Children and Young People. A free, confidential service for children and young people up to age 18 who have been affected by loss and bereavement.
  • Transition Extreme
    As a leading youth charity Transition Extreme offers a number of youth and community programmes. Our Alternative, Outreach and Extreme Arts Academies support young people disengaged from traditional forms of education.
  • VSA
    As the North East of Scotland's leading social care charity, VSA continually supports and strengthens the future of children and families through a variety of services. Our professionally trained staff and volunteers are inclusive and flexible in their practice, recognising and respecting diversity and changing needs and reducing inequalities.
  • YMCA Aberdeen
    Plusone Mentoring with Aberdeen YMCA is an award-winning initiative of YMCA Scotland. It matches young people aged 8-14 who are deemed to be 'at risk' or 'excluded' with a volunteer adult mentor who meets with them one-to-one on a regular basis.

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