Young people in residential care do not just significantly under-achieve educationally. Their behaviour, background and motivations are also defined as "a problem" by many teachers. Yet those teachers must often work in ignorance of children's experiences in the care system.
What is the best way of combatting the serious educational disadvantage faced by so many of these young people, and of breaking down barriers against understanding? The Centre for Residential Child Care in Glasgow believes the key is to develop a debate among teachers, residential staff and social workers. A pioneering course has produced great interest among student teachers working for degree courses at Strathclyde University.
The lectures, tutorials, conference and written assignments not only cover the history of the child care system and how it works, but tackle issues such as sexual abuse or leaving care, and consider the new Children (Scotland) Act.
The module also ensures teachers understand what it feels like to be in care, and two young people were actively involved as presenters in the first course. So was a residential school teacher and a member of the Children's Panel.
A new advanced module is under way for those who have completed the first, and will feature placements in children's homes and residential schools.
Students on the pilot module proved very enthusiastic about their experience, all completed the course satisfactorily and 87 per cent believed the knowledge gained for teachers was "very important". Most were horrified at their previous ignorance and felt it should be a core part of qualifying training. They felt the course fitted in well with the rest of their degree work, and the subject matter was seen as "highly relevant" to the teaching task.
Centre director Meg Lindsay says: "We would be very pleased to see in any way how this material could get into in-service, pre-service or post-qualifying training.
"It is up to the teacher training community. We would welcome hearing from other institutions which would like to run such a course."
Further information from Meg Lindsay, Centre for Residential Child Care, 0141 950 3683.