Amy Woodworth is Become's Policy & Campaigns Officer and author of the charity's latest report, Teachers Who Care. 

This week we published Teachers Who Care, a research report from Become and Voices from Care Cymru, who are voices for children in care in England and Wales respectively. We spoke to teachers from across our two nations to find out about their experiences teaching students in care. Unsurprisingly, many of our findings were relevant to adopted children as well, especially those who have been adopted from care, or have experienced difficulties with attachment or other childhood trauma.

Teachers told us that they didn’t receive enough – or any – training about how to work with these children. They had to learn on the job about the resources available for the education of looked after children, like Pupil Premium Plus funding, Personal Education Plans, or Virtual Schools. This lack of knowledge can make it hard to make the best use of those initiatives and reduce their impact on students’ experiences and attainment. Those teachers who had benefitted from training in attachment awareness told us how helpful it was, specifically to better support care-experienced students but also to benefit the whole school.                                            

We heard from teachers who were foster carers or adoptive parents, who were able to bring their own expertise into the classroom but were frustrated that their knowledge wasn’t commonplace among other teachers. The teachers we heard from were passionate about supporting all of their students and making sure that the looked after children in their classrooms had the same chances to succeed. Sadly, most of them had also heard negative attitudes from some of their colleagues, whether about children in care being ‘problem children’ or questioning their academic ability. Children themselves are acutely aware of how adults see them (as we found in our previous report, Perceptions of Care), and the prevalence of this kind of stigma makes it even harder for looked after or previously looked after children to fully engage at school.

Our report outlines teachers’ experiences with training, working with children’s services, and the level of knowledge and support within their schools. There’s room for improvement in all of these areas. We believe that teacher training must start including information on the care system and attachment awareness, so that teachers are better equipped to meet all students’ needs. Children’s services and schools should work together more closely to share information and make sure each child is getting the right support.

Finally, we all have a responsibility to tackle stigma wherever we come across it. We would like to see schools do more to educate staff and students about the realities of care, so that looked after and previously looked after children are less vulnerable to isolation and bullying, and more able to fully participate in school life alongside peers who understand them.