Foster carers will doubtless heed the concerns of the children’s commissioner that the government is in its rush to get business back on its feet overlooking the effects of lockdown on schools. Fostering children is challenging: in recent months, being a foster carer has probably been more challenging than ever before. Carers, like all parents, depend upon schools to provide daily structure and routine for children. The importance of this cannot be overstated for the many foster children whose lives before coming into care have often been chaotic and dysfunctional. And it’s clearly important disadvantages already suffered are not compounded by being let down by the education system. And it’s a fact that proportionately few foster children compared to their peer’s progress to university. There are worrying signs that the effects of coronavirus will only add to the disadvantage experienced by many young people.
The children’s commissioner – Anne Longfield – has recently issued warnings the government should not prioritise efforts to get the economy going over efforts to get children back into school. Her worries are born out by warnings given mInisters that children’s education is being forgotten whilst businesses – like theme parks – will be allowed to reopen. Anne Longfield stated1:
“I am worried that education has not had the priority that the economy has, business and jobs, or indeed the NHS. I also think children are in danger of being forgotten in this lifting of lockdown. We’re seeing a situation where theme parks are going to be opened in a month, shops, pubs, restaurants but still children not back in school.”
She also said of the lockdown that it was a – “disruption we’ve not seen since the second world war,” as well as highlighting her worry “the education divide is broadening.” If this proves to be the case, then foster children are likely to be further disadvantaged.
It was the American economist and historian Robert Higgs who warned that during the twentieth century the numerous wars and their variously declared equivalents – such as against drugs and viruses – usually resulted in the permanent expansion of state power. And this we have seen happening during the coronavirus pandemic. In a crisis, this is acceptable in the short term. The priority has to be on maintaining the educational opportunity for all. It needs to be given equal priority to business for in the long run, all businesses depend on an educated workforce.
This is a critical moment in time – one that will be recognised by providers of foster care, the carers themselves and all parents. The children’s commissioner is concerned that if the education divide opens up still further then “almost a decade of catching up on that education gap may well be lost.” And most importantly: we have to avoid…a generation of children leaves school in five year’s time where the disadvantaged children have much poorer prospects because they weren’t given the support they need to learn during this period.”
The children’s commissioner has focused on the enormous variation in learning that is taking place. It looks increasingly as if around eight million children will not be back in school until September. Foster children, because of their experiences, are amongst the most vulnerable young people in society. The commissioner is also concerned that their ranks could swell as many children are living in what she terms as “fragile” family settings. In an interview with the BBC, she said “We know that there’s a real variation in learning. We’ve got some children, more affluent children, especially those going to private schools, who are literally attending Zoom schools from nine till three in the afternoon with lessons as normal. And we know that 90% of disadvantaged children aren’t going online for more than two hours if that. We also know there are about a million children who just don’t have the tech or the broadband to be able to learn in this way.”
Foster carers do magnificent work supporting children whose start in life has all too often been severely compromised. It will be a tragedy if one of the many dreadful effects of coronavirus will have been to open up a chasm of educational opportunity in this country. Especially when there has been so much work to narrow this over recent years. If it is as far away as September when all children can return to school, now might be the time to be thinking of putting in place measures to help those most disadvantaged to catch up. It will be important that discussions in this area do not become rebarbative – the potential exists for some to feel aggrieved at such glaring disparities. We need to foster some imaginative thinking as to how those children that have fallen behind can be helped to catch up. It may be an idea to look at how the school day and year is structured in 2021. The school day could be extended by another hour and schools opened on a Saturday morning. Christmas and Easter holidays could be halved with half terms restricted to three days only. And what would be wrong with reducing the Summer holidays from seven weeks to three? Objections should be limited since the goal is clearly about enabling less fortunate children to make up for lost time.
Training opportunities with Rainbow Fostering London; Rainbow Fostering Birmingham; Rainbow Fostering Manchester and Rainbow in Hampshire
We welcome people from all walks of life to become foster carers. Carers come from a variety of different backgrounds and all kinds of people foster children and young people. And that’s whatever their religion, cultural heritage, sexuality or relationship status. To recap, you can foster if you are: male or female; transgender; single, married or divorced; a single parent; have your own children – young or grown-up; have no children of your own; in a same-sex relationship; have permanent leave to stay in the UK; employed or unemployed; a homeowner or a tenant.
Foster a sibling group/Foster a parent and child/Foster a teenager/Foster a disabled child/Foster a child with complex needs/Foster a UASC. We will also train you at Rainbow to become a therapeutic foster carer.
Train to become a parent and child foster carer with Rainbow.
This is a specialised type of fostering. You can find out more about it on our website and from our recent blog series. If the idea of it is appealing, we hope you will apply to train to foster with us. Our promise is that at Rainbow, we will commit to providing the highest quality training to support all your ambitions. At Rainbow, we are frequently asked about the level of experience and the skills required to become a foster carer. People will always have their own reasons why they became interested in fostering. These will usually, but not always, involve direct experience working with children or young people. Whatever your current or past circumstances, we look to understand the level of experience you have either professionally, or with your own children – or with youngsters in your wider family or circle of friends.
Rainbow fostering has been established for over twenty years. We have been rated ‘Outstanding” in all areas by Ofsted. Rainbow is a highly responsive agency and have adapted to the changing and unprecedented circumstances caused by coronavirus. We have taken steps to ensure we can support anyone wishing to apply to foster immediately. Our expert teams of foster care advisors – working safely and remotely – will answer any questions about foster care you might have.
There is plenty of information on our website – as well as the guidance we can email. And we can meet you ‘virtually’ via Skype to get your application underway quickly. Call today on 020 8427 3355 or use our National Line – 0330 311 2845. You can also leave your details with a message and time for us to phone you if you prefer: http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/contact/
And for the most up-to-date information on the coronavirus pandemic: how to stay safe, save lives and protect the NHS visit – https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/coronavirus And for an interesting blog, we can recommend – http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/foster-carers-and-the-need-for-knowledge-about-county-lines/