A new national award has recognised 15 schools across the country for their work with young carers. Hundreds more schools are expected to receive awards this summer.
Launched today following a successful pilot phase, the Young Carers in Schools programme offers schools step-by-step guidance, practical tools and training opportunities to support pupils and students who have caring responsibilities. Schools are assessed and can be awarded a bronze, silver or gold award to recognise their work with young carers.
Led by Carers Trust and The Children’s Society's Young Carers in Focus partnership, and funded by The Queen’s Trust and Big Lottery Fund, Young Carers in Schools has been developed with teachers and school staff to make it as easy as possible for schools to support young carers and reward good practice.
Roland Marsh, Head Teacher of Applemore College in Hampshire which received a Silver Award, says: “We are delighted to have won a silver award for our work with young carer students. We want all our students to participate fully, including those with caring responsibilities. The Young Carers in Schools programme has been an insightful process, helping us to understand the signs that a student may be a young carer, and identify the support that might be appropriate.”
Young carers are responsible for emotional, practical or physical care for a parent, sibling or other family member who has a physical disability, mental health issue or substance misuse problems. The 2011 Census statistics revealed that there are just over 166,000 young carers in England, but research reveals that this is just the tip of the iceberg. The true figure could be closer to 700,000 young carers in England, equivalent to one in 12 school children many of whom are unrecognised and unsupported.
Recent research carried out by Carers Trust and The Children's Society shows that, on average, young carers miss or cut short 48 school days a year and often have lower levels of self-confidence, mental wellbeing and significantly lower educational attainment at GCSE level, because of their caring role. Ofsted's School Inspection Handbook describes young carers as a particularly vulnerable group of pupils that schools should support. While some schools are doing this really well, others struggle and this causes real problems for young carers.
Matthew, 17, a young carer from Sheffield, points out the desperate need for the new programme: “I’d like the educational system to be more supportive of young carers. Once, I tried to ring my mum and the teacher took my phone… they don’t get it.”
To help schools help young carers, the programme offers a step-by-step guide for leaders, teachers and non-teaching staff, with practical tools designed to make it as easy as possible for schools. Staff can also receive training and participate in peer-to-peer learning through expert regional networks – bringing together schools, young carers services, and health and social care professionals. The programme will also feature a newsletter each term highlighting relevant policy developments, spotlighting good practice and giving updates on the programme’s successes.
The programme is open to all schools in England and to sign up, schools just need to register at https://youngcarersinschools.wordpress.com/
Gail Scott-Spicer, Chief Executive of Carers Trust, says: “We are delighted to be able to honour these schools, who have done so much to help the young carers they have.
“Schools play a vital role in a young carer’s life, but many care for relatives without their teachers even knowing what they do. On average young carers will miss half a day of school each fortnight as a result of their caring role, so the steps schools take to identify and support them can have a huge impact on their learning, wellbeing and life chances.”
Jenny Frank, young carer programme director at The Children’s Society, is confident that the Young Carers in Schools programme will bring about national change. ”This is a giant leap forward in the way schools can make sure no child misses out on an education because they are a carer. Importantly, we are not just telling schools to improve, we are giving them a clear set of steps to help them improve their support systems, and then recognising the work they do with young carers.”
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