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Helping schools to be in tune with young carers

Teaching assistant Lynne Harries noticed that a girl in her year group was often in detention for being late. But Lynne, of Rainham School for Girls in Kent, suspected that something more than laziness was involved.

'I felt there was more to it', said Lynne, who is also Assistant Head of Year with responsibility for attendance. 'Through getting to know her over several weeks I found out that her mother had mental health issues and that every morning she was going out of her way to take her younger brother to school. This girl was torn between home and school and was desperate to do the right thing'.

Many teachers, like Lynne and her colleagues, are often so busy with the demands of the job that the underlying reasons behind pupils' lateness, truancy, failure to do homework or disruptive behaviour might sometimes be overlooked. Young carers may well be present in their classes, but are often afraid to admit what's going on at home.

Alex Fox, Young Carers Coordinator at the Princess Royal Trust for Carers, said there are likely to be young carers present in most secondary schools, with one school in a deprived area even having as many as 17 per cent.   

'The 2001 Census estimated that there are 175 000 young carers in the UK, but from our own and other surveys we think this figure could be much higher', said Alex. 'Young carers face many physical and emotional problems and their education is often seriously affected. If more teachers became aware of how to recognise young carers and developed an understanding of some of the challenges they face, they could take some simple steps to help to make the lives of young carers much easier'.

Use the links below to find out more about young carers, and how teachers can support them. Both sections contain relevant case studies and links.

This article was commissioned by TeacherNet's editorial team, independently of DCSF policy teams.


Last updated: 31 July 2007

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