Care children back 'special' deal

13th March 1998 at 00:00
Young people in care who feel that mainstream education has given them a raw deal put their trust in residential schools and special day units, research has shown.

At a Dundee University seminar, Marnie, aged 15, recalled that at primary school "I was the girl in the corner. I was there so often they put my desk there. I had lots of problems. I wanted attention but the teacher always had too many other things to do. The only way to get it was to act up."

Secondary school was little better. "There were too many teachers. And I felt that because I was in care, I had a label stuck on my back. It was like everyone couldn't wait to get rid of me. Everyone assumed that if there was any trouble at school I must have had something to do with it."

Marnie says "off-site" provision in a special day unit is "100 per cent better". Small classes mean "more attention. The teachers understand me, and treat me like a normal person. You don't have to leave class to go to learning support and stick out like a sore thumb. Because of this my education has improved and my confidence increased."

Sixteen-year-old Vicky told how she could not cope in a mainstream school because she had "no help, encouragement or privacy" at a children's home. A move to a residential school gave new hope. "The teachers are helping me get through my exams and I now hope to go to college," she said.

Felicity Fletcher-Campbell, a principal research officer at the National Foundation for Educational Research, said: "The evidence is that young people in care do face prejudice at school. They are put into the bottom set and teachers immediately think they are going to be trouble when there is no evidence that this is the case. Nor is there any understanding that children can change."

Several of the young people said that education and social work, the two main agencies in their lives, did not communicate well. Marnie said: "It's as if I've got two different parts of my life when it's one life - my life."

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