Research shows there are 4 key ingredients for children and young people to succeed at school:

  • Belonging – feeling important to at least one person
  • Mastery – being good at something
  • Independence – the ability to make decisions and influence their environment, and
  • Generosity – being able to use all of these to help those around them

There can be additional barriers for vulnerable children and young people, particularly those from out-of-home care including;

  • instability from placement changes
  • a higher likelihood of traumatic experiences
  • involvement with the justice system and
  • other issues such as mental illness.

It’s hard to learn and grow when there’s so much else going on. This can explain why children and young people in care experience higher rates of disengagement with school. Teachers and principals can also struggle to understand pain-based behaviours and how they are expressed, which can lead to punishment and the ‘exclusion snowball’ of detention, suspension, expulsion and complete disengagement.

Campaigns like the Community Council for Australia’s ‘It Takes a Village’ are important because they remind us everyone has a role to play in helping children and young people succeed. The driving force of the campaign is improving our relationships with children and young people to become mentors and advisors rather than authority figures.

Life Without Barriers also partners with the Youth Plus Institute to support children and young people to stay connected with education. The partnership provides 3 teacher qualified education consultants who visit schools to educate teachers and principals on the additional barriers children in care face, negotiating plans to keep them enrolled and engaged, and helping our staff and carers to maximise opportunities for success.

Strategies include helping children and young people regulate their behaviour and take ownership of their actions with non-punitive approaches to resolving issues such as agreements between the young person and their teachers. Creating safe spaces and encouraging regular check-ins with trusted teachers or other adults is another way to overcome the barriers to engagement.