At Rainbow, we have for some considerable time been working hard to push the importance of literacy. It is an area we constantly look at in terms of helping our Foster carers to support the educational attainment of the children in their care. Literacy skills can, quite simply, mean the difference between success and failure in life. And foster care is all about striving to achieve the best outcomes for looked after children. Just very quickly, another thank you to all those children’s authors who have lent their support by following us on Twitter.
Educational attainment: quite a few of our blogs on foster care have mentioned one statistic in particular. This is because if it can be significantly improved, the ramifications would be huge in relation to improving outcomes. Aiming for success in this one area should therefore drive much of the strategic thinking currently going into fostering provision. There is a tremendous opportunity to effect this, because this year the national fostering stocktake is scrutinising foster care provision. Such a detailed examination; with input from all virtually all with an interest in foster care, has not occurred for many years. It is worth giving prominence to this particular statistic again, because it both benchmarks failure whilst pointing in the direction of success:
“Only 6% of looked after children and care leavers in England are in higher education (2013)* compared to approximately 40% of the general population. At a time when competition for jobs is still very tough, it doesn’t look as though these young people are achieving their full potential or accessing a range of opportunities in the same way as their non-looked after peers.”
*UCAS, ‘Looked after Children & Care Leavers: Raising aspirations to Higher Education.’
So when this statistic of 6% has been improved (even getting into double figures would be something), then many of the disadvantages affecting foster children and care leavers will have been addressed. Making strides in this direction will also have compelling benefits for wider society: the implications for savings to the public purse across a whole range of fronts would be huge.
If education is the key to progress, there is a distressing paradox that has been tolerated for too long. It is that all the competing educational theories; designed to bring such positive gains, have turned out to be a real bar to progress. Because this has had adverse effects for all children, it will have been particularly detrimental to foster children, because many of them have experienced disruption to their education. The entire educational establishment has been reversing in and out of the ‘Testing’ ‘cul-de-sac for decades: it is certainly refreshing at last, to read that the current Ofsted head, Amanda Spielman now says the focus on GCSEs and national curriculum tests – often known as Sats – comes at the expense of “rich and full knowledge”. Schools in England are focusing on tests and exams, rather than giving pupils a good basic grounding across a wide range of subjects, she warned recently.
This is unfair, since it implies that schools themselves are to blame for this situation: such a view appears to exculpate the educational theorists who have over the years assured us of the merits of their thinking. Schools have simply been on the receiving end of all of this. The reality is, they have for a long time, been subject to the whims and pet theories from an establishment that; despite its enthusiasm for testing, has not seen this country approach the results achieved in Europe and the Far East. History shows we have a system that has been tinkered with endlessly: but at last the clouds may be rolling back since the new head of Ofsted has the view that –
“The regular taking of test papers does little to increase a child’s ability to comprehend,” And –
“A much better use of time is to teach and help children to read and read more.”
In its own way, this is a remarkable admission. Of course it is accompanied by some comments that make it clear the Ofsted boss could be seen by some as ‘hedging her bets’, for when asked if she was saying testing is bad, the answer given was “No, testing in schools clearly has value.” This was then qualified by the statement – “However, good examination results in and of themselves don’t always mean that the pupil received rich and full knowledge from the curriculum.”
This seems to imply that the means for pupils to receive a “rich and full knowledge from the curriculum” still remains out of reach. It is, however, worth noting the observation of one particular teacher which could be indicative of a widespread lack of morale –
“Having been in the job for thirty years, this has been a regular occurrence and it goes like this:
1) Someone has idea (e.g. government / Ofsted etc.)
2) Concerns of the people who do the job are ignored
3) Bring the idea in and enforce it through inspection
4) Concerns of professionals come to pass, i.e. teaching to the test in this case
5) Schools get criticised for the effects of the idea.”
So arguments have raged back and forth and ministers have come and gone. Over the years, a great deal of heat has been generated without much light. What is both sobering and informative, is to concentrate on simple facts such as the following reported in December 2016:
The UK is still lagging behind leading countries in education and has made little progress in international rankings since results three years ago. The influential Pisa rankings, run by the OECD, are based on tests taken by 15-year-olds in over 70 countries. The UK is behind top performers such as Singapore and Finland, but also trails Vietnam, Poland and Estonia. The OECD’s education director, Andreas Schleicher, describes the UK’s results as “flat in a changing world”.
