In the last week, schools up and down the country opened their doors to welcome students back from the winter break, ready to start the Spring term. There will be lots for students to look forward to, from catching up with friends and teachers, restarting extra-curricular activities such as sports or drama clubs to the first lesson back in their favourite subject.
However, for some students the start of a new term can be a difficult time. For young carers, for example, it can mean going back to a difficult balance of caring responsibilities at home and going to school. For students struggling with their mental health, it can be daunting to go back to school which can trigger feelings of anxiety or fear. Across 2022 I heard from hundreds of children with these experiences and to make sure that they get the support they need I created my Back Into School webpages which are full of resources for schools, parents and young people.
From this term schools will have to report which students are young carers through the School Census so it is essential that all schools are identifying their students with caring responsibilities. This will not only mean that nationally we have much better data on the number of young carers in education but much more importantly will enable schools to start a dialogue with their young carers and ensure their policies reflect their needs. Schools can identify young carers with this simple survey tool and I have provided guidance for school on how to create a young carers policy.
And for the young people who are missing from education, they aren’t going back to school at all, with the wonderful opportunities that school can provide denied to them for another term.
I will continue working with the Department for Education to identify the solutions to supporting children missing from education back into school and carrying out my own investigation into education provision for children in care.
There is lots to do this term and I can’t wait to get started.