How well is SA’s education system doing for young people in care?

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The Guardian’s report Children and Young People in State Care in South Australian Government Schools 2007-2013 tracks trends in school enrollment, attendance and literacy/numeracy of children in care in government schools.

There has been a decline in the proportion of children under guardianship who attend government schools, but a rise in the actual number. There has been a decline since 2009 in the rate of suspensions for children under guardianship, though it is still three times the rate of the schools’ population as a whole.

There was good attendance overall by children under guardianship, with absence rates equivalent to the absence rates of the government schools’ population.

The Office of Schools in the Department of Education and Child Development will be concerned about the significantly lower rates of children under guardianship reaching the minimum standard in literacy and numeracy, as measured in NAPLAN testing.  While the gap overall has lessened since 2008, it is still wide.  This is not about the ability of the children but about educators paying attention to the learning needs of this group.

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Skills for All promises greater access to training for young people in care

The South Australian Government’s Skills for All program, which was launched by the Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology (DFEEST) on July 1 2012, was especially good news for young people under the guardianship of the Minister.  Under the new arrangements, people from the age of 16 years who were formerly or are currently under guardianship of the Minister, will be eligible for a full fee waiver for all subsidised courses that attract a course fee.  This removes the former 25 year cut-off age and promises access to a lifetime of fee-free further education through service providers approved by DFEEST.

‘We know that many people who have been in the care system may take years to decide what career path to take or to achieve the personal skills, confidence or stable life circumstances to enable them to commit to and stay in further study,’ explains Families SA Senior Policy and Program Officer, Lisa Henderson.

‘When DFEEST released it’s Skills for All discussion paper a couple of years ago, Families SA, through the Rapid Response initiative, took the opportunity to put forward the particular needs of guardianship young people in great detail.

‘We were delighted with the support we received from within DFEEST – it was clear that they grasped the social justice issues and understood the needs of our young people.’

One person who will benefit from the new provisions is Wallaroo resident Tamica who is studying for a Certificate 2 in Community Services.

‘Year 11 didn’t really hold much for me and I left about half-way through.

‘After that though I studied for certificates that let me work in a bar and in a gambling venue.  I have my name down everywhere, but there is not a lot of work here so I decided to do some more study.’

Tamica studies part time by correspondence and is more than half way through her current course.  She likes to work in intensive bursts when there are few distractions and it fits around caring for her young son and looking for work.

Like many people today, Tamica expects to have more than one career in her life.

‘I don’t want to be stuck with just one option.  I might think about studying for something that will enable me to work in the mining industry and let me travel around Australia and give me the money to buy a house.’

Lisa acknowledges that the launch on July 1 was only the start of the work for Families SA.

‘Since the offer of support for further education and training is retrospective, we now need to ensure people who have been under guardianship are aware of this opportunity. This will need to be done in a sensitive way, recognising that some people will not want to be identified.

‘We also need to make sure that other practical supports are in place to give people returning to study the best chance to succeed.’

‘This initiative from DFEEST gives the Across Government Guardianship (Rapid Response) Steering Committee a great deal of encouragement and we continue to look at other areas of opportunity in areas  such as housing and health,’ she said.

For more information call the infoline on 1800 506 266 and ask about fee exemptions for people who are or have been under guardianship of the Minister.

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Children and young people in care in school

According to children, the benefits of going to school go well beyond their school grades.

Children in care say they like school because they make friends, learn new things, there is stability in the same places and faces and they are doing the same as everyone else their age.

Children in care are very capable and are ambitious to do well. Often though, they start behind the 8-ball and struggle to keep up. The education results for them as a group reflect this.

In 2010 there were 1,338 children in care identified in government schools in South Australia. (This number is that of those identified as being in care.  The actual number is likely to be higher.) Three out of four (75.5 per cent) school-age children in care go to public schools.

National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) testing, which is carried out for children in years three, five, seven and nine, shows that children in state care are less likely to be ‘at or above the National Minimum Standard’ than the general school population.  Test results for children in care also tend to be in the lower proficiency bands.

One reason for this is that a significant number have learning difficulties.  One in three children in care are assessed by the Education Department as having a disability.  The biggest disability category is language and communication.  In 2010, 22.2 per cent of children in care at state schools had a language and communication disability, compared to the state figure of 6.1 per cent.  This is expected when you consider what is likely to have happened in their early years.

Some children will act up and be disruptive, particularly when they feel threatened, humiliated or anxious. In 2010, 10.1 per cent of children in care were suspended in Term 2 , compared to 3.0 per cent of the general school population., Only 12 students though were excluded.

