Kessingland Primary Academy Highlighted for Outstanding Provision for Young Carers

November 23, 2022

Kessingland Church of England Primary Academy, part Dioceses of Norwich Education and Academies Trust (DNEAT) in Lowestoft has been recognised as a school for providing outstanding provision for Young Carers.

Kessingland Church of England Primary Academy was already working with Suffolk Family Carers in 2015, with five Young Carers they had identified at the time, when they were asked to join a school pilot programme to trial the Suffolk Young Carer Awards Scheme. This was a pilot scheme that was researching the need for provision for five- to nine-year-olds.

Oliver Burwood, CEO of Diocese of Norwich Education and Academies Trust said: “’We are so proud of our young carers at Kessingland and across the Trust. The important work the team at Kessingland have undertaken to support these amazing children is making a real difference to their lives.”

Mrs Lynda Hood, the Young Carers Lead at Kessingland Primary Academy said “It was Suffolk Young Carers who introduced the school to The Children’s Society, and so it made sense to work with both professional organisations, bearing in mind that the requirements to fully support Young Carers and their families were already being embedded in the school policy procedures. Thus, working in parallel on both schemes enabled Kessingland Academy to achieve The Children’s Society’s Bronze and Silver award at the same time.”

Lynda made clear that although it is lovely to receive the awards, the school’s drive is to ensure that every child in school is best supported. Staff feel that the YCiS Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards are an excellent way to ensure that the school continually meets the highest possible standards of provision for all vulnerable children and Young Carers.

The initial reason for introducing the YCiS Programme was to ensure that the school continued on an upward trajectory, ensuring the highest quality provision for their Young Carers. They believed that by utilising the YCiS Award Programme, they would have access to specialist professionals, thereby enabling them to use their knowledge and skills to ensure outstanding delivery of care.

Currently, there are 40 potential Young Carers at Kessingland Academy, some of which are still awaiting registration. 18 of the ones registered are female and 11 are male.  Three are in the age group five to seven, another 14 in the age group seven to nine and 12 in the age group nine to 11.

Some Young Carers have experienced mental health issues, including anxiety and low self-esteem, as a result of the pressure of looking after a member of their family.

Kessingland Academy prides itself on being a welcoming and inclusive primary school, whose Christian principles are at the heart of all they do.  With 226 pupils on their role, they pride themselves on their commitment to working in partnership with families and the local community, to make every child’s time at school a positive one.

Who are Young Carers?

A Young Carer is someone under 18 years of age who cares for another person i.e. takes their younger sibling to school, cooks, cleans, shops, undertakes many domestic duties and provides emotional support to family members.  Life can be very demanding for them physically and mentally, but they still have to attend school, look after themselves and not lose sight of their dreams. However, their extra responsibilities can lead to school absence and lack of social interaction with friends.  Some Young Carers experience mental health issues, including anxiety and low self-esteem due to the pressure of looking after a member of their family. In short, it has a major impact on their childhood.

  • According to the 2011 Census, there were 166,363 Young Carers aged 5 to 17 years old in England. An increase of 20% on the number was identified in 2001 and the numbers continue to rise
  • The Care Act and the Children and Families Act dictate that Local Authorities have responsibilities to ensure that Young Carers’ needs are recognised and responded to.
  • Research indicates that 27% of Young Carers aged 11-15 miss school because of their caring role
  • 1 in 12 Young Carers spend more than 15 hours per week caring
  • 80% of Young Carers felt more isolated during the pandemic
  • 1 in 3 Young Carers have a mental health issue
  • 1 in 4 Young Carers reported being bullied because of their caring role
  • Young Carers are often hidden
  • Research shows that Young Carers education attainment is hampered by their caring role and they are 1.5 times more likely than their peers to have a special educational need or a disability
  • Young Carers are more likely than the national average to be not in education, employment or training (NET) between the ages of 16 and 19.

A clear challenge for all schools but how has Kessingland Church of England Primary Academy overcome this challenge?

Lynda explained that because of the school’s close and trusting relationships with all their families and because of the time invested working together in partnership, families feel safe in working together on a support plan. Some of the issues are exacerbated by poverty, and so they have links with Morrisons and other local supermarkets to provide supplies for their food bank. Sometimes they signpost to debt management organisations and they also work with, and refer cases to, other local and national services who can provide additional support.

Lynda is convinced that there are hidden Young Carers at the school, despite the significant numbers already identified. “Whilst we hope that the school has identified and are supporting all of the pupils that are Young Carers, we recognise that there are many reasons why Young Carers remain hidden and it is important that we continue to educate both the children and families on the support available.”

