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Out-of-Home Care and Education: Insights from Let Us Learn Webinar

The Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP)’s Let Us Learn Inquiry has sparked a vital conversation about education in out-of-home care.

Late last month, the Centre’s Raising Expectations team brought together a panel to better understand and delve deeper into the Inquiry.

We heard firsthand insights from Commissioners Liana Buchanan, Victoria’s Principal Commissioner for Children and Young People, Meena Singh, the Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People in Victoria, and from some of the young people whose perspectives helped shape the report.

Missi Joyce, Youth Council Member, Children and Young People Victoria, spoke about serving on The Council and drawing from her own experiences living in care to help shape recommendations and call for change.

Kita Martin-Cu, Youth Council Member, Children and Young People Victoria, was in and out of the care system between the ages of eight and 16 and spoke about the challenges she faced in having to move around a lot, attending as many as 14 different schools, where staff did not understand her needs.

Eagerness amid challenges

Lianna explained the inquiry found profound eagerness among young people to do well in school, enjoy it, and thrive. School holds significant importance for many of them. For some, it’s the safest place they know, while for others, it offers respite, allowing them to experience a semblance of normalcy – a time in the day when they can feel like any other young person.

While a portion of the young people involved in the Inquiry spoke of positive school journeys, a significant number shared distressing experiences marred by incidents of bullying, encounters with teachers who failed to understand their needs and the gradual onset of disengagement from academic life. They expressed a sense of alienation, feeling overlooked, with their absence from school seemingly unnoticed.

The Inquiry looked at the engagement and achievement levels of students in care compared to other students, including early childhood education, an often under-researched area, which showed significant improvement:

  • 72% of children in care, eligible for 3-year-old kindergarten were enrolled, a marked increase from 34% in 2018.
  • 86% of children in care, eligible for 4-year-old kindergarten were enrolled, compared to 92% in the general population.
  • 89% of Aboriginal children in care, eligible for 4-year-old kindergarten were enrolled.

The findings for school aged students, however, were distressing:

  • 64% of secondary students in care and 48% of primary school students in care were chronically absent, meaning they were absent for more than 10% of the school year.
  • Only 25% of young people in care progress to Years 11 and 12, compared to 82%.
  • Young people in care are 5 times more likely to be suspended and 5 times more likely to be expelled than their peers in the general population.

Trauma-informed teaching practices

Missi and Kita echoed the findings, emphasising a sense of being overlooked and unheard by the education system.

Missy explained, “Favourite recommendations of mine, formulated in our group, was to advocate for trauma-informed teaching practices to be incorporated into teacher training and adopt a whole-school approach to trauma,”

Q&A

With the event so well attended, we didn’t get to answer all the questions put forth by attendees; we’ve gathered these together and provided them, here.

Raising Expectations supports young people in out-of-home care and care leavers to aspire to, access and succeed in vocational and higher education.

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