Rotherham Virtual SchoolThe Barnsley carers were recently visited by Peter D, the Virtual School Headteacher for Secondary and Post 16 in Rotherham at a recent support group meeting.

He spoke to a group of around 14 carers and staff about how the Virtual School aims to support young people and their schools. Carers had the chance to ask questions on topics like PEP meetings, Pupil Premium Plus, unofficial exclusions and behaviour. Peter said that the Virtual School is often unaware of issues unless carers tell them and it was important to let him know.

Virtual School Rotherham exists to support the educational progress and achievement of looked after children, wherever they live. Children do not ‘attend’ the Virtual School, and they do not have a school building; looked after children remain the responsibility of the schools that they attend.

Rotherham Virtual School are proactive in trying to discover what works for their 650 young people and how any problems that exist can be overcome. They use a portion of the Pupil Premium Plus money to help fund a range of support such as training school staff.

The Real Life Foster CarerNearly every day starts the same way in our house, it’s usually the whispers and giggles of a tiny human ready to start their day.

We could never have imagined our house being filled with little people especially as we started fostering before we’d had any children of our own, but we can definitely vouch for the fact that it’s the best way to start your day.

We look after a seven-year-old girl and an eight-year-old boy who both attend the same primary school. It’s only a short distance around the corner so we have a lot of time together in the mornings. Once everyone’s had breakfast, got themselves dressed, brushed their teeth and said good morning to the cats and the gerbils, they both head down to the play room.

We are really lucky both kids adore school so sending them off in the morning is easy, then it’s time for me to start on my to do list for the day.

I start most mornings by just giving the house a tidy up as although fostering is my main job, meaning I get to spend a lot of time at home, I still have to make sure that I set myself a schedule and prioritise things that need doing because at any moment something could crop up.

My first port of call is usually my logs from the previous day! Each day, carers have to keep a log of what the child/ren has been up to for that day, behaviours they have displayed, how school was, any accidents appointments or incidents! These are not only important to keep everyone safe but also, it’s a fantastic archive for our kids to look back on when they’re older! It’s also a brilliant means of communication between yourself and your social worker or anyone else who may need that information, as it’s all done online and sent to a secure central portal!

90% of my time is just spent being a mum, so washing and ironing, packed lunches, tidying toys, sewing swimming badges on, paying bills and the odd coffee with friends!

Every four weeks though I have supervision with my social worker from Capstone Foster Care. She comes over and quite often it leads to hours of nattering away and I can sometimes feel like I’ve had a free therapy session! There are also lots of other types of meetings and training that I attend as a carer, so some days are busier than others when these things are in my diary.

Our children have activities almost every night of the week so once they’re picked up from school it’s often go go go! They attend cubs, brownies and swimming as well as three after school activities! There’s also homework and reading to be squashed in there somewhere and not forgetting a bit of down time for them to process their day. But we always make sure we sit down together as a family for our evening meal to connect. As our little boy wants to be a chef and open a restaurant one day, he often helps me with the cooking too.

On Fridays we’ll usually have a later night and watch a film with some popcorn too, which the kids really look forward to.

It’s then bath and bed time for everyone! Before bed we always take this opportunity to ask the children if they have any worries or want to speak about anything, so it doesn’t linger and disturb their dreams, and then we think of 5 things that makes us happy right before we close our eyes.

My days can be very busy at times and no two are the same, but we wouldn’t change what we do for the world!

Conne & Nico Robertson-Gurie, The Real Life Foster Carer

Two of our young people are currently involved in a Nurture Psychology project which explores how music can promote resilience and well-being for cared for children and young people. This is a new collaboration between Nurture Psychology Service & North Manchester FM Community Radio station, funded by the National Lottery.

The aim is to provide a programme of activities which help young people build resilience and explore thoughts and feelings such as, loss, hope, optimism, anger and stress using music, song writing and radio production.

In total, fifteen cared for young people have been attending the sessions. Eight of which have involved them working with musician facilitators to create new songs. The remaining sessions have been on radio production sessions, which involve learning new skills around presenting and producing their own radio show. They will cover interview techniques, research, editing radio/audio production and together they will apply these skills during two final broadcasts on NMFM 106.6.

We are glad to say that our young people have nearly completed the course and will be presenting how music helps to get them through challenges from 5pm on Wednesday 15th May 2019 on NM FM 106.6.

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