Citizenship - Over the rainbow
When eight-year-old Naina was asked by her classmates on Monday mornings what she had done at the weekend, her reply was always the same: "I went to the zoo." She gave the same answer almost every week for a year.
In fact, Naina lived in foster care and had been moved around a lot. But she didn't want to talk to her school friends about it or how it made her feel.
Her story is typical of many children and young people in care - more often living with a foster family than in a care home - who don't want to speak about why they went into care, the people who care for them or their private anxieties. Instead, they find it easier to make up a fairy story, painting an idyllic life that may be far removed from the truth.
Naina is now 25, but her story is one of 10 featured in a new "In Care, In School" resources pack, which aims to raise awareness among schoolchildren of the realities of the lives of children in care, and build empathy.
The resource has been developed with members of the Bath and North East Somerset In Care Council - which is formed of children who are still in care or who have recently left - and a multi-agency partnership led by Bath Spa University and Bath and North East Somerset Council.
The pack covers the need to offer confidentiality to children and young people in care, and aims to increase sensitivity to their backgrounds and experiences. Ten short films feature dramatisations of some of the key issues, and address the problem of bullying between pupils, too. In an additional set of documentary films, young people talk about what it is like to live in care.
"In Care, In School" also includes an introduction to materials, lesson plans for primary and secondary teaching, and a booklet on staff training and support.
Victoria Marshall, a teacher who piloted the materials in a Bath secondary school, says: "The students I taught really enjoyed having a range of activities to work with for each film. They were often surprised at the reality of life for children in care and it made them more appreciative of their own lives and the support of their families."
Naina is pleased that her story is reaching a wider audience. "This pack is to help teachers and pupils to understand, from a young person's point of view, what it is like being in foster care and having an education," she says. "I hope my experiences help teachers and pupils, and also help to make changes in schools."
Alice Hoyle is a PSHE advisory teacher who worked on "In Care, In School" on behalf of the PSHE Association, one of the project partners. Lucy Sweetman is a freelance consultant and writer who has been involved in the project since February 2012. For more information about "In Care, In School", go to: www.incareinschool.com
Read the Department for Education guide to supporting children in care at school.
See what one Bradford school has done to help children in care succeed in a Teachers TV video.