Education minister celebrates Fostering Achievement in Northern Ireland


The Fostering Network in Northern Ireland, and education minister John O’Dowd MLA, were joined by over 120 foster carers, social workers and young people, in celebrating the achievements of over 40 young people at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum on Saturday 10 October.

The Fostering Achievement Awards, held in conjunction with the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust will recognise the award winners’ academic, personal development and sporting achievements throughout the past year. 

Fostering Achievement is a unique programme of activity that works will all five statutory health trusts in Northern Ireland. It is publicly funded and delivered on behalf of the Health and Social Care Board and the Department of Education for Northern Ireland by The Fostering Network to provide bespoke educational support and resources to looked-after-children living in foster care. The scheme also offers all foster carers additional tailored support to improve the educational outcomes for our most vulnerable group of children.

Children in receipt of one to one tuition provided by the Fostering Achievement programme are showing impressive progress towards attaining much improved educational outcomes. The Fostering Network’s most recent figures (2012/13) show that 50 per cent of  those receiving tuition gained 5 or more GCSEs in grades A* - C, compared to 27 per cent of all looked after children taking these exams.

Amy McCullough, 17, an aspiring artist who is receiving an award, said: "From a young age I found comfort in creating art, filling notebooks with my own comics and characters. I went on to devote my time studying art at school and in my own time, and when I began to move towards a more professional level The Fostering Network helped me obtain the equipment I needed to take the next step with my art. I've gone on to sell my art around the world and at comic conventions, getting published in magazines and featured on art websites. In the past year I've achieved an A* in my AS Level Art and plan to do the same in my final year of coursework, but this time even better!"

The Fostering Achievement Scheme has supported Amy to develop her talent through providing a wide range of art resources, ranging from books on art and manga drawing to sketchbooks, paints, pencils and specialist pens. Amy has produced an extensive range of artwork and has sent a commission as far away as Canada.  She also exhibited at the MCM Comic Con alongside other artists in Belfast earlier this year and has been featured in an article called, ‘The Best in Western Talent’ in the art magazine NEO. Amy hopes to further her study in art and illustration at University.  

Amy’s foster carer, Bet from Annalong, said “Amy came to live with me when she was four, and showed a keen interest in art from a young age. Fostering Achievement really helped me to support Amy as she grew as an artist and young person. Fostering Achievement offered brilliant support and provided some of the equipment that was necessary to help Amy with her art work and receive 99 per cent in her AS level art exam.”

Kathleen Toner, director of The Fostering Network in Northern Ireland, said: “We are increasingly aware of the importance of the Fostering Achievement programme in supporting the aspirations of children and young people in foster care. Working with foster and kinship carers as primary educators is key to our success as are the close partnerships with education and health which  enable us to provide very practical and individual support to more than 1300 children each year. We are particularly delighted to welcome the Education Minister to the awards today as he can see for himself to see the hugely positive educational outcomes that are being achieved.  Education in its broadest sense is crucial to providing young people with the skills and knowledge they need to make choices to reach their full potential, we are very proud of the part we play in that.”

Education Minister John O’Dowd, who will be attending the awards, said: “A good education is what I want for every child, regardless of their background. This is why I have put policies in place to ensure that all children are supported to achieve their full potential. Many of the young people who have availed of the support of The Fostering Network have shown their capacity for academic achievement, sporting and other activities as well as personal development.  

“I congratulate each of you and your foster carers for your achievements.  These awards today show that no matter what circumstances a young person faces, through support and determination they can progress to achieve their dreams.”

Brendan Whittle, Director of Children’s Services and Executive Director of Social Work at the South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust, said “The South Eastern HSC Trust is delighted to partner The Fostering Network in acknowledging the achievements of children and young people in our care.  It’s vital that children in foster care have the support, encouragement and opportunity to reach their full potential.  They need support from their schools, time and patience from their foster carers and individually tailored help provided by Fostering Achievement such as tutoring or equipment, and the Trust welcomes this support.  The Trust is also developing a volunteer tutoring initiative to further supplement support for children and foster carers.” 

Find out more about Fostering Achievement on the website.