Poor school attendance can often lead to children and young people failing to take advantage of opportunities in later life.
About the issue
It is a legal requirement for children and young people to attend school regularly and punctually. Time out of the classroom may mean missing important lessons. The first ten minutes of a class would usually cover the introduction to an activity, and once missed may disrupt the rest of the child’s schedule.
Truancy can have a negative impact on a child and/or young person’s future. Truancy matters because:
- Children and young people who skip school don’t do as well on tests, assessments, and exams.
- If the child or young person does not turn up for lessons, their missed sessions can add up and have a strong negative impact on their achievement and/or attainment records throughout their time at school.
- Being out of school during school hours gives the child or young person time to kill – and research has shown that this can lead to criminal or anti-social behaviour.
- Missing lessons can result in children and young people failing to develop the necessary skills, which they later rely on in adulthood such as learning multiplication in mathematics.
- Children and young people miss out on opportunities, which aid their personal and social development.
A foster carer’s role and responsibility
As a foster carer, it is your responsibility to make sure the child or young person you foster attends school regularly, and if they do not, to ensure that they get the support they need. If the truancy is regular, a meeting should be called at once between the foster carer, social worker, and school, with the possible involvement of the education welfare officer, to discuss possible causes and prevention.
The important factor here is to retain documented evidence that you, as a foster carer, have actively sought to address the issue and have attempted to work positively with other professionals.
Truancy is more likely to happen in secondary schools, but even young children can feign illness to avoid going to school.
A pattern of missing school can develop for a number of reasons, including anxiety with settling in, bullying, stress around school work, and unhappiness about the family situation.
What to do if a child or young person is missing school
There are several things you can do to support a child or young person avoiding school.
- Get to know their school week and the lessons/teachers they feel most comfortable with, and those they do not.
- Look for patterns in times they are trying to avoid school.
- Are they doing homework? Missing a deadline can cause a child or young person to feel anxious and this can lead to deliberately skipping a lesson. They may be avoiding a particular teacher or subject. Talk to them regularly and ask about lessons they don’t like and why. Make as many positive links with the school as possible and check your foster child’s school routine regularly. Maybe they are not doing homework and want to avoid confrontation? Or they are self-conscious in PE?
- It could also be an issue in the streets or on the bus. Bullying, for instance. They may need to change the route, get a lift, or arrange to meet friends to travel with.
If you do find that your foster child has truanted, then make sure you, and your child, understand why.
If a child is anxious, then they may need support in analysing the root cause of the problem, otherwise, it can turn into ‘everything’ and ‘I just hate school.’
It is important that you work with the school to find out what support is available. It may be that mentoring is a possibility, or the school runs a buddy scheme, which could really help your foster child work through their concerns or problems.
A good school will be really keen to address issues and to ensure that all students are attending regularly and making sustained progress.
How we can help foster carers
The Fostering Network offers advice, information, and support. Our expertise and knowledge are always up to date and available through our vital member helplines, publications, training, and consultancy.
Our member helplines provide confidential, independent and impartial advice for foster carers in the UK.
The Fostering Network can provide an in-house training course on health, tailored to meet your service’s needs. Contact our training team for more information.
The Fostering Network’s Guide to Education in Wales
The Fostering Network, in conjunction with the Welsh Government, has launched A Foster Carer's Guide to Education in Wales. This free guide will help foster carers better understand how the education system works in Wales so that they are better equipped to support the children and young people in their care. bit.ly/FCGEinWales
Making it Happen
The aim of this magazine is to inspire foster carers to help fostered children and young people in their care raise their ambitions and fulfil their potential in education. It also supports foster carers in consulting, challenging and collaborating with schools as an integral part of the team around the child. bit.ly/MakingItHappenEnglish
This magazine aims to help foster carers understand more about the challenges that fostered children face at school. More importantly, however, it gives foster carers practical ideas for steps to take to help children in care aim high and fulfil their potential. bit.ly/GreaterExpectationsEnglish
Guide to the Education of Looked After Children in England
The Fostering Network has produced a Guide to the Education of Looked After Children in England as part of our All You Need to Know series, to help foster carers do all they can to help children and young people succeed. It covers the following areas:
- the role of the foster carer in education
- early years provision
- the role of the designated teacher and virtual school head
- Personal Education Plans
and much more.
You can purchase our Guide to the Education of Looked After Children, England online.
The guide is available to members of The Fostering Network for the discounted price of £12.50 or digitally for £4.99.
Our online community
Our members also have exclusive access to our online community where you can log in to share your experience and get advice from other foster carers. The community is a safe and secure area to discuss topics including being a foster carer and looking after a child, as well as advice on finances.