In maths, the UK is ranked 27th, slipping down a place from three years ago, the lowest since it began participating in the Pisa tests in 2000.
In reading, the UK is ranked 22nd, up from 23rd, having fallen out of the top 20 in 2006.
The UK’s most successful subject is science, up from 21st to 15th place – the highest placing since 2006, although the test score has declined.
Foster carers can ignite the imagination of those they care for
Igniting the imagination of a child is key: no less a person than Albert Einstein said: “if you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales.” And just for good measure, he also said:
“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
And what excites the development of the imagination from the earliest age? The answer is reading to a child. So it is well worth repeating how encouraging this change of emphasis is since the head of Ofsted stated –
“A much better use of time is to teach and help children to read and read more.”
The practice of promoting a love of reading, which a child can carry forward into adulthood is certainly one of the treasures at the end of our Rainbow. And coincidentally; or perhaps not, since there may well be, as Hamlet famously said – “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy” – there is a colour of the rainbow for each of the letters in the word reading.
Apply to find out more about becoming a foster carer with Rainbow
It could be a good time to become a foster carer. You might have been thinking of taking this step for a while. As there will be a national fostering stocktake reporting its findings soon, the world of foster care is likely to be changing. You can train to be a foster carer with us and benefit from up to the minute training: our goal is to help our Foster Carers to develop their professional careers.
People who approach Rainbow, often have a lot of questions which is just what we like. It shows us they have given a lot of serious thought to what can be a life changing decision. Some of the questions we are regularly asked – how to foster a child? What are the basic requirements to be a foster carer? What checks are likely to be made on my family if we wish to foster? Just how long does it take to become a foster carer? We get all kinds of questions, and our knowledgable and dedicated team of advisors is always happy to answer them all.
At Rainbow, we are now particularly keen to find people who want to make a real difference to the lives of vulnerable children and young people by providing a home. We welcome applicants irrespective of their ethnicity, religion or cultural background, sexual orientation or indeed relationship status. If you are becoming interested by the idea of fostering children, or perhaps fostering babies, you can call us on 020 8427 3355 or on our national line 03303112845.
‘Rainbow Rewards’ refer or transfer to qualify for a special bonus payment
Qualify for a bonus of £500 if you refer someone to us who then progresses to become an approved foster carer with Rainbow Fostering. The money will be paid Once your referral has received their first placement, the money will be paid. And all existing foster carers: if you are considering a move to a different agency, please have a chat with us. Foster carers who transfer to Rainbow may also get a bonus payment: but please note, this payment will only be made for foster carers already looking after a child on a long-term basis.
There is a real and urgent need for more foster carers across the country: we routinely provide the most up-to-date figures so that people can see how much more foster carers are needed. Across the UK at the present time, there is a shortage of 7,000 carers. The situation in England is detailed below: (Across the UK at the present time, there is a shortage of 7,000 carers.)
The figures for foster care as they currently stand for England
• Presently, there are 44,625 foster care families looking after children and young people in England.
• The leading foster charity, The Fostering Network is now estimating that there will be a need to find another 5,900 foster families in England over the next year.
And the good news at the end of this rainbow…we are again running our Christmas Reading competition. All children have to do is to read a book of their choice and write a short review and books will be awarded for the best five submissions.
If you are fostering, our website has an informative news section
Foster Care in U.S. under the spotlight
October 17th, 2017
Rainbow International is our foster care arm that is currently involved in setting up a major fostering project in India. As we are active overseas, we have an interest in conveying news about foster care from different parts of the world…
At a recent meeting of a foster care oversight panel in Kansas it emerged that three sisters aged 15, 14 and 12 had gone missing in August (more)
‘Rainbow Rewards’ refer or transfer for a bonus payment
Qualify for a bonus of £500 if you refer someone to us who then progresses to become an approved foster carer. The money will be paid once your referral has received their first placement. And for all existing foster carers: if you are considering a move to a different agency, please have a chat with us. Foster carers who transfer to Rainbow may also get a bonus payment: but please note, this payment will only be made for foster carers already looking after a child on a long-term basis.
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