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  • Writer's pictureSarah Alix

Asking Questions; What can we do further to support LAC?

As a qualified teacher I always felt frustrated with my own lack of understanding on how to support Looked After Children (LAC). I felt as though I lacked the information I needed to support LAC, but at the time I didn’t know how to gain this. This can still be a difficulty for teachers today. There is a need for confidentiality, but also the need for the sharing of information to support pupils in your care as a teacher.

Become – the Charity for Children in Care and Young Care Leavers stated ‘Teacher training leaves behind children in care’. They highlight that 87% of teachers received no training about looked after children before they qualify as a teacher, and 26% receive no training before OR after they qualify. With many teachers expressing that they had heard negative generalisations about children in care. I found this with my own research, which highlighted the negative perceptions of those in education, which I don’t think is intentional, but based on limited experience and hearing others’ experiences.

As we all very well know, the training of teachers compresses a large number of important areas into the generally short course-time available. So, for example, a detailed consideration of the needs of LAC competes with DfE and Ofsted foci such as systematic synthetic phonics and reading, behaviour management, SEND, subject knowledge, skill development and much, much more in the list of priorities. However, there must be some place for LAC awareness.

LAC continue to underperform academically in comparison to their peers, and for decades have been let down by systems and support, with many entering the criminal justice system at an early age. More than a third of LAC will end up Not in Education, Employment, or Training (NEET) on leaving school with only 6% of care leavers progressing to University (University participation rate of 38% of the general population). The long term impact on these children can be seen in the criminal justice system. Although there are many factors contributing to these outcomes, those that achieve higher educational outcomes are less likely to become part of the criminal justice system. These children are more likely to go on to succeed by establishing a family, work lives and careers.

Achievement gaps have been closing for some groups of children such as those with EAL, and small margins have been made for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, but not for LAC. For example, over the years there has been a great deal of press on challenging perceptions and narrowing the gender gap. With headlines such as ‘breaking down stereotypes’..‘gender gap scandal’ and from this, much research and opinion has been used to work to close this gap in Education. So how can we not see LAC as a priority with a need to discuss and improve the education gap for them? There has been no significant improvement for LAC and when LAC have poor outcomes and impact so highly in the criminal justice system, this needs to be examined further.

The DfE and Ofsted mention the use of current research a great deal in current documentation for schools and for ITE, so how this is used and needed when considering the ITE curriculum around working with LAC?

There will always be a balancing act in teacher training; what is prioritised within the training curriculum, what centre based and school based training includes? How much, what depth, how long? However, statistics show that outcomes for LAC are poor, and I think we would all agree that we need to question; What can we do further as Educational Professionals? What can we do further in ITE?

We, as educational professionals are critical over guidance being too prescriptive…. but, do we need some guidance based on the research as to what should be included, so that all trainee teachers/teachers gain some initial input on LAC? Otherwise many seem to be finding out for themselves once they qualify….. and I question, is this good enough?

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