Campaign for the pupil premium to be used to help young carers

Carer Megan Mead who is a student at City College, with John Lee, the under 25's services manager at

Carer Megan Mead who is a student at City College, with John Lee, the under 25's services manager at Norfolk Carers Support. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: copyright: Archant 2014

A campaign is calling on the Government to use the pupil premium to support young carers in school. Reporter Kim Briscoe talked to one young carer about her experiences.

The Fair Start Campaign, launched by Carers Trust, aims to see the pupil premium used to close the gap between young carers and their peers.

The pupil premium is additional funding given to schools in England to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils. At present it does not apply to young carers, but Norfolk Carers Support, which is backing the campaign and is a member of the Carers Trust, says it is the best way to ensure these vulnerable young people are identified early, supported do well at school and are enabled to reach their own goals.

John Lee, under-25s services manager for Norfolk Carers Support, has written to David Laws, the minister responsible for the pupil premium, and is encouraging members of the public to support the campaign by doing the same.

He said: 'Something must be done to ensure young carers do not miss out on the same opportunities as their friends simply because they are caring for a family member. By identifying and supporting young carers through the education system we can give them a fair start.'

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Norwich South MP Simon Wright, who is Liberal Democrat education spokesman in the House of Commons, said: 'The pupil premium is making an enormous difference to the education of many young people who are at greatest risk of falling behind. Children from disadvantaged households, those whose parents serve in the armed forces, and looked-after children all receive several hundred pounds a year extra for their schooling.

'There is strong evidence to show that young carers are another group at high risk of falling behind, and I would strongly encourage the government to expand funding for the pupil premium so that these children can also benefit. I congratulate the Carers Trust for launching this new campaign, and hope that across Norfolk we can back a 'fair start' for young carers at school.'

More information about the campaign, and how to write to David Laws, can be found at• It was during Year 11 that Megan Mead became a young carer. It was a crucial year when she should have been devoting more time than ever to her studies, and yet she found herself looking after her mother, whose health had deteriorated.

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The 17-year-old, from Mile Cross, says: 'I did my Year 7 at a school in London and then Year 8 at Sprowston and the rest of my years at Red Balloon, because of bullying.

'I didn't really start caring until I was in Year 11 because that when my mum deteriorated. She has a broken back, kidney failure, diabetes and had a stroke.

'Me and my sister look after her. We didn't have help because they said my mum wasn't disabled enough to get extra help.'

Megan says the Red Balloon centre was really supportive, but her new role couldn't fail to have an impact on her studies and now Megan is on the Phoenix Plus course at City College Norwich to retake her GCSES.

She gets help from Norfolk Carers Support and was able to enjoy a respite break on a boat on the Broads with them over the summer. The organisation is also working to get her a laptop to help her to continue her studies at home.

After cooking and doing her chores, Megan says she often ends up studying 'when I'm meant to be sleeping'.

She says: 'My social life has gone down too. I don't really hang out. I try to at college but after college I can't stay out that long.

'There's a lot of young carers who aren't really known about and no-one really gets their emotions.

'Teachers I have known, with other young carers, don't get why they are tired or their grades are falling down. They tell them off and say they are slacking.'

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