Attendance at school is generally very good. There is historically little difference in the absence rates for children in care compared to the total school population and in 2010 the rates were the same.  Children in care with a disability are less likely to be absent than their peers with disability.  The same is true for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

South Australia’s Strategic Plan includes the target to ‘Increase yearly the proportion of 15-19 year olds who achieve the SACE or comparable senior secondary qualification.’  As yet, the data on SACE completion rates for young people in care or who have been in care is incomplete.

The joining of education and child protection in the newly created Department for Education and Child Development (ECD) is an exciting opportunity to do much better at supporting children and young people in care to engage with formal learning and narrow those gaps in test results.

Young people who have left care, having achieved well at school, say that small things made a big difference.  Among other things, positive encouragement, a good relationship with their social worker, high expectations about attendance, support from their teachers and a special relationship with a mentor or role model really helped.  Birth parents’ interest and belief in education, despite in some cases the absence of parents, also made a difference.

More statistics on children and young people in the state education system can be found on the Guardian’s website.

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Education and young people in care statistics – 2010

 

 

 

In 2010 there were 1,338 children in care ‘located in, and actively attending’  government schools. (1)

 

 

Disability

According to the education department’s assessment, 33.7 per cent of children in care who attend government schools were recorded as having a disability.  This compares to nine per cent, for the state.

Disability data is divided into five categories and following are the 2010 results for children in care:

  • Language and Communication     22.2%
  • Intellectual                                  8.9%
  • Autistic / Asperger’s Disorder        1.3%
  • Physical                                       0.7%
  • Sensory (Hearing / Vision)             0.5%

.

Attendance

All cultural/racial groups (2)

  • Absences for children in care (all children in brackets)    10% (10%)
  • No absences                                                            10.5% (7.8%)
  • Over ten absences                                                    28.1% (28.7%)

.

Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander children

  • Absences for children in care (all children in brackets)  12.9% (21.4%)
  • No absences                                                            8.8% (4.5%)
  • Over ten absences                                                   36.7% (55%)

.

Basic skills testing results

National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) testing is carried out for children in years three, five, seven and nine.  From 2008 to 2010 in all year levels, figures showing percentages ‘at or above the National Minimum Standard’ demonstrate that the results for children in care are significantly lower than the total for the state.

Read the subject/age group breakdown for 2008-2010 in PDF.

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(1) The phrase ‘located in, and actively attending’ is used by ECD in their report to the Office of the Guardian.

(2) Education department, absence rates are collected for fulltime students who are:

  • Enrolled during the period Semester 1 – Terms 1 and 2;
  • Absent for a whole day or half a day;
  • Active or left at the time of the Term 3 census;
  • For reasons which contribute to counts of absence for departmental reporting.

 

Audit of Annual Reviews 2010-11 – report summary

In 2010-11 the Office of the Guardian audited 246 annual reviews in total, conducted in 16 Families SA offices.  This was 12 per cent of the reviews that should have been conducted in the year.

A full report of the audit is provided to the Minister for Families and Communities, following opportunity for comment from Families SA.

The following are main points from the Audit of Annual Reviews 2010-11- Summary Report which can be downloaded in PDF.

  • Six offices facilitated children and young people to attend the review meeting.
  • The direct participation of children and young people increased from 16 per cent in 2009-10 to 25 per cent. Additionally, in 39 per cent of cases reviewed the social worker spoke in detail about the child or young person’s involvement in case decisions and demonstrated a thorough knowledge of the child’s views.
  • Thirteen per cent of children and young people did not have a voice in case planning or annual reviews.
  • Nineteen per cent of children and young people did not have regular contact with the same case worker.
  • Sixty-eight per cent of children and young people whose cases were reviewed were in stable, long-term placements.
  • Eighty-nine per cent of children and young people whose cases were reviewed were receiving services to meet their needs.
  • Nineteen children and young people, including ten adolescents approaching independence, did not have any significant connections beyond Families SA.
  • For the most part, good efforts, and in some cases exceptional efforts were made to ensure family contact was maintained.
  • Sixty-two per cent of the Aboriginal children whose cases were reviewed were placed with their extended family or with Aboriginal carers. In most cases there was evidence that the children had been provided with information about their cultural heritage and identity.
  • Thirty-three per cent of the children and young people had a Life Story Book.
  • There was evidence of strong inter-agency collaboration in 101 cases (41 per cent of all cases, and 61 per cent of cases requiring interagency collaboration). In 81 cases, Families SA reported that no other agency was involved in the child or young person’s life and that inter-agency collaboration was not needed.

