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Helping children and young people reach their potential at school


Helping children and young people reach their potential at school

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									    Helping children and young people reach their
    potential at school
                                                                                 Involving children in learning from a young age
    Foster carers play an important role in supporting                           is vital for them to have the best start in life.
    children and young people at school.                                         High quality preschool programs give children
                                                                                 the opportunity to learn problem-solving,
    Educational outcomes for children and young people                           communication and social skills that they need for
    in care are consistently poorer than their peers in the                      future educational success when they start school.
    general population. They include:
    • poorer literacy and numeracy skills
                                                                                In 2008, public schools introduced the Best Start test in
    • higher numbers of children and young people
                                                                                kindergarten and the National Assessment Program for
      repeating a grade at school (10–30% of children and
                                                                                Literacy and Numeracy with tests in years three, five,
      young people in out-of-home care in NSW)1
                                                                                seven and nine. Schools will give the child’s test results to
    • higher incidences of learning difficulties, behavioural                   their parents or carers.
      problems and intellectual disabilities2
    • higher numbers of young people leaving school at an                       Why education is important
      early age3.                                                               Attendance at preschools through to year 12 and beyond
    Children and young people in care often come from                           gives children and young people greater employment
    backgrounds where education is not a priority. They                         opportunities and a broader set of social skills.
    may suffer from poor self-esteem and have gaps in
                                                                                Apart from intellectual stimulation, children benefit from
    their learning because they have missed school or had
                                                                                education in a number of ways. They learn:
    a number of school changes. As a result they may have
    difficulty settling into school.                                            • how to build relationships and become part of a
                                                                                • how to work together with their classmates to achieve
                                                                                • how to accept success and disappointment
                                                                                • about diversity, tolerance and acceptance.
                                                                                Education prepares children for life after school and helps
                                                                                them make decisions for their future.

                                                                                Listening to children and young people
                                                                                Children and young people need to be encouraged to
                                                                                think and talk about what goals they want to achieve and
                                                                                any support needed to achieve them. They also need to
                                                                                find out the things they enjoy and are good at and get
                                                                                support to do these activities.

                                                                                Additional stress factors
                                                                                Children and young people in care need a caring and safe
                                                                                environment where they feel accepted and protected.
                                                                                This helps them to confidently interact with and become
                                                                                part of their school community.
    NSW Community Services Commission
    2000, Voice of children in foster care, NSW Community
    Services Commission, Sydney.
    M de Lemos 1997, Educational needs of children in care: Report on a
    research study of children in residential and home-based care, Australian
    Council for Educational Research, Melbourne.
    CREATE Foundation 2006, Report card on education, CREATE Foundation,
    Sydney.                                                                                                         August 2008
Helping children and young people reach
their potential at school continued

It is important to remember that moving to a new
placement may also mean going to a different school.
This can create extra stress for the child or young person.
Other stressful periods can include starting school, moving
from primary to high school or changing schools.
Carers need to be sensitive to these times and aware of
possible issues that may arise. Carers can help children
adjust to these changes by talking about what will
happen and letting them decide what they want to tell
other children at the school about their circumstances.
If carers are concerned they should talk to the child or
young person’s caseworker or teacher.

What carers can do at home
There are many things that carers can do to help children
and young people achieve better educational outcomes,
such as:
• reading together
• going to the library
• talking to them about what happened at school in an
  open way to encourage them to discuss issues                   What carers can do at school
• giving them a regular structured time and a place for          Carers can support children at school by getting involved
  homework                                                       in the school and being familiar with the staff.
• providing opportunities for the child to study with            Carers can also:
  their friends                                                  • talk with the school and make sure the child gets the
• showing interest in what they do                                 educational or social support they need
• balancing homework with recreation, play and                   • attend parent–teacher meetings which are an
  sporting activities                                              opportunity to talk about how the child or young
• acknowledging and giving praise for achievements,                person is progressing
  big and small                                                  • discuss with the caseworker the child’s education
• taking them on trips that link to school work, for               history, what support they have had in the past,
  example, museums and art galleries – many of which               current concerns and types of support the child
  are free.                                                        may need.

                                                                                                          Useful websites
                                                                         Information on the support available to a child in a
                                                            state school can be found on the Department of Education and
                                                                             Training (DET) website
                                                 The DET booklet Who’s going to teach my child? A guide for parents of
                                       children with special learning needs explains the support system for children with
                                             special learning needs and applies to many children in care. It is available at:
                                                           If you have concerns about a child or young person’s educational
                                                                                         progress, contact your caseworker.


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