Jacqueline Cassidy is director for Scotland at the UK’s leading charity, The Fostering Network. During the charity’s annual campaign Foster Care Fortnight™, Jacqueline shares why she believes everyone around children and young people in foster care should play a role in ensuring their educational needs are met and supported to thrive.
When we speak about meeting the needs of children and young people growing up in a fostering household, it’s essential that we consider everything this means.
Their emotional, health, and cultural needs – amongst so many others – must be met, including their educational needs. Receiving the right educational support and access to resources is fundamental for children and young people to develop their personality, talents and abilities to the full.
Recent statistics show that in Scotland, there are currently 12,596 children in care, with 4,155 living in foster care. Each one of these children are different, and their educational needs are as unique as them. For those children living in foster care, they have experienced, or are still experiencing, a difficult period in their life.
They may have moved schools, alongside feeling a whole mixture of emotions and grief during a huge change in their life – much of the time, leaving everything that is familiar to them such as their family, friends, and favourite teachers to name a few.
Such significant changes are difficult to comprehend and process. We cannot lose sight of the impact this can have on their education in comparison to their peers andthat extra support may be needed. We must work with children and young people to ensure they have the confidence to share when they are struggling; and we need to ensure that foster carers are empowered to advocate for the children in their care.
Foster carers are a vital part of the team around a child and quite often are the people who know the child best. As such, they must be treated as an equal member of the team, listened to, and involved in supporting young people in all contexts – including their education, just as any other parent would. Organisations such as Enquire are a great place for foster carers to go to for support. Their services are a huge asset to children in foster care who require additional support, for their learning, a legal right, and for their foster carers who want to make this happen.
Continuous support for education
At The Fostering Network, we believe that children who experience care should have the same educational opportunities and outcomes as their peers. We want to help deliver on the commitments in The Promise. We want children and young people to experience school as a safe, nurturing environment that enables them to achieve their full potential.As part our commitment, we have developed educational workshops and programmes to provide easy to access support and advice.
Just one of these is our Young Advocates project, led by children and young people with experience of care, the project focusses on reducing the stigma around foster care in education. It also introduces education professionals to resources which raises awareness of young people with care experience in the school system.
The legacy of this lives onwith eight of Scotland’s universities now hosting the training module on their platforms, and workshops delivered to over 360 student teachers. This is providing a much-needed understanding of the children and young people who might be in their classrooms, including how their circumstances outside of school may be impacting them.
Another initiative is our #TicktheBox campaign. Every year, we work with UCAS, NNECL, universities and colleges across the UK to encourage people with care experience to tick the box on their UCAS application to say they have spent time in care. This is to ensure they are aware of the support they are entitled to, and most importantly, can access it.
We can’t stop there
Educational outcomes shouldn’t solely focus on passing exams and meeting deadlines. School could and should be a place that helps nurture and grow the whole person.
We want to see those with care experience represented in leadership roles, in careers they love, going to colleges and Universities they have dreamed of and knowing that their opportunities are not limited.
Thanks to organisations like Enquire, there are tools available to provide tailored, extra educational support for children and young people in foster care. So, if you are a young person with care experience, a foster carer, a teacher – anyone involved in the education of those with care experience, I encourage you to reach out and find out what your rights are in education and what resources are available – the results could be life changing.
Jacqueline Cassidy is Director for Scotland at the Fostering Network
Further reading and resources
Enquire’s Professional modules These 5 short e-modules focus on some key additional support for learning topics, including identifying and meeting learners’ needs and working with families.
Webinar: Care experienced children and additional support for learning Q&A (recording) A recording of our Q&A around care experienced learners and additional support for learning.
Webinar for foster carers (recording) Recorded information session to help understand the right to additional support at school for children in foster care.
All about ASL: Care experience Reach, our website for young people, explains what care experienced means and the support for learning available.