The young carers who are punished by schools

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Young carers are often punished for poor attendance, punctuality or behaviour by school staff who do not know about or understand their personal circumstances.

A report from the charity Family Action has called for a greater understanding of the home circumstances that often affect a young carer’s school performance.

There are 175,000 young carers in the UK with 13,000 of these caring for more than 50 hours a week. A young carer is a young person aged between five and 24 who cares for a parent or sibling with a physical or mental health difficulty or a parent with substance misuse.

Fifty five per cent of the young carers interviewed for the report said they were caring between 10 and 15 hours a week, with 35 per cent caring for more than 20 hours. The majority were in secondary school and 74 per cent were on free school meals. The report, Be Bothered! Making school count for young carers, says that many do not feel supported in schools.

Young carers can often be late to school or absent if they have to take the person they care for to hospital. The also suffer from problems with tiredness, behaviour and poor concentration, often leading them to be unfairly punished by teachers who are unaware of
the situation.

More than half of the young carers involved in the study had missed school with 60 per cent saying they had problems with punctuality. They can also display poor behaviour because of a knock on effect from problems at home.

Young carers are also more likely to be NEET – not in education, employment or training – the report said. It quotes existing research showing that 27 per cent of secondary-aged young carers experience educational difficulties or miss school, while this figure rises to 40 per cent when the pupils are caring for someone who misuses drugs or alcohol.

The report found that 72 per cent of teachers did not know how many young carers were in their school.

It recommends that schools work with local young carers services to raise awareness of those students who are affected. It also wants to see the Pupil Premium used to help support these young people and is calling for a clause in the forthcoming Children and Families Bill to direct schools to “identify and assess” vulnerable pupils and provide support. It advises using student and parent questionnaires to help identify young carers and training for teachers to help them spot the signs.

Chief executive of Family Action, Helen Dent, said: “Young carers’ caring roles don’t stop at the school gate. It is vital that schools support this hidden group of vulnerable pupils.”

Download the full report at www.family-action.org.uk.


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