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Young carers and school

As a young carer, you might find school a place where you can forget about caring responsibilities and feel 'normal' for a while. But it can also be a place where you're under extra pressure or where people don’t understand what your life outside school is like. It can sometimes be hard to juggle all your responsibilities as a young carer with the demands of teachers, friends and homework.

Keeping up to date with work

You might not want your school to know you're caring for someone. But if they don't know about your situation, it will be difficult for teachers to understand if you struggle to keep up in class or don't do your homework. It's a good idea to let at least one teacher know you're a carer.

You might find it difficult to talk about your home life with a teacher, so you could ask a parent to write a letter to the school, perhaps to the head of year. Some young carers find it easier to talk about the situation if they keep a diary or a list of all the jobs and tasks they have to do.

If you still find it difficult to talk to someone at your school, you could talk to someone at a young carers project. They may be able to talk to the school on your behalf or come with you to meetings. A list of young carers projects can be found on the Children’s Society website.

When you're caring for a parent, brother or sister, it can be difficult to balance your caring responsibilities with school and homework. At secondary school, homework is a really important part of learning.

If you're having trouble with school or homework, your teachers may offer:

  • extra time for school work when the person you care for is ill,
  • help for your parents to travel to parents’ evenings if they have trouble leaving the house,
  • to talk to you privately about your home life, and 
  • homework clubs.

Missing school

You may feel you have to miss school to care for someone who is ill. But missing school can affect your whole future. It’s important you get help as quickly as possible so the situation doesn't go on for a long time.

The family doctor (GP), social worker, nurse or other people who help the person you look after should be able to organise more support at home to help you concentrate on school or college.

If you miss a lot of school, an education welfare officer may contact you. They will try to find out what is causing you to miss school and how to get you back to school. It's really worth talking openly and honestly to them. Their role is to help you.

If the school has tried to help you with your attendance and it hasn’t worked, they may give your parents a Parenting Order. This sets out what the school wants parents to do to make sure you go to school. It's important the school knows the situation so that it can help.

Support at school

There are lots of ways your school can help. You could be allowed to use a phone during breaks and lunchtime so you can check on the person you're looking after.

The school could also put you in touch with your local young carers service or get a young carers worker to talk to you or to deliver a lesson at your school.

Some schools run lunchtime groups or homework support groups for young carers. If your school doesn’t do this, you could suggest it to your teachers.

Nobody wants to get into trouble at school. If teachers know you're a carer, they may be more sympathetic to your problems (such as lateness), but it won’t necessarily stop you being disciplined if you break the rules. If you are given detention, you could ask to have it during lunchtime rather than after school because of your caring responsibility.

Watch the video below to see JLS singer, Oritsé Williams, answer questions from young carers about caring for a parent with MS while coping with school.

Bullying

Are you being bullied? Just because you’re not being hit, doesn’t mean you’re not being bullied. Bullying can include being deliberately left out of activities or groups, called names, hit, kicked, punched or threatened.

Some bullies spread rumours. Some make fun of a young carer’s relative or family member. Some young people are bullied for having the wrong clothes, blue eyes or red hair. Young carers are sometimes bullied because the person they care for is ill or disabled, or because young carers can’t always do the things other young people can. Some people are bullied for no reason.

Bullying doesn't only affect young carers, but can affect any young person. In fact, 44% of children and young people say they've been bullied at school. Even adults get bullied.

It’s natural to feel sad, angry or scared if you're being bullied, but it’s important to remember there are ways to deal with the problem.

Don’t put up with it

Young carers don't have to put up with bullying. As soon as you can, tell someone you trust about what's happening. You could talk to anybody, but it’s important you talk about it.

Do something about it

There are lots of things young carers can do if they're being bullied. For example, if you're bullied on your way to school, take a different route. You could try not to react: if you show you're not angry or upset, you take some of the power away from the bullies. If you fight back you're likely to get hurt and to get into trouble.

Get support

Your parents can help by talking to your school. Get them to talk to a teacher as soon as possible. There are lots of independent organisations that can help young people with bullying, such as Childline or Bullying UK.

Prove your point

If you're bullied regularly, keep a diary of what happens, what was said and who was there, and save any nasty texts or emails. This is useful to show others exactly what's going on. Being bullied can make you feel terrible and it’s important that negative feelings don’t take over your life. Keeping a diary can also help you express these feelings and it can help if you read them back at a later date.

Talking to trusted friends or getting involved in new activities could help you to overcome negative feelings. 

Oritsé Williams talks to young carers

Oritsé Williams from the band JLS answers questions from young carers for people with multiple sclerosis (MS). Oritsé's mother has MS, and he was a young carer himself. When he was growing up he helped look after his mother, as well as his younger brothers and sister.

Media last reviewed: 25/02/2014

Next review due: 25/02/2016

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Page last reviewed: 03/02/2012

Next review due: 03/02/2014

Call Carers Direct on 0300 123 1053

Confidential information and advice for carers.

Lines are open 9am to 8pm Monday to Friday (except bank holidays), 11am to 4pm at weekends. Request a free call back or an interpreted call back in one of more than 170 languages including ربي, বাংলা, 中文, Français, ગુજરાતી, Polski, Português, ਪੰਜਾਬੀ, Soomaali, Español, Türkçe and .اردو.

You can talk to an adviser live online or send a query by email.

Find out more about the Carers Direct helpline.

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