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Getting help at school or college as a young carer


It can be difficult to balance your caring responsibilities with doing well at school or college.

If sometimes you skip lessons, days or even whole weeks of school to care for someone, you are certainly not alone – 27% of young carers miss school. [1]

Sometimes even when you are able to make it to school, it can still be difficult. You might be exhausted from not being able to sleep well, or sore and achy from the physical demands of looking after someone. Or you could find it difficult to concentrate, instead worrying about the person you care for and how they are doing without you there.

And as if your role isn’t hard enough already, it can sometimes be made even more difficult by being bullied about it by other children.

All of this can have a big impact and means that young carers can sometimes finish school with lower grades and fewer qualifications than other young people. [2]

However, doing well at school is fundamental for setting you up for the future. It allows you to have choices over which type of job you want and the life you want to lead.

There are lots of things that can help you to get a balance between caring for someone and still doing well at school. Read our tips below for some ideas.

Video: How you can ask for help from your school

The most important thing you can do to help with any of these issues is to tell someone at your school that you are a young carer. If they do not know about it, they will not realise why you may sometimes struggle with attendance, find it hard to concentrate in lessons, are late or don’t always hand in your homework on time. You might find yourself often getting into trouble for these things, but if they realise the reason for them, your teachers will be more understanding and sympathetic.

There are lots of reasons why some young carers don’t tell their school that they look after someone. Sometimes they don’t want to draw attention to their role or are embarrassed about it. Sometimes they think there is nothing that can be done to help or that the school won’t be interested. Sometimes they worry that they or their family will get into trouble.

But in fact, your school or college will not judge you for your role, they will be keen to know about it, you won’t get in any trouble and there are actually lots of things that they can do to help. Remember that teachers are there to support you to achieve as much as you can at school, so they will help you in any way they can. You may even be surprised how often your school already deals with young carers: as many as 1 in 12 pupils in secondary schools have caring responsibilities. [3] The school may even have what is known a Young Carers Operational Lead, someone whose job it is to look out for you and make sure you are supported.

There are lots of different ways you can tell your school. You could talk to a trusted teacher, school nurse or other adult, tell them about your caring responsibilities and ask for their help. Or if you would rather, you could ask an adult in your life to write a letter or phone the school for you. A good person for them to get in touch with would be your Head of Year.

You should never get into the habit of thinking that school is optional, or less important than your caring role. Missing school regularly can have an impact on the rest of your life. You need to treat it like something that absolutely cannot be missed unless it is a complete emergency.

Is there a family friend or relative you could have on standby for the days when you need to care for your family member and would otherwise miss school? It’s better for an adult to take a day off of work than for you to take a day off school. If not, a professional who is responsible for looking after the person you care for – like their GP, nurse or support worker – might be able to organise some more formal care for them so that you can go to school.

If you do have to miss any time at school or college, it is important to try and catch up on what you missed. Speak to your teachers about providing you with copies of the work covered in the lessons you weren’t there for. Or even see whether they will sit down with you in a break or lunchtime and run through it with you to cover anything you might not understand.

It’s also never too late to make a change. If you have already missed lots of school, you may worry that you are too far behind to catch up or that it won’t make any difference now to miss more. But every time you do manage to attend school will make a big difference to what you are able to achieve. And being a young carer has likely made you resilient, determined and mean that you already know what it is like to work hard. These skills will put you in a good position to be able to catch up.

If you are finding it hard to keep up at school or college, then it is worth seeing if there are any ways your teachers can help. They could provide you with a quiet space at lunchtime or an after-school homework club to help you catch up. This may even be specifically for young carers. Or they could allow you a little more time than your classmates to submit your homework.

If you are worried about the person you care for, and find it difficult to be away from them all day without knowing that they are ok, you could ask whether the school would allow you to use a phone between lessons to check in with them and put your mind at ease.

If you are struggling because you feel exhausted, then this could be improved by either getting a better night’s sleep or having a break from your caring responsibilities. Advice about each of these can be found in our guides 'Staying well as a young carer' and 'Taking breaks as a young carer'.

If you are struggling to manage and are feeling overwhelmed, then you could talk to a teacher or your school nurse about how you are feeling. It can sometimes help to just talk about it and they will be able to tell you what other support you can get to make it all feel more manageable. They could possibly linking you up with a counsellor who you can speak to about how you are feeling if you want to. For further advice, take a look at our guide ‘Managing difficult emotions as a young carer’.

It is common for young carers to be bullied simply because they look after someone. A quarter of young carers say they have been picked on at school because of their caring responsibilities. [4]

Children sometimes bully other children because they stand out or they don’t understand them. The bully might be insecure themselves and be jealous that they aren’t as caring as you are. And sometimes people are bullied for no reason at all.

Remember that you have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of and you have done nothing to deserve it. In fact, you are doing an incredible thing for your relative. It shows you are a selfless and caring person who is making huge sacrifices for someone they love and you should be very proud of yourself.

That doesn’t mean that it is ok to put up with it though. You should never have to accept being bullied. Although it can be difficult, the most crucial thing is to tell a trusted adult at your school, like a teacher, what is happening. They will be very used to dealing with bullying, and will do everything they can to try and stop it from happening to you anymore.

Online Help and Advice

Visit our online support section where we have provided advice and guidance on a range of relevant topics to help you in your caring role.

Online support
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