Whether you make the decisions about your foster child’s education or share the responsibility with their birth parents, there are plenty of extra ways you can help while they live under your roof. Preparation and planning are vital, so here are some surefire tips to make their return to the classroom as stress-free as possible.
General advice for kids of all ages
Start the school nights and mornings routine early
- Get the family used to early bedtimes and morning alarms so there’s less of a shock when term begins. Also make sure everyone knows what to expect when it comes to using the bathroom, eating breakfast and getting to school on time.
Talk to your child about their expectations
- Discuss any fears or worries they have, from struggling at maths to making friends, as well as the things they’re excited for. Be supportive, non-judgemental and honest as you help them manage their expectations.
Preparations specific to foster children
Make sure they know how to contact you
- The school should take your details as a matter of course, but it might make your foster child feel more comfortable to know they have them too.
Practice the route to and from school
- Whether you’ll be driving or walking with them, or meeting them at a bus stop, take them through the routine a few times at the appropriate times of day.
Tell them who will pick them up and where they’ll be
- Let your foster child know if and when to expect you, your partner or their birth family to collect them, and where exactly they should wait for you.
Check in with the wider care team
- The placement process should have informed you of any special educational needs your foster child may have, but it’s always a good idea to double check. Ask your supervising social worker about any trouble the child has had before and what you can do to give them the best possible start.
Meet with teachers and staff to plan ahead
- Discuss any problems the child has had in the past, any advice the teacher can give, and how you can work together to come up with goals as the term progresses. If you can’t meet in person, a simple phone call can work just as well. Just remember to respect the confidentiality of information about the child.
Remember their classroom essentials
Correct school uniform and PE kit
- It’s vitally important that your child has the same uniform as everyone else, and that it fits well. If they don’t, they could feel like an outsider and find it hard to fit in. Plus, it’s usually an essential part of the school’s rules.
Functional shoes that fit well
- Feet grow quickly in the early years, so it’s highly likely that last term’s shoes are already too small. Invest in a high-quality pair and try not to compromise strength for style, no matter what the kids say.
A sturdy bag for their books
- Some schools have specific bags they’d like you to buy, often with a logo. If they don’t, make sure you get one that holds plenty of weight without being too cumbersome. If it’s strong enough, you won’t have to keep buying new ones.
A lunchbox packed with nutrition
- Let your child have some fun and pick one they like, as long as it’s durable. Choose what to pack for lunch together and sneak in a treat every now and then to surprise them and give them an icebreaker. Read our advice for encouraging healthy eating.
A well-stocked pencil case
- Make sure they have pens, pencils, rulers, erasers and sharpeners. Stationery your child has picked themselves is more likely to encourage them to work hard. And a cool pencil case could give them something to talk about with potential new friends.