The school has created many ways for families to come forward. Parents are invited to Young Carers events, including the annual Young Carers week and related exhibitions. There is a Young Carer section on their webpage, and they have a parent portal. There are also always two senior members of staff on the school gate in the morning and afternoon, so parents know they can approach them and bring issues to the attention of a member of staff for immediate or early action. The school closely monitors attendance to ensure this group of pupils’ education is not damaged by the responsibilities they have in the family home.

Overall, Lynda shares that they have established an incredibly strong community engagement, and their Young Carers are supported effectively both in and out of school. This leads to greater engagement, as families spread the word about what is available.

Kessingland CofE Primary Academy arranges a great number of activities for their Young Carers and their families. These include:-

  • Young Carers lunch-time sessions, art sessions, and making use of the forest school in their own grounds
  • Half-termly VIP lunches (“Build your own sandwich” and “How to make a healthy packed lunch”)
  • Suffolk Young Carers provide 1:1 counselling support
  • “A day that makes a difference”: Bringing together Young Carers from other local schools to have fun, try new sports, learn how to manage their own well-being, and find out about the available support services
  • Annual Young Carer Day
  • After school clubs and extra-curricular activities for Young Carers with their families, e.g., coracle/boat building, willow weaving
  • Fish & chips Young Carers family evenings
  • The SFC Young Carer Ambassador Scheme – Including Governor Liaison
  • Afternoon Tea Events
  • The Big Day Out – The Lowestoft Rotarians
  • University of East Anglia – Sainsbury Art/Poetry Day
  • Phone calls home to give Young Carers the opportunity to ensure their family members are safe and well

Furthermore, during Young Carers Week, they held immersive assemblies, where year groups enacted age-appropriate domestic activities, normally undertaken by a Young Carer. Pupils produced all sorts of work, including art, relating to their understanding of a Young Carer’s life. Parents were then invited to view the children’s work, which was exhibited in the hall at the end of each day. The school were delighted with the number of parents who made the effort to come as almost all children had a number of family members come to support. At this event, more parents came forward to see if the school felt their child was a carer and asked if they could join the Young Carers group. It was therefore also a successful event for finding hidden Young Carers.

Additionally, the school keeps in contact with senior schools, colleges and universities, knowing that many of their children will move on to those educational establishments in the future and therefore work in partnership.  Working with another Young Carer charity, Kessingland was able to invite all their Young Carers and their family to a “Post-Christmas Party-Party” in the community, at which they had sports, art, poetry, and other fun activities and games. When one of the attending school governors asked one of the Young Carers what they liked about the party, Lynda heard the child reply, “It’s the best party I have ever been to.” The governor asked why, and the child said, “I don’t have to do any clearing up afterwards, and it makes us feel special.”

With the help of Suffolk Young Carers, Kessingland shares with all staff, the support given to Young Carers and members of the team regularly give updates. They learn what it means to be a Young Carer, about all possible challenges and how best to refer them. Every member of staff gets involved with Young Carer activities during the course of the year and include Young Carer activities within the curriculum. They also have a Young Carers Governor Liaison Officer to ensure Young Carers remain embedded in high-level policy.

Kessingland had ongoing contact with Young Carer families during the school’s partial closure.  The Pastoral team made over 500 calls to families to check in with them. They also kept in contact via email, Class Dojo and Google Classroom. Parents and carers can request a call-back, naming a specific team member, if they so wish. There is also an answerphone/email message facility within the office, should they want to leave a message.

YCiS Programme Successes

The YCiS programme has made a difference to Kessingland CofE Primary Academy in several ways. Firstly, it raised awareness of Young Carers, their challenges, and their support needs. Secondly, it ensures that every member of staff monitors these children closely and knows how to best support them. They now have a Young Carer ambassador/mentor. The programme also made Kessingland Academy realise how important it is to develop partnerships with local charities, and the importance of communications/duty of care to raise the profile of Young Carers throughout the community. The programme ensures that the school can improve the lives of the Young Carers and their families.

Identified Young Carers are well provided for and are thriving in school. “We can now continue to offer an up-to-the-minute, professional, and highly comprehensive level of care, because we have accessed the knowledge and skills of the professional bodies that have produced this awards package,” Lynda summarised. “By ensuring the best outcomes for our pupils and families, we reduce their anxiety, and in doing so, enable our pupils to access the curriculum, unhindered by the external factors that, if unaddressed, have a negative impact upon their ability to learn, or even attend school.”

Kessingland CofE Primary Academy has a follow-through process for Young Carers and their families who are leaving the school. They speak to the new school’s Pastoral Team/Safeguarding Team/Young Carer Lead, and, with the parents’ permission, transfer the file and also have conversations with new tutors, when appropriate. This ensures that the pupils continue to be best supported in their new schools.