According to the All-Party Parliamentary Group report, “Education matters in care”,
High achieving young people in the care system are characterized by having developed a range of out of school interests and hobbies that widen and infuse their educational base.
It is with this in mind that many virtual schools support their children looked after in accessing high-quality enrichment activities and work with a variety of organisations in order to provide them.
We know that so many children in the care system and on the edge of care are impacted hugely by their experiences. Indeed, the very act of being taken into care with the multiplicity of new professionals involving themselves in their lives can also compound their trauma. Frequently, they will have difficulties with their sense of self, feeling completely unworthy, unlovable and filled with toxic shame. Many will have difficulties with social skills and relationships, some forming inappropriate relationships, some with so little trust in others they either try to control everyone around them or become victims of others’ control. Children in care very often have difficulties in managing their emotions, in self-regulation or empathy. Others find change and transition extremely challenging, often demonstrated by difficulties in education transitions or in trying anything new. Structuring, organising and mental processing can also be impacted so that their ability to learn and to do well is affected.
Whilst there is a wide variety of activities being used by virtual schools, we should like to demonstrate what can be achieved through the work of three such organisations, Jamie’s Farm, A New Direction and Strength in Horses
Jamie’s Farm works with vulnerable children through a five-day residential programme at one of their farms which combines farming, family and therapy. Rigorous preparation and follow-up form part of the offer. During the visit, the children are given responsibility for the welfare of the animals, play games, eat and talk together in order to give them a framework of support that will allow the impact on self-esteem, relationships and self-regulation to continue beyond their visit. The young people do not have access to social media during their residential and each visit is supported by an on-site therapist.
A New Direction
Having obtained funding from the Co-Op Loneliness Fund, A New Direction worked with a group of Care Leavers in 2019 in order to co-design a cultural and creative programme for children in care. The Care Leavers decided they would work on four principles, provide “breathing space” for children in care, enable them to make connections, to express themselves creatively and to raise awareness of the lives of children looked after and factors that impact on them. They believe that working together on such a programme will support recovery and healing.
Strength in Horses
SIH uses qualified Clinical Psychologists alongside trained horse professionals to offer Equine Assisted Psychotherapy to vulnerable children and adults with significant mental health needs. The partnership between horses and individuals provides an environment for tremendous personal growth and development. Horses naturally respond to the emotional issues people bring to sessions, issues which are often displayed in their interactions with the horses. This allows the therapist a unique insight into a client’s individual difficulties and creates an environment where the horses can then support both the client and therapist in working towards change.
This webinar was organised by Aspiring for Children and took place on September 25th 2020.