 

Wellbeing of children and young people in care 2009-10

The Guardian for Children and Young People monitors the circumstances of children under the guardianship, or in the custody, of the Minister for Families and Communities. The feedback and findings of monitoring activities are reported directly to the agencies involved and to the Minister.

The Report on the Wellbeing of c&yp in care in SA 2009-10 summarises the information  in one place about three priority areas identified by the Office and makes the general conclusions available to a wider audience.

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What’s been done – September to November 2010

The Office has joined the consultation on the 2010 update of South Australia’s Strategic Plan to propose this target specific to children in care:

Exceed the Australian average for wellbeing of children and young people in out of home care, as indicated by educational achievement, stability and successful transition to adulthood.

We are also supporting new targets for healthy child development and prevention of abuse and neglect of children.  Team members have attended consultation workshops, participated in online conversations and prepared a submission, Making our state a better parent.

The Charter of Rights was tabled in Parliament on 30 September 2010. Two additional agencies, Cora Barclay Centre and West Coast Youth Services, have endorsed the Charter, taking the total to 45 agencies. A survey of agencies who have endorsed the Charter closed on 11 October. The response rate was very high and a report on the findings will be finalised in November.

A discussion paper on improving the mental health of children under guardianship was released for consultation on 16 September. Work on this will continue in November.

Advocate Belinda Walker spoke at the ICAN and Mentoring Statewide Conference, Youth development: everybody’s business, on 27 August focussing on the importance of children’s rights and involvement in developing Individual Education Plans.

The Guardian’s Office has released A Community Visitor Program for Children in State Care report on the feasibility of introducing such a program in South Australia. The report includes background research on other community visitor programs, the outcomes from a discussion with South Australian experts and consultation with the Guardian’s Youth Advisors.

In the period August to October staff from the Office audited 57 annual reviews and conducted 21 monitoring visits.

A report on the Office’s audit of annual reviews of children and young people in care has been compiled and provided to the Minister following opportunity for comment from Families SA. A Summary of the 2009-10 Audit of Annual Reviews is available in PDF.

With the South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS), the Office continued a series of information sessions for the NGO sector about the Information Sharing Guidelines (ISG) and is receiving positive feedback about the booklet A Guide to Writing an ISG Appendix. We have been working with Anglicare and Community Centres SA, formerly CANH, to promote the ISG.

The selection process for committee members for the Youth Advisory Committee (see the article on page 6) was held in August and September and the first meeting was held on 1 October.

The Guardian’s 2009-2010 Annual Report, was tabled in Parliament on
30 September 2010.

The independent Report on the Review of Performance and Effectiveness of the Office that was commissioned in April has been delivered.  As well as the evaluation, the report contains suggestions about needs and priorities gleaned from a wide range of stakeholders which will  be included in forthcoming strategic planning.

The brochure You and your future: choosing the right path to university has been updated and reissued for 2010-11 with the assistance of the three South Australian universities.  Distribution has started with the help of Families SA offices, the Department of Education and Children’s Services, the universities and YACSA.  Copies of the brochure can be ordered from the materials page of our website and can also be viewed  in a PDF version.

The Office responded to the Department for Families and Communities’ consultation on directions in alternative care which closed on 3 September.  The Response to Directions for alternative care is available in PDF on the Guardian’s website.

Choosing the right path to University – for young people in care

picture of the university brochureSouth Australia’s three universities combined with the Office of the Guardian again this year to update a brochure to encourage young people under, or recently under, guardianship to think about going to university.

The brochure describes a range of options for uni entry, ways of funding study, the variety of courses available and some real-life stories of young people under guardianship who have made the journey themselves.

The brochure is targeted to young people in their later years at high school and recent school leavers as well as the teachers, school counsellors and carers who can encourage and support them.

You can order copies of the brochure from the materials page of this site and it will also be distributed to DECS school counsellors, through universities and through Families SA social workers.  You can also view a version of the brochure in PDF.

Directions in alternative care

The Department of Families and Communities’ consultation on directions in alternative care closed on September 3.

You can now read the Office of the Guardian’s Response to Directions for alternative care in PDF on the website.

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Youth Advisors ask ‘What about school?’

cartoon picture of schoolEverybody says ‘if you want to get anywhere, you’ve got to get an education’. And we know that people are telling us we need to go to school.

The Charter of Rights says we have the right to a good education and to get extra support for special education needs and extra support for students with disabilities.

When Sara talked about her own experiences at school at the Opening the Doors to Wellbeing State Conference convened by KidsMatter and MindMatters, it started us talking about what it was really like for children and young people at school.

Read what the Youth Advisors had to say in a PDF file.