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Teachers who care: How to help teachers and schools support looked after children

Teachers Who Care reports on our findings from a survey of teachers about their experiences teaching children in care. We asked them about training they’ve received, their experiences in the classroom, and their perspectives on their colleagues and their school overall. This follows on from our 2017 research report Perceptions of Care, which asked young people how they felt society, including teachers, perceived children in care and care leavers.

In our research, we found many disparities among teachers’ experiences. Some received good quality training in this area before they qualified, but the majority did not. They meet their students and feel unprepared to fully support those who are looked after, whether that is through meeting the statutory requirements of the Personal Education Plan and working with the Virtual School, or through understanding the experiences of these students by having a good level of knowledge about the care system and children’s services. Without this background, teachers are struggling to meet the needs of some of their most vulnerable students and find themselves rushing to catch up.

We also found that harmful generalisations about children in care are heard far too often in schools. This confirms the fears of the young people we spoke to in Perceptions of Care, who were concerned that teachers don’t understand what life in care is like, and the impact that can have on their education.

Getting the right support from their teachers can make a big difference to children in care. For teachers to provide this support, they need to be well supported themselves, with the right training, good contact with children’s services, and a supportive school environment where everyone understands best practice for meeting the education and pastoral needs of the children in care in their school.

In this report, we recommend that more training, more communication, and more sharing of resources and knowledge can go a long way to giving teachers the tools they need to give all of their students the best possible opportunity to reach their goals in school and beyond.