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School and education

As a foster or kinship carer you play a crucial role in supporting children and young people in your care to participate and achieve the best outcomes at school.

Learning and support planning

When a child or young person enters out-of-home care (OOHC), their caseworker will tell the Department of Education and School Principal that they are in care. The school will then start the personalised learning and support planning process (formerly Education planning).

1. Identifying the child or young person’s individual needs

  • The School Principal, your caseworker, you, the student (if appropriate) and any other relevant professionals will work together to identify the child or young person’s individual learning and support needs.
  • A holistic assessment of learning and support needs is informed by analysis of data. Information from the child or young person’s Health Management Plan (where available), previous school records, as well as any previous education planning documentation will be used.

2. Developing personalised learning and support planning

  • A number of supports based on the assessed needs of the student will be developed. The supports will be documented in teacher’s plans, records of educational and social-emotional interventions for the student, plans for individual student learning, communication, behaviour, health care and transition and learning materials (if applicable).
  • The caseworker will save this documentation in place of the former Education Plan.

3. Monitoring the impact of learning and support planning

  • Supports for a student are regularly monitored, reviewed at least annually and adapted and changed where needed, to continue to meet the assessed needs of the student. Monitoring and review will be informed by student progress data, meeting records, data specific to behaviour, health care, communication, attendance and learning achievement.
  • The school will consult and work collaboratively with caseworkers, carers and students (if appropriate) to identify and respond to addition learning and support needs. This includes collaborative planning between teachers, support staff and specialist staff within and outside education where needed.

What is your role with the student’s education?

You can support the education of the child or young person in your care by:

  • telling the school and your caseworker about any issues which may impact on the child or young person’s ability to learn
  • participating in learning and support planning.
  • asking your caseworker or school for help to make sure the supports in the learning and support planning are implemented and actions are completed
  • being involved in the school community and getting to know your child or young person’s teachers and friends
  • attending parent-teacher meetings which provide a great opportunity to talk about progress
  • making sure learning and support planning documentation, school reports and any other relevant education records are provided to new carers or parents if a student moves placement or returns home.

You can also encourage the child to:

  • participate in learning and support planning
  • participate in activities which support their learning and connection to the school community
  • complete their homework and talk about what they enjoy at school and what they are having trouble with
  • understand that completing school and going to university or TAFE will give them their best possible chance of success in life

Helping children and young people reach their potential at school

Foster carers play an important role in supporting children and young people at school. Educational outcomes for children and young people in care are consistently poorer than their peers in the general population. They include:

  • poorer literacy and numeracy skills
  • higher numbers of children and young people repeating a grade at school (10–30% of children and young people in out-of-home care in NSW)
  • higher incidences of learning difficulties, behavioural problems and intellectual disabilities
  • higher numbers of young people leaving school at an early age.

Children and young people in care often come from backgrounds where education is not a priority. They may suffer from poor self-esteem and have gaps in their learning because they have missed school or had a number of school changes. As a result they may have difficulty settling into school.

Involving children in learning from a young age is vital for them to have the best start in life. High quality preschool programs give children the opportunity to learn problem-solving, communication and social skills that they need for future educational success when they start school.

In 2008, public schools introduced the Best Start test in kindergarten and the National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy with tests in years 3, 5, 7 and 9. Schools will give the child’s test results to their parents or carers.

Why education is important

Attendance at preschools through to year 12 and beyond gives children and young people greater employment opportunities and a broader set of social skills. Apart from intellectual stimulation, children benefit from education in a number of ways. They learn:

  • how to build relationships and become part of a community
  • how to work together with their classmates to achieve goals
  • 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.

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
  • giving them a regular structured time and a place for homework
  • providing opportunities for the child to study with their friends
  • showing interest in what they do
  • balancing homework with recreation, play and sporting activities
  • acknowledging and giving praise for achievements, big and small
  • taking them on trips that link to school work, for example, museums and art galleries – many of which are free

What carers can do at school

Carers can support children at school by getting involved in the school and being familiar with the staff.

Carers can also:

  • talk with the school and make sure the child gets the educational or social support they need
  • attend parent–teacher meetings which are an opportunity to talk about how the child or young person is progressing
  • discuss with the caseworker the child’s education history, what support they have had in the past, current concerns and types of support the child may need.

If you have concerns about a child or young person’s educational progress, contact your caseworker.

Useful websites

Information on the support available to a child in a state school can be found on the Department of Education website.

There is also more information about supporting education of children and young people in care in the Education and Training section of the Caring for kids website.

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Last updated: 21 Aug 2020