The responsibilities of being a foster carer are vast and wide. The overarching aim is to improve quality of life and outcomes for children in care. At the forefront of your mind as a foster carer, you know you are supposed to promote the education of the child in your care. This education objective is clearly stated in the TSD (training, support, development) standards. But what does this mean in practice?
How do you support a child with literacy and maths? How do you get a child to attend school who is a serial school refuser? How do you help them with their homework while helping them become independent learners too? How do you raise their aspirations so they feel university is an opportunity available to them? We will consider each of these key questions you face as a foster carer over the next few weeks.
As a foster carer many of the children you care for may have struggled in education. The trauma they experienced may mean that they were unable to fulfil their potential. This can have a significant impact on your ability to improve outcomes for children in your care. With the right emotional and intellectual support. These limited past achievements should not be an indicator of future potential for the child(ren) in your care. As foster carers, we need to encourage children to aim high, and to overcome the very real challenges they face and support them to achieve above their expectations. A child who has experienced trauma, criticism and anxiety may be fearful about making mistakes. They don’t believe they can do well and they are reluctant to risk trying when faced with new things and when tasks appear to them to be difficult.
Reading and literacy are inextricably linked. Reading can be shared and enjoyed together.
There are many ways you can help support your child to achieve at school and this week we will look at literacy.
For younger children you need to include reading as part of daily life. Have a collection of books at home and spend a little time each day reading stories. Try to go to story reading sessions at the library and visit to choose books together. Don’t feel the need to correct every word; it is ok to make mistakes but ensure they understand what they are reading by asking them questions.
Children who have been maltreated maybe unwilling to attempt difficult tasks choosing not to try as they resist further attacks on their self-esteem. Communication with the class teacher is key to encourage a child to develop a love of reading. One specialist advises using the ‘five point’ test if you think a book is too hard for your child. Note every time the child gets stuck on a page. If, by the end of the page, they have been stuck five times – the book is too hard.
Try to ensure that the atmosphere is calm and relaxed, making the reading time special time with your child. Sitting close will help the child feel secure and show you are giving them your undivided attention.
Talk about the book and look at the pictures together, remember what has happened so far in the story and then take it in turns to read. You can bring out the characters and move the story on so that your child doesn’t lose interest.
When you come across a new word, help the child sound it out and make sure they understand what it means. Give lots of positive praise and show enthusiasm for the story. Praise effort as well as achievement. All of this approach will contribute to achieving improved outcomes for children in care.
If for some reason reading time isn’t working one evening then don’t force it, bring the storytime to a close and try again later. The reading time should be relaxed and enjoyable not a chore to be endured for either of you!
As children reach teenage years you should still expect them to be reading, ask them to tell you about the book they are reading and discuss what you have recently read. Ask questions such as ‘Which is your favourite character?’ and ‘What would you have done in that situation’. Another option is to encourage them to read the book of a film they enjoyed.
Next week we will look at ideas to help with numeracy but we would be interested in hearing about your top tips to encourage reading at home. Access to education has always been a pathway to social and cultural progress. As a foster carer, by ensuring your child(ren) can exploit educational opportunities to the fullest, you will be paving the way for better outcomes for children in care in society.
Please feel free to contact us and/or comment on our article or tweet us @aceducationuk with your own thoughts and ideas, your successes and challenges. We look forward to hearing from you.