YOUNG people caring for loved ones are being offered the support they need from their Harlow schools.
Burnt Mill Co-operative Academy Trust (BMAT) schools in the town are working hard to identify all young people with a responsibility to care for someone at home.
The schools – Burnt Mill, Freshwaters, Roydon, Cooks Spinney and Little Parndon – were all selected to take part in the early implementation phase of the Young Carers in Schools Programme. The nearest other school to be included is in Southend, with just 15 across the country recognised in total.
Burnt Mill has been awarded a silver award, while the primaries won bronze for their efforts.
Tracy Taylor, inclusion manager for the BMAT schools, said just three students were officially recognised as young carers when they joined the programme.
She said: “This work is about raising awareness and identifying people who are young carers within our schools. Statistics say as many as one in 12 children could be young carers across the country.
“We recognise some children can’t stay behind after school or are not able to do their homework at home as they have responsibilities so we now offer break-time and lunchtime homework sessions.
“We have one young lady who has to go home and do the washing and cook dinner for her brother and sister. Another was scared to come to school in case their poorly mother fell ill while they were out.
We recognise that school is a big part of our children’s lives, but it might not be their priority. It is about making allowances for them, maybe letting them have their mobile phone to hand as reassurance. It’s giving the right support each individual needs.”
Assemblies have been held and information posted on the schools’ websites to help children to identify themselves as young carers.
The schools have also set up a dedicated email address for parents and children to get in touch directly and privately about their situations.
Each school has one member of its local advisory board with responsibility for young carers so it remains on the agenda with everything the schools do.
The Young Carers in Schools Programme, which will be rolled out nationally in September, gives schools a standard to work towards, with gold, silver and bronze awards.
Mrs Taylor said: “For the primary schools, it has been amazing. They can start working with their families early with a programme of support so it’s already in place when they come to Burnt Mill. Children then won’t have to tell their story all over again so it’s less for them to worry about.”
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