I was very impressed with the professionalism of the service and literature and extremely grateful for the advice provided. In our case, the [Enquire] Helpline helped to secure a positive outcome from the local authority for our child, together with a commitment to the revision of the authority’s policy.
The impact the right support in school can have on kinship carer families.
Lorraine has been looking after her 6-year old grandson Caidyn for 4 years. Caidyn’s mum is not able to look after him and so Lorraine is his full-time carer. Lorraine loves her grandson and is extremely proud of him particularly given the difficult time he’s had since he was born. She admits it hasn’t always been easy coping with a young child again years after she brought up her own children.
“Being a kinship carer changes your whole life, it affects your relationships, you are worrying about what is happening with your own child and then you have to start looking after a little one again”. Lorraine feels it can be quite isolating. “It’s difficult to have friends round to the house with a little one jumping around. He’s used to having all my attention so it isn’t easy trying to talk to other people when he’s around!”
One thing that has helped Lorraine is that Caidyn has received a lot of support in nursery and now in school. When asked what has made the most difference she explains that the most important thing for her is that she knows people are trying to help and are looking after Caidyn’s needs.
“Caidyn really struggles with his behaviour sometimes. When he was at Balgay Hill Nursery the staff there were brilliant. They knew about his circumstances and really helped him cope in class and they did all they could to support him. His key-worker was brilliant and arranged speech and language therapy for him. Staff also attended Caidyn’s Looked After Children’s meeting with me which was really helpful”
When it was time for Caidyn to go to primary school Lorraine was keen that he went to St Joseph’s Primary School. Lorraine feels that all the staff at St Joseph’s are supportive of Caidyn.
“They understand his behaviour and really try and help. He struggled with his behaviour when he moved into P1 as he was so comfortable at nursery but the school staff did all they could to support him. It’s helps that I can talk to the school about Caidyn’s behaviour issues and know they will try to find ways to help him.
St Joseph’s have adopted a range of different types of support to help Caidyn. Susan Forbes Principle Teacher Supporting Learners explains more:
“Caidyn really benefited from enhanced transition activities between nursery and P1. He came for extra visits to the school to familiarise himself with staff and the classroom setting. We were able to help Lorraine with the issue of transport too. I wrote a letter of support to the authority to highlight the need for Caidyn to be considered for transport to school because Lorraine felt she was unable to accompany him on public transport. Caidyn now comes to and from school in an escorted taxi.
Being able to provide Caidyn with Speech and Language Therapy in school also helps. We have an Enhanced Provision within the school and this means the therapist visits are carried out with children in school time.
Caidyn also receives support with his literacy work. He works within a mainstream group that is supported by an additional adult, who supports other children as well as Caidyn. Support is wider than just in class though. Caidyn has really benefited from being part of a smaller group who go for lunch a bit earlier than other pupils. This helps him have a settled start to lunchtime and also allow adults to support and promote positive interactions with his peers.
I think one of the most important parts of the support we provide is that Lorraine knows she can telephone us at any time with concerns or just to keep us informed of any changes. Likewise, we have always found Lorraine very supportive of the school and any approaches or strategies we have tried to introduce.”
What’s clear is that this pro-active and supportive approach by the school is a huge help to Lorraine and to Caidyn himself.
Not all children cared for by kinship carers are considered to be “looked after children”. However, that does not mean that their entitlement to additional support for learning is any less than that of a looked after child. The only difference is that a looked after child is automatically presumed to have an additional support need (unless they have been assessed and it is decided they do not have additional support needs) while a non-looked after child is not and their parent or carer will need to ask for that child to be assessed. This means that regardless of a child’s legal status, if a carer is concerned about a child’s education they have a right to ask the education authority to establish whether that child has an additional support need under the ASL Act.
If it is decided that a non-looked after kinship care child has additional support needs, then the education authority has a duty to provide adequate and efficient support to meet their needs in exactly the same way as they are required to do for a looked after child.
Next Steps – what you can do if you have concerns?
If you are a kinship carer and you are worried your child might need extra support with their learning, the first step is to talk to the school or nursery about your concerns. Arrange a time to talk to the teacher and explain why you are worried.
It can also be useful when you are talking to the class teacher to share any significant changes or issues at home that might be impacting on their learning. The school may wish to look at the support they are providing if things have changed at home.
If you feel that the school have not adequately identified your child’s needs you can ask the local authority to formally assess their needs. Enquire can provide you with information about how to do this. Get in touch with their helpline on 0345 123 2303.
If you’d like to know more about additional support Enquire has a Parents’ Guide to Additional Support for Learning that explains children and young people’s rights to support in school. You can order a copy by contacting email@example.com. Enquire also has some great resources to help children and young people understand additional support for learning including a guide for looked after children. Visit our children and young people’s website to find our more http://enquire.org.uk/yp/guides.php
For kinship care support, advice and information you can contact the Citizens Advice Scotland Kinship Care Helpline on 0808 800 0006 or the Children 1st National Kinship Care Service on 08000 28 22 33.