A teacher said to me last week that we (in education) seem to have to play, more and more, the role of parents as well as educators. I had to point out to this person that that is exactly what we have to do – especially for some of the most vulnerable children in our communities.
One of the duties I have as Head of Education is to ensure that we meet the educational needs of Looked After and Acccommodated Children. The duties are set out in Through care and after care
1.1 Local authorities have a duty to prepare young people for ceasing to be looked after (“throughcare”) and to provide advice, guidance and assistance for young people who have ceased to be looked after over school age (“aftercare”).
There are around 11,000 children and young people looked after by local authorities in Scotland, of whom about 1,500 are over 15 years old. About 1,200 young people aged 16 or over cease to be looked after each year.
The concept of corporate parenting is set out in Looked After Children and Young People: We Can and Must Do Better:
1.4 Local authorities have a role as corporate parents to these young people, particularly those who cannot return to their families. This means that the local authority should look after these children as any other parents would look after their own children.
1.5 The role of corporate parent is not restricted to the social work department of the local authority but applies to all departments and agencies, who should recognise their own responsibility to promote the welfare of looked after young people and ensure that their needs are adequately addressed by each department.
We have named contacts in each of our schools who have responsibility for tracking and being the link for other services in relation to Looked After and Accommodated Children but I’m not convinced that our commitment extends much beyond that.
The reality in schools that such children are often some of the most challenging to educate. Without a significant mind shift – mine included – I don’t think we will properly take on our corporate role as parents.
I wonder of there would be anything to be gained from meeting all of our secondary age Looked After and Accommodated Children with a view to gaining their perspective on how education has fulfilled its parenting role and how it might get better?