Louise Hughes is one of our Story of Care Ambassadors. This is the third in a series of blogs exploring her experience of care. The first one is about being a sibling in care. The second one is about being a Christian in care

One of the things I am most passionate about is education. Educating the young minds of the world and enabling them to be the best people they can be is really important to me. My degree is in Education and Drama, and I went to university wanting to be a teacher but quickly changed my mind but that doesn’t mean that the education of young people isn’t important to me. From December 2016 to August 2020 I worked as a Teaching Assistant, and I spent 18 of those months working as a role very close to my heart: the Children In Care Keyworker.

You may ask, what does that mean?

Well let me tell you.

It is well documented that children in care and care leavers tend to have below average educational outcomes compared to their peers. It infuriates me! Children in care are also three to four times more likely to have a special educational need; furthermore, in 2015, only 14% of children in care achieved five GCSEs grades A* to C. Clearly there is a flaw in the system that needs fixing!

It was my job to work with students in care and help them on their educational journey.  I also helped with their mental wellbeing and was their advocate.

Somehow, I defeated the odds of this flawed system. I got good SATs grades in Year 6 (I remember them because I was so proud), I got eleven GCSEs grades B and C. I went to sixth form where I got C, C, D and I completely defied the odds by going to university where I graduated with a 2:1. It was these facts that helped me to encourage my students in care.

One of them even said in a Looked After Children meeting “I want to be like Miss Hughes”.

Because of my help, my students began to thrive. They had a support network at school – someone they saw on a weekly basis to discuss their education, life and anything else they needed to talk about. I attended reviews and PEP (Personal Education Plan) reviews with my students where I could help them to speak up for themselves. I communicated with foster carers and social workers about how their young people were doing.

If I’d had a me at school, I would have done so much better.

The social care and education system is letting down this vulnerable group of students and something needs to change. Maybe if there were more care experienced keyworkers for children in care in schools ,or more care experienced mentors, that would be a start.

We shouldn’t give up on these children and young people. They have so much to offer and we need to help them.