Being a good teacher for a child in care is only partly about academic results. It's also about being aware of a child's situation and dealing with it sensitively.
'School enabled me to be as normal as my peers and feel that I could achieve as much as them, if not more.'
Care leaver, now studying for an MA.
'I hate it when my schoolfriends dig deeper and ask questions because it isn't any of their business and it gets on my nerves.' Schoolgirl in care
It can help a child enormously when their teachers take their situation into account. As one teacher comments:
‘When a child first goes into care, they will be finding the experience of living with the new family traumatic. They may have been involved in a lot of trauma which led to them going into care. When you’re a classroom teacher with thirty kids it’s hard to remember that. But it can be, and often is, at the root of a lot of different behaviour and can be a huge block to that young person learning. You have to engage them in a way that’ll help them move through the difficulties they are facing.'
Some lessons may be particularly painful for a child. Citizenship classes where children learn about families and relationships are an obvious area. For some sex education or physical education may be ordeals if there has been sexual abuse. Others may simply find festive celebrations like Christmas, which tend to centre on the family, hard to handle. Obviously children in care should participate in all these lessons, but teachers should find a way to teach that doesn't leave a cared-for child feeling exposed and singled out.
Another issue is bullying - or just unwelcome curiosity from other children in the school. Helping a child to plan what they want to tell their peer group can make a difference.
There's increasing support for teachers of cared-for children, including the new virtual headteacher scheme which offers an expert sounding board to teachers who are less familiar with care issues.