For many children and young people the start of the new school term means a big change in their lives, such as moving from primary to secondary school. This transition can often be a stressful time for children, even when they feel well prepared by their primary school and well supported at home.
Some children are carrying an extra burden, which can affect their school life, their friendships and their ability to reach their potential. These children are young carers, whose daily routine means juggling schoolwork with essential care for a family member at home. This can be a cause of great worry to a child.
In Stockport we have very good services for young carers, through the valuable work of Signpost Young Carers. Signpost works alongside primary and secondary schools, providing a package of support which enables these children to take part in school activities and have the same opportunities as their classmates. Indeed, Signpost support means that they are able to get a break from their caring responsibilities and enjoy their childhood.
Although many of our schools are great at identifying and supporting young carers, and indeed several schools have achieved the national Young Carers in Schools Award – not all schools are on board in Stockport. Across the region services are patchy.
I would like to see more schools looking out for young carers and encouraging them to be proud of themselves. I recently wrote to the Children’s Minister about how the Department for Education or Ofsted could help. I then held a meeting with Ofsted and the Signpost team, to see whether schools are being asked about their provision for young carers when they are inspected. The role of Ofsted is to see how well children are benefitting from their education, looking at how they are progressing and fulfilling their potential.
The Children’s Minister says that Ofsted inspectors pay particular attention to the outcomes of a number of groups, including young carers. However, Ofsted told me that young carers “as a group” were not listed in the handbook used by inspectors. This is rather puzzling, and I am hoping for more clarification at a meeting with the Minister this month. Ofsted is reviewing its whole inspection framework, and I believe this is a good opportunity to make sure young carers are not left out.