“This section explains how teachers can effectively engage with early-year, middle-year and older students.
Children in care may struggle to control their emotions more than other children. Assisting them to understand their feelings and develop appropriate responses to emotional situations is a key task for both teachers and carers.
By the time Jeff came into care he was seven years old. He had no regular sleeping pattern, and could stay awake for 30 or 40 hours at a stretch, then curl up and sleep wherever he happened to be at the time for six to 14 hours." - Margaret, carer.
Key teaching strategies
Impulse control is a skill many children develop naturally around the age of four, but this may not be the case for children in care. Many will have had poor modelling in their family home, as well as experiences of abuse, that may make controlling their emotions difficult.
- ensure children are appropriately challenged intellectually
- build personal best measures into assessments so students can experience success
- provide a structure for social interaction (e.g. games or activities at lunchtime).
Children begin to develop key communication and social skills in their middle years. At this stage the ability to communicate effectively with a wide range of people is crucial for learning. Children in care may exhibit a lack of social skills leading to isolation and anti-social behaviour.
- building supportive relationships and a sense of belonging to the school
- providing skills and opportunities to communicate with a range of peers and adults
- assisting children to identify and build on their skills and interests
- encouraging children to learn through the delivery of challenging, engaging curriculum.
Older students may struggle with more complex learning tasks because they do not have the same basic knowledge as other students.
- one-to-one support and the opportunity to ‘check in' with teachers
- private sessions used to break up tasks into smaller, more manageable sections
- identifying areas of the curriculum in which they can demonstrate their skills.
Identifying an adult who can act as a mentor is an effective teaching strategy for children of all ages.
This person, as well as offering direct support, can assist the child by encouraging them to interact with other people in the school, building a network of support.
For information about the role, how the learning mentor can support young people in Out-of-Home Care, see: Out-of-Home Care
Excursions and extra-curricular activity
Excursions and activities can be an excellent way to engage and build relationships with a child.
Children and young people in care can regularly miss out on these opportunities as they are required to gain consent from their legal guardian.
Legal guardianship of the child may be held by the person or people providing day-to-day care or may rest with the biological parent or the Department of Human Services.
If the carer is not the guardian, it can take several days or longer for a consent form to be returned to the school.
It is important to plan ahead so that children in OOHC do not miss out on these valuable opportunities.