In this blog Susan Soar from our Fostering Potential programme looks at some ways in which foster carers can support children’s learning during the current coronavirus outbreak.
The recent coronavirus outbreak has led to the closure of schools and early years settings across the United Kingdom. This is a huge change in daily life for many thousands of children and young people, who may also be affected by the cancellation of public examinations this summer. Schools in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have been asked to make ongoing provision for vulnerable children, including those with a social worker. However, the implementation of this provision may vary at a local level. If school provision has not been made available to you, or you feel that this provision is not appropriate for your fostered child or young person, please contact your school, virtual school (in England) or fostering service as soon as you can.
If you are not able to access face-to-face school provision or your fostered child needs to self-isolate then the following information may be helpful. This blog aims to suggest ways in which you can continue to support the education of your fostered child or young person if they need to spend time at home.
Your first step is to find out if your fostered child’s school is providing learning materials or online support for learning during the closure period. This might be in the form of learning packs, web-based materials or online learning sessions. We recommend that you follow the school programme where available, as this will enable your fostered child or young person to learn alongside their peers. If this content is not appropriate for your child or young person, contact your school or virtual school (in England) as soon as possible. We have also provided some guidance for supporting learning at home below.
Early years and pre-school
Children in the early years and pre-school age range can be supported by informal learning activities at home. These should include:
- plenty of talk and interaction with adults
- reading together and sharing books every day
- opportunities for writing and drawing using paper, pens, pencils and colours
- counting and using numbers to add, subtract, count in groups or share out objects
- opportunities for independent and child-led play.
You can support children’s learning through engaging in playful activities together, for example setting up a pretend shop would involve writing labels, counting objects, using money and lots of interaction. Try to follow young children’s interests: if they want to write about their favourite toy character or compile a list of the world’s best footballers, go with that plan! Remember that young children do not need to sit at a table for long periods in order to learn at home: vital learning happens through play so it is important to balance any formal learning with opportunities for independent and imaginative activities.
You will find guidance on learning throughout the primary years on our newly updated webpages on supporting reading, writing and mathematics, including links to subject-specific resources.
Your school website should have links to online support materials. If not, we have suggested some sites covering a broad range of ages and needs:
- National Numeracy: the Family Maths Toolkit offers links to a wide range of numeracy based activities for children.
- Oxford University Press: Oxford Owl is an education website covering subjects in the primary age range, including a useful jargon buster of educational terminology.
- Khan Academy: this site provides instructional videos for all ages and stages of mathematics.
- Booktrust: a national charity providing resources and support to help children develop a love of reading. Booktrust publishes lists of recommended books by age and books by theme. See also their children's book finder for new book suggestions.
- National Literacy Trust: a new Family Zone site has been launched in response to the coronavirus outbreak, with literacy activities organised by age-range.
Secondary age range
At secondary age your fostered child or young person may be developing independent study skills, but you can still support them by helping them to stick to a routine, avoid distractions and consolidate their learning. See our web page on powerful ways that all foster carers can support children's learning. The following websites may also be helpful:
- Khan Academy: this site provides instructional videos for mathematics and other subjects at secondary level.
- National Numeracy: Children aged 14+ and adults can use the Maths Challenge materials to support adult numeracy.
- BBC Bitesize: website offering support for all areas of learning across the secondary curriculum.
- Big History Project: cross-curricular USA website about the history of the universe, aimed at secondary age pupils. Futurelearn: this website offers hundreds of short free courses to learners aged 14+. You may need to pay to upgrade services or get a certificate.
Some of these links may also be of interest to young people who have been affected by the cancellation of public examinations.
Careers and vocational planning
Although we are in a period of uncertainty, time away from school could also be a good opportunity for children and young people to think about their plans and aspirations for the future. Encourage children and young people to research 16+ provision, apprenticeships and options for higher education. Some useful links include:
- National Careers Service: provides information on choices in careers, training and work.
- UCAS: provides information on opportunities for higher education and apprenticeships.
- Become: the Propel website offers information on the support and assistance available to care-experienced students in higher education.
Keep in contact with school
During this period make sure that there are no barriers to communication with your fostered child’s school: check that the school has your up-to-date contact details and that you have subscribed to any email or text alerts. These forms of communication may still be used, even if school is closed to most pupils. Check your child or young person’s account for any online learning system and make sure that they know their passwords. Contact school if they experience any problems logging in or accessing material.
We would like you to remember that you are not alone, even in these difficult times. Make contact with other foster carers and families in your local area and use our online community, as someone else may have already solved a problem and be only too happy to help. Stay in touch with your fostering service and contact your school or virtual school (England) for specific educational support.
For further help and advice for fostering please get in touch with our helplines around the UK.