This morning my daughter had three teeth out at the dentist.

A few years ago, she could not let the dentist apply a protective coating to her new adult teeth. Back then we could not soothe her distress enough to allow the 60 second non-intrusive treatment to be applied. I see today as a huge achievement and a significant marker in her recovery from childhood trauma.

We talked beforehand about all the little successes she has had in the last couple of years and how she copes with overload – her breathing, fidgeting and positive talk. There was also a clear reward too. If she allowed the dentist to get on and remove the teeth, she would have a day off school to spend with her Nanny’s new puppy.

This got me thinking about how narrow the focus of attainment and achievement can be in school. Many care-experienced children like my daughter find learning in school difficult and their achievements are not always recognised by teachers.

It also got me thinking about rewards and motivations. I’ve never seen the value of a sticker chart. Certainly, for care-experienced children, sticker charts can inadvertently increase shame. But I like the idea of time spent with the pup as a motivating factor. I see that as developing healthy attachments and that is to be encouraged. I definitely see the dentist visit as a huge achievement and a measure of her resilience. I’m not sure school staff will appreciate all that she had to overcome to allow the dentist to complete the procedure!

Education is not confined to the walls of a school. Real life opportunities like a visit to the dentist and the bringing home of a new puppy are learning experiences that allow our children to process what has happened to them, fill in developmental gaps and move on with their life, wiser and more resilient.

The bringing home of the puppy enabled us to talk about how difficult it is to be separated from parents and siblings. We spoke about all the things the new parent does to help make the move less hard – covers that smell of the mum, same food, choosing and furnishing the bed so it feels like a safe place. When her Nanny said, ‘What a shame, taking the wee pup from her mum and brothers and sisters’, she was able to say, ‘That happened to me’. We watched something click for Nanny. And we spoke about how sad the foster mum was when the pup moved on and how sending photos and texts would help. She didn’t stop loving the pup because it moved away. All in all, I would say a lot of learning was taking place during that day off from school, and not just for my daughter!

School will mark my daughter absent and may think that I compromised her education because she missed lessons. It’s true – she did miss 50 minutes of Maths, English, Music and PE – but what she did instead was make connections that will further her development and increase the chance of her living a happy and fulfilling life. I am watching her applying her understanding of nurture as she takes care of and interacts with the pup.  I am confident that this increases her readiness for learning in more traditional school contexts.

For some care-experienced children, school can be stressful. Flexi-schooling allows parents to withdraw their child from school for part of the time. It does not have to be a choice between school or home education. Flexi-schooling can be a way to tailor experiences to your child’s developmental needs - for example, to provide more play experiences, to focus on life story or to allow for more time to connect with family.


You may need the local council’s consent if you wish to pursue flexi-schooling. Find out more information from the links below:

Home education and flexi schooling -

Educating your child at home - GOV.UK (

Home Education Law in Wales (

Management (