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As adults, we know that our school days have a huge impact on the rest of our lives, and children in care are no different. In fact, for fostered children and young people, experiences at school are likely to have an even greater impact on their sense of identity and self-esteem.
School is so much more than an opportunity for children to gain formal qualifications.
Doing well at school can lead to improved confidence and self-esteem, lower levels of stress, greater resilience, less risk-taking behaviour, more engagement in society, and more chances to develop positive, supportive relationships. If our school lives are progressing well, the rest of our life experiences improve, contributing to a more positive cycle of behaviour which will impact positively on our experiences of school. And if school experiences are positive, educational achievements and attainment are likely to be higher. A combination of positive experiences and educational achievements build resilience to cope with other parts of life.
Being happy at school produces better behaviour and adjustment in all children, and for looked after children this can help to prevent placement breakdown and may improve life chances.
Unfortunately, it is not unusual for looked after children to have some problems in the school setting. Abuse, loss and trauma may all contribute to discrimination and feelings of stigma with peers sometimes seeing them as “different.” They may have to cope with a change of school at short notice, have to get to know new teachers and friends whilst missing their old ones, and may be worried about how to explain their circumstances to friends and their well-meaning parents. They may also have to work harder to catch up on learning, which can be demotivating and demoralising.
Foster parent are fundamental to a child’s progress in school. There is so much that foster parents can do to help make school a positive experience for children, for example, attending parents’ evenings, supporting them with homework and encouraging friendships, including play dates sleep overs. Providing children with opportunities to take part in enjoyable school and extra-curricular activities means their self-esteem and resilience can be greatly enhanced, which in turn can help them grow into well-adjusted young people, who may in time be better equipped to support their own children at school.
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