his month we have a Back to School Guide which looks at how parents and carers can support a child’s digital world with school work, homework and communicating with school.
From Apples to Apps (for teacher!)
We want to help our children and young people to do well at school, but with increasing use of technology for school work, homework and communicating with parents, it can be a challenge to keep up. Here’s my guide to your child’s digital school world.
Via a log in account: Most children from Key Stage 1 onwards are set homework which involves your child accessing this online at home, usually via the school’s account and their personal login name and password. Some of the more popular homework sites are MyMaths (where homework questions are set, marked and then fed back to school),PurpleMash (an interactive learning site for nursery and primary aged children to get to grips with basic concepts) and Babbel (for helping with learning foreign languages). Others include timetablesrockstars, jollyphonics and GCSE bitesize and revision guides.
Check with your child’s school which sites they use for homework - and that your child’s account works on your laptop or tablet. This is important for music or language homework sites, which may require a certain browser or audio player. Speak with school if you have any problems before the homework is due. It is also worth checking that your child is ‘learning’ via these sites, as some have a ‘reveal answer’ button and some are multiple choice, which children can very easily click through!
Via research online: Even from primary school, children may be set homework topics to research online and this is common from Key Stage 3 onwards. Check your ‘safe search’ settings on your search engine, and sit alongside your child if they are young or liable to misspell, or choose the ‘Google’ suggestion. I heard of a 10 year old who tried to search for pictures of Anne Boleyn for his Henry 8th homework, but misspelled it as ‘Annabel’ – the name of a popular horror movie. He screamed as the horror movie image appeared. Rather than typing, it may be an option to talk via ‘Ok Google’?
Another issue is young people believing everything they read online to be true. If children are using the internet for research, check the validity and reliability of the sites they are on. If in doubt stick to the BBC or other reputable forums. I have heard of some schools banning homework from Wikipedia - and there are also plagiarism issues for older children who may be ‘cutting and pasting’ information for an assessed piece of work. This may also apply to copyrighted images. Check your young people know how to reference information found online.
The new national curriculum now requires that schools offer Information Technology (IT) and digital literacy lessons from the age of 5 years, with the focus on how to code information and how to create their own programmes. This a change from learning how to use a computer (creating spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations etc), to how a computer works - with lessons in basic coding starting from Year 1.
This is where even the most social media savvy parents get left behind! But for parents who have an interest in trying to keep up with their child, some schools offer coding clubs after school which parents can attend with their child. There is also a wealth of apps which teach how to code.
The most popular app is Scratch Junior (www.scratchjr.org) - but this website is a great starting point and lists many apps, not only on coding but all areas of educational support:
There is lots of information in this article: “Coding a School: A parent’s guide to the new computing curriculum”:
Communicating with parents
For most schools, communication with parents is online via the schools website, a parent portal or regular updates via text message and email.
Parent Portal - If your child’s school has a portal system, there will usually be a separate log in for parents and for children. Check your login works and that the portal system is supported in your browser. Have a conversation with school with regards to information sharing online via the portal system, as the child’s basic contact details are stored along with a photograph. This is especially important for children whose details may need extra security via a court order for example. Check with school who can login to your child’s account. Are these given out to all adults with parental responsibility for example? Check your child knows not to share these details.
The portal system is often used for displaying homework, attendance and behaviour - but the details are often limited. Further conversations with school may be required to support your child.
School Website - For schools who don’t have a portal system, whole school or class information may be posted on the website and online calendar. This could include whole class homework, especially for Key Stage 1 and 2, and dates for the diary such as sports day or parent evenings. Check the school website regularly and remember that a signed permission agreement is required for schools to post pictures of children on their website. A form should be given out which is usually signed by someone with parental responsibility.
School online profile - Most schools now have an online presence on social media, and many are via Facebook and Twitter. It is always worth ‘following’ your child’s school on these sites, as sometimes messages are posted there first (like snow days!). Again, you can check for information that is being shared.
Parental engagement apps - Looking to the future there could be parental engagement apps. I would be interested to hear if any schools are using these and the feedback? If you want to read more I recommend this article:
FCC has recently presented a paper on why a ‘co-operative’ approach to fostering has led to outstanding educational results and child placement stability.
The presentation took place on 2nd September at The IFCO Conference 2016, held this year within Sheffield Hallam University.
The IFCO conference is an annual international event that brings together foster carers, children in foster care, care leavers, social workers, academics and policy makers from all around the world. The purpose of the event is for individuals and organisations to share their knowledge, experiences and understanding of fostering. FCC chose to highlight their unique status as a co-operative within the fostering sector.
