Thursday, May 16, 2013

Fostering and the school

Are schools awake when it comes to our foster children?

It's a worry, because when the bell rings/whistle blows just before nine until they run out to  us waiting at the railings we don't have any first hand knowledge of their day. It's an even bigger gap if they're old enough to travel by themselves, we may not see them for 8 or 9 hours, 5 days a week. What happens to them in that time? Are they getting what they need?

As Foster Carers it's down to us to get them to school no matter how much they don't want to go. And if they are involved in trouble at school, it's up to us to do most of  the damage limitation.

If a school excludes or refuses our foster child, our Social Worker will come alongside and try to set up a solution. But we often wonder how much the school is helping.

These are concerns raised by one of our anonymous contributors to the blog, and I'm grateful to hear how it is for others doing this darned job. The contributor wasn't able to post  much in the way of specifics, to ensure the child's anonymity, and that's the way to go if you're thinking about adding a comment (use the tab at the bottom of each post).

I think there's one key thing to always keep in mind: schools get extra money if they take a foster child. I'm afraid I can't say how much exactly, I suspect it varies and may even be information that foster carers are not considered qualified to know. But it's money that should be spent on our child, not absorbed into the school's general budget and end up as the insurance payment on the mini-bus.

Schools have to pay their way in this day and age, and if a school refuses a child it's worth remembering that they cross off some revenue, and will only do that reluctantly. They will be weighing the loss of funds against the way in which the child is impacting the education of their peers.

I've always found the vast majority of teachers hugely sympathetic towards the looked-after children when talking to us Carers, but a bit confused about whether to single them out for special help or treat them as they would any other child in order to avoid distinction that can generate discrimination.

Most head teachers hope they can help the child, but often end up resigned that the child's presence is too disruptive. They have to be protective of their statistics, which include attendance as well as academic success, so they sometimes set aside an isolated building to house their difficult pupils. A bit like the cooler in The Great Escape.

If there's one thing that always helps,it's the teacher who cares that extra bit. Every school has plenty of them, along with the one or two who don't.

I've mentioned this before but it's worth repeating in a post about schools. I asked to meet a child's Head to discuss her schooling. The Head arrived ten minutes late,didn't apologise and began by listing, in front of the child, her shortcomings. At the top of her list was poor punctuality. Honest. 

We have to keep plugging away at the school, talking to the teacher, the Department Head, the Head Teacher, the pastoral care officer or spiritual guidance liaison coordinator or whoever deals with the tricky children. Even if the worst comes to the worst with the school, the child will know you've been battling for them, and some good will come of that. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but someday soon, and for the rest of their lives.

The Secret Foster Carer


  1. As a fellow Foster Carer, I find this blog entry insulting and patronising, not only to our profession, but to all those actively involved with the education of children and young people in care. It is a shame that you have had a bad experience, however, I would urge you to consider what you are trying to achieve by writing your blogs before publishing such cynical opinions about the support available to our children and young people. Your intro states that you hope your blogs will be interesting, useful and supportive to other foster carers and those who are thinking about fostering. I doubt very much that this latest blog will have achieved that. Perhaps your fostering agency will be able to step in and offer you more practical support.

    1. The Secret Foster CarerMonday, May 20, 2013

      Rebtom, thanks you for your comments. Okay you have a beef, but I'm not sure with what exactly. The bit about the vast majority of teachers being hugely sympathetic? or the point that that most Head teachers hope they can help the child?
      Or the fact Heads are forced to spend their days shaping up spreadsheets instead of shaping up their pupils?
      Read it again, and by all means get back to me with some specific points, unless you just wanted to sound off, which is cool, most foster carers need to do that every once in a while!

    2. The Secret Foster CarerMonday, May 20, 2013

      Will the "Andrew C" who was kind enough to post a lengthy response to above be kind enough to re-post, removing personal information about himself which would identify himself to foster children and his colleagues.

  2. Hi.

    Its me again, the Annonymous carer as above. My child officially has no school now for September. The primary school are 'hanging onto him' until the end of term. Their words not mine!

    They won't take him on their traditional end of school residential trip, but will pay for both of us to go anywhere except where they are!! They haven't told him they're not taking him yet and they go in 4 weeks!

    My manager (I work in Adult Social Care) and my GP want me to go back to my part time job and although I do feel better after 7 weeks off, I'm wondering how I will cope with everything that is going off at the moment. I can only try. I have considered giving up my job, but I can't rely on my fostering allowance for my income. The lack of security for foster carers is another talking point.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this blog. I really enjoy them.

    1. The Secret Foster CarerMonday, May 20, 2013

      Anonymous, I'm so sorry to hear where you've ended up with your child, it sounds utterly horrendous. The bit about the residential trip, I called over to my partner and read it out, I mean how's that going to affect a young person?
      Are you okay? Do you have a pair of ears who'll listen and keep topping up your tumbler?
      I wish i knew more, about your work, your health, this child and the child's issues. If you get a moment, and feel like it, please share some more, remembering to keep details anonymous so no-one will know who anyone is.
      I've been struggling for words to help you appreciate how much you are appreciated.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. The Secret Foster CarerSunday, June 02, 2013

    Gerty, thanks for your comments. I think you're right; some of the information you gave about your placement may render you and the child identifiable. It does sound like you've got a very challenging situation, since you included your email address I'll contact you directly.

  5. I am a teacher at a secondary school and a new foster carer. I know what we have set up at my school and thought that it was the same at all schools ( I have now found out it's not sl be aware!)
    Be aware that the pupil preimum is going up to £900 per child per year as from Sept 2013. The school is answerable to OFSTED about how this is spent. ASK for a list of how this has been spent on your foster child in your school. It may will be spent on paying someone to keep the library open after school ( I think this is good because some house don't have computers of the resources to help with homework) or extra learning assistants, but things like helping to pay for school trips ( even a little) if they are doing GCSE Hoistory or Geography for example should also be mentioned.
    When OFSTED visit, the pupils on pupil preimum (they used to be free school meal children, children that had received free school meals in the last 6 years (forever 6) and looked ofter children (LAC)) will be looked into and their results will be looked at to see if enough progress has been made.
    Let it be known that you know this and you would be willing to be interviewed by the OFSTED inspectors (if the school has been good), if not, ask for the OFSTED address as you are not happy with what the school is doing as you wish to write to them! Your letter might well trigger an early OFSTED visit, which of course the school doesn't want!!

  6. Secret Foster CarerFriday, August 09, 2013

    Thanks for that. And welcome to the fold.
    Very useful background information, I find myself wondering how schools do actually spend the money.
    Mostly I wonder what they could actually spend it on that would make a difference. Fostered children's needs are mostly subtle, if they have good teachers most problems can be sorted. I can't imagine a carer has presented a school with a shopping list of things to buy, or specialists to hire.
    The school will participate in meetings about the child, which will be an invisible cost, but one they can maybe put down on a balance sheet. Thing is, fostered children usually don't want to be seen as different.
    It's tricky, but you're advice about leverage and OFSTED is useful. Thanks.