New film shares young people’s experiences of life in care

11 April 2012 11:22:00

Young people from Bath & North East Somerset travelled to Torquay this weekend to take part in the National Union of Teachers (NUT) Easter Conference to promote a film they have made to help both their peers and teachers understand what it is like to be in foster care. 

The film ‘In Care, In School’ is a series of 10 scenarios based on real life experiences of members of the Bath & North East Somerset In Care Council, a group of looked after children and young people in the care of the local authority.

Supported by education policy experts from Bath Spa University, the In Care Council devised the short films to reveal the difficult situations children in care can face at school. The team of young people appointed Bath-based production company Suited & Booted Studios CIC, worked with a professional script writer, and helped direct the filming. All roles in the film were performed by local child actors.

The films paint an honest picture of everyday issues faced by children in care, providing a thought-provoking, insightful and extremely eloquent perspective; from the difficulty of knowing what to write in an autobiography assignment to finding it difficult to be enthusiastic about designing a Mother’s Day card.

The aim is for ‘In Care, In School’ to be shown in primary and secondary schools across the country to help pupils and teachers better understand and appreciate the needs of children and young people in care. The film is accompanied by a resource pack for use in Personal Health & Social Education (PSHE) lessons to encourage class discussion and learning, backed up by a training pack for school staff.

Care leavers and In Care Council members Kelvin and Naina Thomas spent Saturday at the NUT Conference talking to teachers and other professionals about the ‘In Care, In School’ film and resources. Kelvin first went into care at the age of 8, and Naina at 12. They described the making of the films and offered advice on how teachers could best support children and young people in care.

Kelvin said: "It was good to be able to speak directly with teachers about these issues and how children in care actually feel. We worked hard to try to bring them to everyone’s attention."

Naina commented: "A lot of teachers are concerned to support young people in care but they are worried about getting it wrong. We hope our project will help to give them the confidence to address some of the issues involved, both inside and outside the classroom."

Dave Biddleston, Secretary of the NUT in Bath & North East Somerset, who organised the stand at the conference, said: "It has been a privilege to be involved in this project from the start. The NUT warmly supports it both at a local and a national level."

Cllr Nathan Hartley, Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet Member for Early Years, Children and Youth, said: "This is a tremendous achievement and we’re extremely proud of the young people involved in the project for all their enthusiasm and commitment. This worthwhile initiative is supported by Bath & North East Somerset Council’s objective to ensure that children and young people enjoy their childhood and are prepared for adult life."

Mike Gorman, Head of Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Virtual School, works closely with the In Care Council to help ensure their voice is heard. The In Care Council is also supported by Bath-based Off The Record.

Mike said: "The project came about when we talked to the In Care Council about their experiences in school. They told us it would be really helpful if other children and teachers understood more about what it was like to be in care. They wanted to tell others how they really felt.

"We were clear from the start that the In Care Council should set the pace and direction of the project. The film had to involve young people in care at every stage, avoid sensationalism and be rooted in their everyday experience of school."

Tim Loughton MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, has given his support to the project.

Mr Loughton said: "This is an excellent example of what can be done through imaginative local cooperation. I am particularly impressed by the way in which the local In Care Council has played a central role. Raising awareness in schools about the needs of looked after children is very valuable work. We need more examples of this kind of innovation."

‘In Care, In School’ was jointly funded by Bath Spa University and Bath & North East Somerset Council, with additional support from the national PSHE Association, The Who Cares Trust, ASDAN, VisionWorks and the NUT.

The film and support materials have been piloted in three schools in Bath & North East Somerset and are being used by PGCE students from Bath Spa University in 48 primary and 10 secondary schools across the UK. Initial feedback has been extremely positive.

Following a full evaluation of the resources, ‘In Care, In School’ should be available for teachers to download free of charge from autumn 2012.