This summary has been prepared by the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare (the Centre). It gives a snapshot of key findings and recommendations from the recently released Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP) review, Let us learn, which are likely to be of most interest to members. The report makes 47 recommendations to improve the educational experiences of children and young people in care from pre-school through to post-secondary school opportunities and choices.
The Centre welcomes this timely and comprehensive report by the CCYP, which is the product of extensive consultation, including with staff at the Centre. The recommendations are designed to make sure every child and young person in care is supported by professionals, systems, workforces, programs and practice approaches to have productive engagement with learning, meaningful inclusion in mainstream schools, and the best possible educational outcomes.
The report notes that children are disengaging from education at an earlier age than previously observed, which highlights the need for earlier and personalised interventions to support re-engagement of younger children before it becomes too late. Students in OOHC have lower rates of attendance than their peers across all year levels and the CCYP report addresses this issue through a range of recommendations for both DFFH and the Department of Education. The report recommends that trauma-informed training be incorporated into teacher education programs and early childhood educator training.
- Given that students in care, particularly in residential care, fare less well on a range of educational measures than their peers, the report recommends several system-level changes, including adding education-related information to the training provided to residential care workers.
- There is a specific recommendation for DFFH to work with the Centre to support an education-related course to be made available as part of the Centre’s Residential Care Learning and Development Strategy.
- The Centre also supports the recommendation to implement a whole school approach to trauma and ‘embed trauma-informed practices’, in addition to incorporating trauma-informed training into teacher education programs and early childhood educator training.
- Several recommendations are aimed at enhancing the educational engagement and experiences of Aboriginal children, including addressing systemic racism and improving cultural safety in educational settings.
- The report makes several recommendations designed to strengthen the Out of Home Care Education Commitment and the Early Childhood Agreement for Children in Out-of-Home Care. The Centre is a signatory to both of these agreements and supports a review and updating of the roles and responsibilities.
- Consistent with the Centre’s long-held advocacy position regarding the need for children in care to be recognised nationally as an equity group in its own right, the CCYP report recommends that children become an identified equity group in the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) to identify additional supports which might be needed to improve school readiness.
- The Centre supports the CCYP recommendations to improve data collection in relation to kindergarten attendance and successful transition to primary school.
- The Centre has consistently advocated for professionals to be trained to better understand trauma and its implications for learning.
- The Centre supports the recommendation that school leadership participate in training on the OOHC system and the experiences of children and young people in care. This is a crucial step if schools are to become more trauma-informed. We also support increasing the knowledge of school staff about the service system – including the role of child protection, The Orange Door and child and family services.
- The report recommends government funding to encourage students in care to pursue post-secondary education, specifically mentioning the Centre’s Raising Expectations program and its associated peer mentoring (Game Changers and Level Up) programs. The Centre welcomes this strong endorsement of the quality of these programs and what they have been able to achieve and the recommendation from the CCYP for ongoing funding.
- The Centre welcomes the suite of recommendations to increase care allowance payments for kinship and foster carers, ensure equitable financial support for both types of carers, remove voluntary and other educational expenses for carers, and provide assistance to enable them to access flexible education-related funding.
This summary only touches the surface of a very detailed report on the experiences of children and young people in care. The Centre recommends reading the summary of the findings and recommendations at the front of Let Us Learn to do justice to the work that the CCYP staff have undertaken. There is a strong body of evidence highlighting the systemic barriers to educational engagement and achievement for children in care and the CCYP report provides an informed range of suggested actions to address these barriers.
- Download Let us learn: Systemic inquiry into the educational experiences of children and young people in out-of-home care
- The Centre’s Media Release, 17 November – Make schools safe and positive places for kids in care