Anne Bard, FCC’s Director of Childcare for England, said: “The Co-operative model allows us to be creative with how we can concentrate our income on providing quality foster care and promoting positive outcomes for children. All profit is re-distributed back in to the agency. Our placement stability figure is currently 3 years plus and has been for some years and this is something we’re very proud of.
“The promotion of education and positive educational outcomes is integral in the overall care provided by FCC foster carers. This ethos is supported by the agency’s commitment to maintaining the roles of Education Advisor and Transitions Advisor to support carers.
“The FCC believes that any child or young person fostered with them should be able to contribute to, and take advantage of, the community in which they live. The Education and Transitions Advisors work with foster carers to promote the raising of aspirations within our young people so that they can aim high.”
In terms of how a co-operative operates, it doesn’t have the involvement of distant shareholders or investors. It is controlled by its members, meaning the people on the ‘shop floor’ are consulted and listened to about how the organisation is run.
This directness of approach can make an organisation more ‘transparent’ and responsive to change – particularly at a policy level. It also creates a culture of greater democracy.
If you put that into the context of childcare, you are effectively giving the people who work with children the power to make positive change within their organisation for the good of those children.
The conference, which ran from 1st-4th September, was well attended and there was ample sharing of ideas and approaches, delivered through the many talks and presentations. FCC was ably supported by social workers and managers who staffed a stall in the main reception. This gave opportunity to delegates to chat about the Co-operative’s principles and ethos.
The Foster Care Co-operative remains the only co-operative operating in the UK fostering sector.
Lynn Findlay, one of FCC’s social workers, put together this Twitter feed presentation featuring images from the event:https://storify.com/lynnfindlay/the-fcc-at-ifco-2016#publicize
Thank you to Lynn and all that contributed on the day!
And a big 'thank you' to the guys at RAL Display Marketing for supplying our fantastic display stands. They also donated a stand due to our not-for-profit status! https://www.ral-display.co.uk/
To learn more about cooperatives, visit http://www.uk.coop/
A BBC report has highlighted the prevalence of ‘golden hellos’ offered to local authority foster carers by large commercial profit-making agencies to transfer.
Whilst FCC fully supports the banning of these pay-outs, we need to be clear that companies offering these incentives are in fact commercial profit-making fostering organisations, rather than a number of ethical, not-for-profit fostering agencies that exist in the UK.
Fostering Through Social Enterprise (FTSE), which represents charitable and not-for-profit fostering agencies, met in January to agree on a new term to describe its members: NFP Fostering Providers (not-for-profit fostering providers). There was a general frustration amongst members that all independent fostering providers were being ‘tarred with the same brush’.
It is extremely important that local authorities, as well as the general public, recognise that NFP Fostering Providers plough surplus income after office and support expenses, back into providing more support for their carers and children. By doing so, these organisations are able to offer more support and more training – which can only benefit the children placed within these agencies.
FCC would also like to echo the point made by Harvey Gallagher, chief executive of the Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers, that the calculations for the cost of foster care within local authorities does not include the additional running costs faced by independent providers. FCC cannot speak for other organisations, but as a not-for-profit provider with a clear ethical approach to fostering, operating costs are minimal.
The full report can be read here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-36975478
The government has been urged to crack down on ‘golden hellos’ - offered as an incentive for foster carers to transfer from local authorities to commercial profit-making fostering agencies.
Dave Hill, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), said that carers had been offered up to £3000 to transfer – and reported that in some instances the carers were sold back to local authorities for a much higher fee.
Ian Brazier, FCC’s Executive Director, said: “We fully support Mr Hill in his criticism of incentive payments for carer transfers – which artificially raises the cost of care.
“As with many not-for-profit fostering providers, we are grateful for the support of dedicated and generous foster carers – unique people who define themselves by the care and love they provide to vulnerable children. We all consider this approach to such an important task to be demeaning and distasteful.”
FCC pride themselves on a fully transparent not-for-profit approach to foster care, resulting in increased support and training for their foster carers.
We were featured in The Times yesterday (7th June). The article is about the contribution made to the UK economy by co-operative businesses and organisations. It also highlights the amount of co-op members there currently are in the UK.
The section we're featured in reads:
Ian Brazier is executive director of The Foster Care Co-operative, based in Worcestershire, which has 350 members across the country. He was not surprised that the co-operative model was expanding, he said, because his company offers flexibility, making the value-based model even more attractive to employees.
"The values are built in," he said. "A co-op is in many ways founded on the principle of we are all working together for each other, and the point I make to our members when we travel around the country is that they don't work for me - I work for them. It's my job to facilitate for them their skills for the co-op."
