Sadly, too many children who come into care have a fragmented experience of education. Many face disruption to their schooling before and during their time in care, and may have missed considerable amounts of classroom time. As a result, as a group children in care do not perform as well as their peers when it comes to educational achievement.
A recent survey by The Fostering Network of London’s foster carers (March 2014) highlighted a need for greater information and support with children’s education. For example, 41% of respondents said they only partially understood Key Stages, 58% were unsure or unaware of the role of a Virtual School Head, and 40% felt teachers did not understand the foster carer role.
That’s why our latest innovative programme, London Fostering Achievement, is bringing together foster carers, teachers, social workers and young people to improve educational outcomes for children living with foster families in the capital.
Central to the programme is the concept of foster carers as ‘first educators’. It’s widely accepted that our family can have a significant influence on our education, and so for the vast majority of children in care this responsibility will be taken on by their foster carers.
Foster carers already play a vital role in raising aspirations and supporting children in care. This programme, delivered with a wealth of expertise, will develop the work foster carers already do and push it to the next level so children achieve the very best they can in education.
Social workers are crucial in improving educational outcomes for children living with foster families. That’s why we are inviting children’s and supervising social workers, as well as independent reviewing officers, to attend the training sessions and master classes.
Teachers are, of course, another key group. They stand on the frontline of education every day, and our belief is that by working more closely with foster carers and social workers, they can close the circle of educational care around the child.
A series of training sessions in every London borough will bring these groups together to help them better understand each other’s roles and expectations around education. We hope that by boosting the knowledge and confidence of foster carers and other professionals to engage with schools and children’s learning, children will see a strengthened link between home and education.
As well as the training sessions across London, we’ll be working directly with 27 schools to close the gap in attainment between fostered children and their peers, improve behaviour and attendance, and strengthen school relationships with foster carers. It isn’t enough to ensure that children merely attend school. Foster carers, teachers and social workers must work together with the school to appropriately manage and enhance what each child is achieving.
Children in care have enormous potential, and we must strive together to do all we can for them – this means not isolating our expertise and making sure children receive the support that they need and deserve.
- Lisa Belletty is the manager of London Fostering Achievement, run in partnership with Achievement for All and has been funded by the Mayor of London through the London Schools Excellence Fund. You can find out more or register an interest on the programme’s website.