Thursday, July 14, 2016


The school play, bit of a drag. Nativity, end-of-school show,concert, or straightforward school play.

They're always  about  30% too long, and your child never gets a big enough part, never mind the issues they throw up for foster parents.

If you're a child in care you want your real parents there in the audience so that the universe is in alignment. Unfortunately their real parents probably never attended the plays or weren't very supportive if they did.

So they're stuck with two adult strangers who have to make sure that nobody is allowed to take photographs.

The majority of children - well, okay, about 52% - have a nice twinset of parents waving and winking and the 48% look out across the darkened hall and see broken marriages, absent parents or substitute parents.

That's us foster carers;  the substitute parents.

There's nothing for it but to go along and keep smiling and clapping.

Often it's just yet another occasion for children in care to remember they aren't up to much.

We had one foster child, he was selected for the school choir. Brilliant. Then it turned out the teacher won a cup once for her school choir, about 1957 by the sounds of it. The teacher wanted those days back, so instead of the choir being a chance to sing your socks off and enjoy it was all about getting tuned up for competition. They were barked at, cajoled and coached for their lives. They entered three in the time my child was in the choir, and came last in each.


Flipping last. 

The child had an episode on getting home after the first of the competitions and it was triggered by the expectation, the stress, then the humiliation and the re-awakening of the verdict on him: useless. 

Child stopped singing, even in the shower.

As for the school play, foster children never get a good part. Oh, they get on stage sometimes as there's a PC  requirement in Primary schools for nobody to get left out. But every play has its stars and its token spear carriers. The last school play I went to, the Head stood up afterwards and asked for a special round of applause for the six stars. My child, stood at the back, who had about three lines, was overlooked. Again.

Anyway, I found out the very next day that the child who was the star of the play was being bullied by other pupils in the playground. My foster child was indignant about this and led a delegation of fellow pupils to the Head teacher no less, to alert the staff to what was going on.

This act of caring for another child, one who my foster child could just as easily have resented like the rest of the class, gave me huge hope for the child's future.

I was more proud of the child for sticking up for a victim than if the child had joined the Royal Shakespeare or got to Broadway.


  1. ARGH!! The photo/video thing – its so difficult in this age of social media and with everyone having a camera on their phone. We recently fell afoul as we’d ticked on her club application forms that the child couldn’t be photographed or filmed for marketing, promotional or external use – this meant that for the first time in the history of the group their show was not filmed and turned into DVDs for sale to the parents. A serious loss of revenue to the group and denied us all a film of a terrific performance by the young people. I was genuinely gutted when I heard this, it’s a small group and I know most of the parents, I’d trust them not to share it inappropriately. All we’d hoped to avoid was the child’s picture being on social media or plastered over promotional posters. Luckily the parents were all understanding about it, and the kids actually said they didn’t mind, they felt being filmed would have been even more pressure.

    Our kids are atypical in respect to school and attend loads of clubs, so we’ve had lots to celebrate in the last few weeks, but I can appreciate how hard it must be for some children, and their foster parents. One of the big things I do like about the awards nights I’ve been to recently is how much the focus has changed from only winners and top results. They all had paired awards - one for achievement and one for effort/attitude, there were also awards for improvements in both attitude and performance, for social engagement, charity work and community service –something even non-academic kids could win.

    One we attended had an award that was for overcoming adversity, it went to a child who had been battling a serious illness but had still tried to do their best at school, and was very well deserved. I did think – if you knew the truth of it, you’d be giving that award to almost every LAC and quite a few other kids – but then, as you say, the ceremonies are more than long enough already!

    1. I'd never defy a straight edict from on high, that's not worth it. But in the case of photographs and videos we can always go back and ask citing specific safety factors.
      I think staff are relieved that the children don't go out on stage facing a barrage of phones with their recording light on, instead of
      family faces. It did Kate Bush's head in if I remember rightly.

  2. Actually – I have a friend who is hoping to revive and revise their school award night.

    They are doing all the usual awards but I was thinking about other more inclusive ones, like the most improved/best effort ones but better.
    I’d love to pass on some suggestions, if you (or any readers) have any? I suspect we could turn this into a whole post!

    I was thinking:
    • Overcoming adversity is a good one - obviously they aren’t called that but the aim would be clear.
    • Child Carer award – recognition for the child/young people who have big commitments outside of school.
    • Keeping Calm Award – for the child that didn’t panic in an emergency – could also go to a child who is mastering their own temper.
    • Exceeding their own expectations – for overcoming their own fears/limits.
    • Role model / Inspiration / mentor award – again could be a popularity contest but could go to a child who has been example to others in difficult situations.

    Any other ideas?

  3. Love this idea. I tend to favour words like "Champion" and "Top". "Courage" is good too.
    I know you've thought of this, but what about the ones who don't get an award? Maybe everyone does; a certificate with a commendation that describes a genuine achievement, which they receive briskly on stage. That could be followed by the big awards; a certificate and a trinket. Ooo and they get to do an acceptance speech on the microphone at a lectern!