An annual report published by Co-operatives UK has revealed that businesses and organisations trading as co-operatives contribute £34.1bn to the economy each year. It also stated that some 17.5 million people - almost a quarter of the UK population - are members of a co-op.
You can read the full report here
What is a Co-op?
Co-operatives are run not by institutional investors or distant shareholders, but by their members. These members could be customers, employees, residents, farmers, artists, taxi drivers...
In terms of FCC, we are overseen by board members who have no financial interest in the agency – which means we can stay focused on our prime objective: to put children first above all else.
Not only are we proud to be just one of the few not-for-profit fostering agencies in the UK, but the way we run our organisation is member-centred due to being a co-operative.
Watch the video at http://www.fostercarecooperative.co.uk
Well, we’re four days in to Foster Care Fortnight and we thought we’d share with you some posts from our foster carers thus far. They were asked to share their favourite 20 minutes of last year – as part of the ‘Time to Foster, Time to Care’ campaign set up by The Fostering Network. This is what they wrote…
Marie & John, foster carers:
"Our favourite 20 minutes of last year was when our first foster placement came back to visit, made our day :)"
Mandy, foster carer:
"My favourite 20 minutes of last year was seeing the look on my foster children’s faces when I took them to a toy shop for the very first time… amazing and a pleasure to be a part of that :)"
Pauline, foster carer:
"My favourite 20 minutes of last year was when the girls came back to see us with their children after leaving care"
You can change lives when you work with young people.
Corporate Watch have published an article highlighting the amount of commercial profit made by some foster care organisations.
As foster care is paid for using public money, FCC believe any surplus income after running costs should be re-invested back into an organisation to provide more support for the children.
This is not about the standard of the provision of care being offered. It is about the proper use of limited local authority money allocated to childcare – particularly at a time when that funding is at the mercy of so many cuts.
You can read the article here: https://corporatewatch.org/news/2015/dec/15/foster-care-business
This follows on from meetings with FTSE (Fostering Through Social Enterprise) this week, where it was agreed that not-for-profit fostering organisations should refer to themselves as NFP Fostering Providers (not-for-profit fostering providers) in order to rightly distance themselves from those that make a commercial profit from foster care.
Independent providers of foster care have previously been referred to as IFAs (Independent Fostering Providers) – an umbrella term used to include both profit making and not-for-profit organisations, particularly by local authorities.
FtSE Member News: The Foster Care Co-operative - Not-for-profit making fostering agencies to be called NFP Fostering Providers
FCC’s executive director, Ian Brazier, attended a meeting with FTSE (Fostering Through Social Enterprise) on 6th January. It was a very positive meeting, and it has been agreed that we, along with other not-for-profit fostering providers, should refer to ourselves as NFP Fostering Providers (not-for-profit fostering providers) rather than IFA’s (Independent Fostering Agencies).
‘IFA’ is a general term, and it refers to both profit and not-for-profit making fostering agencies. FCC is very proud to be able to differentiate themselves from those that commercially profit from the fostering services they provide and so reduce the level of funding available for the care of children.
FTSE was established in 2007 and represents the views, perspectives and experience of a number of charitable and not-for-profit fostering providers.
The Fostering Network Wales has launched a report into the views of foster carers regarding what they believe is needed to raise the ambitions and educational outcomes of the young people in their care.
The report, entitled What is Needed to Enable Looked After Children to Achieve in Education? was commissioned by Welsh Government and follows consultations and a survey with foster carers carried out by The Fostering Network.
The report highlights the role of foster carers as first educators for the young people they are caring for, and the desire of foster carers to be increasingly involved in their fostered children’s education. Other findings of the report include:
•Foster carers believe additional funding is needed and that they should be more involved in deciding how the existing Pupil Deprivation Grant is used.
•Extra tutoring, professional support for emotional issues, and access to activities should be available to looked after children in all schools and provided flexibly to avoid stigmatising the child.
•Foster carers need to be encouraged to access training and other forms of support which might include peer support.
•More training about the needs of looked after children is required for education professionals who should also be encouraged to take up existing opportunities to better understand the needs of looked after children.
•The impact of instability on children needs to be fully recognised and taken into account when decisions are being made about placements, changes of school, and respite care provision.
•The importance of recognising the status and authority of foster carers within the children’s workforce.
Maria Boffey, from The Fostering Network and one of the report’s authors, said: ‘Raising the educational outcomes of fostered children and young people is a priority for The Fostering Network, and it is critical that foster carers be consulted and engaged with any process or policy reform which seeks to do this. The Fostering Network Wales has expertise and experience in engaging with foster carers and looked after children to inform policy development, and we are delighted to have been commissioned by the Welsh Government to produce this report which will help shape the future of the education of looked after young people in Wales.’
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