Why We’re Prioritising Education

To mark the International Day of Education 2023, our Communities that Care Schools Coordinator, Lynsey Emery, writes about the importance of creating supportive learning environments that are responsive to the needs of Care Experienced people.

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Today is the International Day of Education and this year’s theme is “to invest in people and prioritise education”. But how can we do this for Care Experienced people and their communities?

For Care Experienced people, schools, colleges, and universities have a unique opportunity to provide support and consistency to enable them to realise their full potential. For over 40 years, we’ve heard many stories of how positive experiences in education have created opportunities for Care Experienced people to gain skills and experience, achieve qualifications and to build supportive relationships that can have a lifelong positive impact on all areas of their lives.

We know that the attainment of Care Experienced learners can be disproportionately poor when compared with their non-Care Experienced peers. This can be attributed to several factors including challenging home circumstances, lack of stability from multiple placements and school moves and missing school for meetings. That is why it is important to provide what all children need to thrive by creating learning environments that are more supportive and inclusive. This helps create the scaffolding required to ensure that Care Experienced learners have the opportunity to realise their educational aspirations and reach their full potential.

Sadly, we know that due to a lack of public awareness and understanding of care and care experience, often perpetuated by media stereotypes and depictions of Care Experienced people as ‘damaged’, they can experience stigma and discrimination within their communities. This can make it difficult to create the learning environments necessary to thrive.

The Promise has a strong focus on educating communities on care experience and the key roles of schools within the lives of Care Experienced people. We believe that to invest in change, we need to prioritise education. Schools provide an ideal setting to improve attitudes, understanding and perceptions of Care Experienced people within the next generation, and to support a ripple effect from that learning within the wider school community. School pupils will grow up to become adult community members, they are the future employers, future workforce and future corporate parents.

By investing in the education of school pupils through our Communities that Care programme, when their values are most susceptible to change, the next generation is learning about how to create a Scotland that ensures that everyone can succeed and belong.

Whole School Approach

Our Communities that Care whole-school approach creates the conditions for Care Experienced children and young people to be nurtured and supported in their schools and communities across Scotland, through local training and awareness-raising activities. The programme is replicable and sustainable and is currently being piloted in Renfrewshire, Edinburgh, and Clackmannanshire.

The programme works by educating entire school communities (pupils, staff, parents/carers) about what care experience is and creating an ethos of empathy and understanding towards Care Experienced pupils. It also provides fun opportunities for Care Experienced pupils to be together, learn about their rights and care identity, and to use their voice to influence change within their school.

“I think it’s good for wee ones from P1 right the way up to S6 to be learning about care experience. I think everybody should be learning about it and every school should know… so people understand more about how we feel.”

Care Experienced Person

PSE Curriculum Resource Packs

At the heart of our whole-school approach are the “Learning About Care Experience” PSE Curriculum Resource Packs which contain lessons for children and young people to learn about care experience in a developmentally appropriate way from Early Years through to S6. The packs were co-produced by Who Cares? Scotland staff and volunteers, Care Experienced people of all ages and teachers from a range of Scottish local authorities. The resources are currently being piloted within Renfrewshire alongside the other elements of the whole-school approach.

We’re committed to making sure every Care Experienced person is provided with what all children need to thrive and our Communities that Care programme is just one part of that. Our new strategic plan, Our Voice, Our Community, Our Future, sets out our priorities for 2023-2027. Included within it is creating communities that care. It is our vision that in the future our whole-school approach will be implemented in all Scottish school communities. Through this, we will build stronger communities not just for Care Experienced people but for everyone.

“It’s making a massive difference to the wellbeing of Care Experienced pupils, and even the ones who aren’t, having them understand that everybody’s got a different life, everybody’s got different families and you always have to be kind and understanding.”​


To find out more about our Communities that Care programme, you can contact Lynsey Emery.