I didn’t do very well at school. Was it because I didn’t want to
learn, or was learning not interesting enough? Could it be that I
was just unable to? A mixture of all three certainly, but most
importantly I was not made to understand just how vital my
education would be to me and what I would stand to lose without it.
I am now 25.
They are regrettable statistics but young people in the care system
tend to perform a lot less efficiently in schools and they achieve
less academically than those who have a stable family upbringing.
However, there are those who are lucky enough to wiggle their way
out of the mess that is their lives when they unfortunately become
part of the tangled system. Although the care system knows the
importance of a good education, somehow it forgets to imprint this
on the brains of young people.
The problem when I was at school was that there was never enough
time spent on my emotional needs. It was never discussed how I saw
myself, what I wanted, what I expected my future to be and how I
could achieve any goals I may have had if someone had taken the
time to help me realise them.
When I was in care I found it hard to keep my mind on school
because there was so much more going on inside my head, none of
which was constructive. I became just another young person who
didn’t want to listen or obey authority and who behaved very
rebelliously. I saw the education system as another adult-run
establishment that was trying to control me.
Eventually I was excluded and remember feeling very pleased with
myself that I did not have to go back to school. But I look at
where my life is now and wonder who I was back then? A troubled
young boy who didn’t know he had a future so didn’t look for one. I
grew up to become an articulate and intelligent young man who is
paying the price for not having a good education.
Young people are so busy thinking about today that they cannot see
tomorrow. This is why carers and social workers must work harder to
show these impressionable young individuals that they need to stop
and focus some of their energy on their future and help them
realise what it is they want from life. Looking after young people
should also be about becoming a teacher, a mentor and a
Whether you are a social worker or residential staff member, you
play the same role when it comes to looking after these people’s
futures. I can’t take back the education I should have had but I
can give myself a new one because now I know what I want and how
much it really matters. I want to pass on a positive message I call
RISE. It stands for reality check, inspiration, self-awareness and
education. I didn’t have these back then but young people should
have and be helped to understand this if they don’t want to end up
in their twenties, stuck on benefits, with a ton of bills to pay
and no real career prospects. What a way to live.
Justin Dickson is a care leaver.