What can schools and other settings do to support looked after children?
We spoke with groups of care-experienced young people to find out their views on how schools and other settings can improve the support they offer.
Here we have presented some of their tips - the quotes were taken directly from the consultation:
Ensure staff understand the reasons why a young person might be in care, the additional challenges they experience and how this might affect them.
"Teachers should have training on how they can better support young people in care. Involving someone with experience of being in care would make this training even more powerful."
"When it comes to children the teachers think the main priority is like every other child but it’s not the case. In care their sisters etc. might be adopted, parents might be in prison, so much else is going on."
Be aware of actions that could make care-experienced young people feel different and ensure that all activities are inclusive
"A lot of the time they will let the social workers come in and call a kid out for a pet meeting or teachers will say “oh your social worker is here to see you”. And just pull kids out of class. As soon as they come back they’re being bullied for that."
"Starting a lot earlier, at first when people learn in schools this is a family “mum and dad” “two dads” “two moms” etc. in reception. Some have foster parents etc. As a child that will be normal if you’re told everything."
Look at the bigger picture and don't assign labels when someone is involved in a bullying situation
"The school should make an effort to look into the reasons why a looked after child might be getting into fights with other pupils as it could be because they are being bullied themselves."
"There has been teachers saying colleagues don’t necessarily understand what influences behaviour for these types of children etc. They think they are just acting out."
A restorative approach might work for care-experienced young people who are involved in bullying. It can support them to feel empowered and more confident.
"The school should speak to bullies and the LAC to get their views."
"Support them with people their own age, teachers seem friendly and be nice, but if your being bullied you feel isolated having no friends so someone your own age to talk to."
Support and involvement from the designated lead for care-experienced young people is welcome.
"The school should ask the looked after child how they can better support them.The designated teacher for LAC should step in more."
"We had this lady in old school, she would refer us to counselling, any person who was going through trauma in care or not, she would refer them to people, let children calm down there, laugh/cry/read have time there to cool yourself down. Have a space where people can calm down and is a safe place."
Building trust is key for care-experienced young people in speaking out about bullying.
"Maybe something to get to know teachers better. Maybe have an introductory conversation e.g. “I’m Dan, I like football, my favourite thing is…” To build a relationship with teachers. Do this with teachers for children with care. Because how can a child with no trust in adults go to a teacher have the courage to tell someone they are being bullied. Or have the courage to say my mom isn’t around."
Professor Helen Cowie (2011)
Vidya Rao, Doug Simkiss (2007)
UK Safer Internet Centre