A school is a valuable place for looked after children. It is where they can experience all the same educational opportunities as everyone else, find their passion, and achieve their goals. Aside from the academic importance, learning establishments provide a routine, much needed structure and social experience that they may not have otherwise had full access to. It is the responsibility of both social worker institutions and foster carers to advocate and facilitate attendance, access, and engagement, but it is also for the teaching staff to get involved too.
The Main Barriers to Learning
Yet, despite its significance, the school system is not always an easy road for foster children. There are different barriers to overcome than those not in care, such as:
- Stigma or bullying about being fostered
- A turbulent history with attendance and encouragement to engage
- Not having someone invested in their education
- A change of setting which may be triggering
- Other friendship barriers
- Behavioural difficulties as a result of trauma or similar
Without teachers being properly informed and educated as well, these behavioral issues may cause further problems such as constant reprimand and consequences like detention or isolation. Naturally, these are obstacles to learning and achievement and have the opposite effect on a child’s ability to engage. Being isolated from peers is not the route forward, and so the school system must adapt.
When you make the decision to become a foster parent, you take on a role with many faces. One of these faces is an educator and an advocate for access to learning. There may be challenges with school, as this environment is often triggering for those with a trauma background. Yet, it is essential that carers feel supported and therefore empowered to enable their children into the educational system and secure for them the access they need to thrive and grow. Every parent regardless of status should feel included by schools and have a safe place to find a path toward a future.
Educating Teachers and Learning Leaders
Similarly, as mentioned above, teachers and learning leaders need access to training about the scope of fostering. They need to know:
- What it entails
- Why a child may be experiencing difficulties in lessons
- How to successfully establish positive relationships within the framework of teacher and student
- How to adapt behavioural outcome trajectories for the specific circumstance
Why Access is Essential for Fostered Children
Access is essential for fostered children because it provides them a place to have all the same opportunities as everyone else, as they should. It gives them a sounding board for their own future and a piece of autonomy that they may have yet to find previously. Additionally, key social relationships are formed here in a healthy and safe setting which will have a significant impact later in life. Access to fundamental skills will open up the door to career opportunities. Proper engagement with the school enables a placement to stay afloat and functional.
It is the responsibility of the carer, social worker, and learning staff to meet the needs of foster children. Acceptance in acknowledging the turbulence that may exist is the first step. Collaborative facilitation is the way forward.