Educating Children and Young People in Care
Claire Cameron, Graham Connelly and Sonia Jackson, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2015, paperback, 256 pages, £25.00, ISBN 13 9781849053655
Nicola Hill, foster carer
This book argues that foster homes should be educational in the widest sense and that schools should be caring. It is a useful guide to how this can be achieved, providing statistical evidence, case studies and practical support for foster carers, social workers and teaching staff.
The three authors argue that social pedagogy has much to offer. They assert that the everyday environment is just as important as academic spaces as a place for learning.
To create a learning environment at home, the book recommends helping with homework and reading bedtime stories. Extra-curricular activities are also important; studies have shown they reduce the likelihood of dropping out of school or turning to crime. Finding time to play with your child every day is encouraged as well as singing, playing music and spending time together outdoors.
The importance of early years education is emphasised. The first two years of life are a period of rapid brain development which provides the basis for later learning. The
authors suggest that children under two should not watch TV at all and screen time should be limited beyond this age. Studies show that school attainment is inversely related to time spent playing video games.
The authors criticise the education system in the UK, saying teachers are required to focus too much on delivering a set curriculum to meet targets. Statistics show gaps in levels of attainment for children in care compared with peers, reaching as high as 43 per cent by age 16. Reading recovery, mentoring and nurture groups are among suggestions to reduce this.
It is important for pupils to feel valued for their contributions and that the school cares about their wellbeing. When mainstream schooling doesn’t work, teachers need to understand the effect of trauma on learning.
A whole chapter is dedicated to going to university. It advises having conversations from primary school age onwards about the possibility and having a pathway plan from year nine setting out how this might be realised.
The book concludes with a call for a different strategic approach which views care and education as inseparable and integrates concepts and practices. Overall, the book is informative and thought-provoking. It is a useful reminder of the importance of educating children in the widest sense, both at home and at school.
It ends with sound advice: ‘Providing stability, relationships characterised by commitment and emotional warmth, high expectations and ‘being alongside’ young people, can make a world of difference to their ability to make the most of their lives as they grow up.’