Changing Education narratives

The second Tri – Borough Virtual School Conference attracted renown speakers such as Lisa Cherry, Dr Karen Treisman and Karl Wall.

I was privileged not just to be attending this pioneering project but also to be speaking at it. As an adopted child I can testify to the sheer pressure of learning and achieving at school when the world that you live in contains extreme levels of trauma and attachment issues.  In this blog I have captured a general overview of some of the speakers, but will be writing things up in more detail over the coming weeks.

David Cameron once said, ‘This government is committed to rewarding those who want to work’ whilst this statement may sound profound it fails to address the truth about modern society, that not all adults begin life on a level playing field. For many children and young people their playing field is quite simply a daily war zone, so how can a person achieve high educational goals when daily living is about surviving neglect, abuse, starvation, isolation and the constant instability of homeless and a total lack of family security? We are not all born into greatness.

Catch a clips from the day and a short section from my section at conference, when I performed a little of my comedy adoption show ‘Spot The Difference’ and talked about the Laugh 4 Life seminars and workshops I’m doing for young adopted/fostered/LAC children.

Inspire Education Professionals with the event 

‘Enabling Young People in Care, Care leavers and previously looked after children to flourish in education’

Lauren Fernback

Lauren started with a bunch of shocking statistics including the fact that 700,440 children are currently in care, of which 75% were being fostered and as high as 50% of young offenders have been in care.

She shared about the importance of training staff and being an adoption friendly school, the use of effective communication with vulnerable children, such as how asking a young person ‘are you OK’ could be the tenth time they have been asked that day and could lead to either a shutting down emotionally or an sharp retort.

LAC (*Looked after children) Children often experience gaps in learning and low self-esteem which overtime resulted in them becoming unfocused, withdrawn, controlling and under-achieving… again more shocking facts.

The importance of sharing knowledge throughout school departments, staff learning how to work with a young person is important to help chart individual teacher and pupil communication success and workout effectual long-term learning practices. The ‘empathy no matter what’ approach I found interesting as often so called ‘child bad-behaviour’ is often masking trauma or attachment issues that need to be addressed, not punished or ignored.

For many vulnerable young people she concluded, education could be the only way out of their situation.

*As a sideline, I attended at a recent event when an Ex-Tory minister said, ‘Work is the only way out of poverty’, but actually without education and dealing with mental health/housing/family related issues, worrying about poverty when a young persons is in there early twenties is late. Early help and prevention is better than cure…


Lisa Cherry – Author trainer and speaker

Lisa Cherry ‐‘Alternative Perspectives On Being A Child In Care In Education’

Lisa commenced with the startling fact that as recent as up to the 1980’s society as a whole didn’t care about young people in care, it was pioneers like Sonia Jackson who crunched the statistics and data who argued that young people are being failed in the system as they walk into their life journey damaged.

Lisa Cherry

Lisa Cherry

Over the past 10 years the figures have risen by nearly 1,000 children a year entering the care system since 2010, 7% of young people who grow up in care are more likely to die in early adulthood compared to other young people and the statistics have not improved… Why?


Schools have a persistent need to have children all learning at the same time, this is difficult for LAC as they are constantly moving around the local authority care system and fighting a fight often to unimaginable to voice in their personal lives. The mental wellbeing of LAC children is crucial to education and personal development, but in what way?


Disorganised attachment. As the young person yo-yo’s between home to care to home to care the brain becomes disorientated, thus adversely affecting the ability to learn.

Lisa went on to discuss her own life story in care and explain how every child in care ‘needs someone to meet them from the station’, as a much trusted and loved social worker once told her. How the neglect, abuse and misunderstanding of her childhood she is still dealing and living with. Currently against all the odds she is proud to be studying for a masters degree so she can continue to share her huge wealth of knowledge to the thousands of others who are walking the same walk in her wake.


One of the most powerful statements she made was her desire to eradicate the ‘naughty child’ label often given to ‘problem children’, as she described the challenging behavior needs to be addressed as an outward manifestation of inner turmoil, and using such labels just reinforce the pain and failure already written in a child’s heart.


Dr Karen Treisman

Dr Karen Treisman

Dr Karen Treisman

Every young person is unique including siblings, not every learning situation is a trauma related, as children in general are multi-layered and complex.


The first question she asks a child is ‘what does your world look like?’ the startling images that some children had drawn flashed large upon our seminar screen and caused everyone in the room to gasp. Children’s drawings of bleeding smiling mono-coloured faces, black eyes and tiny children crouched in a darkened forest with dragons flashed up on the screen, a far cry from the usual smiling colourful faces of mummy and daddy.


School is a place of routine and structure and prepares us for work, but if a child’s life narrative provides an absence of a core daily structure then just attending school can be challenging.


One area I found interesting is when she explained why might school be harder for these young people? The list made me think of my own issues with learning at school, such as:

Missed schooling/abscences/multiple moves

Sleep disturbances/flashbacks

Functioning out of a ‘survival state’ of learning in the brain and not able to connect into the higher problem solving and creativity brain areas, results in the child not being able to cope in various learning situations albeit how simple to the untrained teacher they may appear.

Cognitive and executive function difficulties.


Dr Treisman spoke later about seeing behavior as a communication of data, as it’s easy to get bogged down with extreme behaviours when in fact it’s important to de-code these messages and apply connection with the child before correction.

The brain and behaviour is a complex ground, this learning in schools will be a powerful weapon in creating a productive learning experience for all, instead of the few.


Joy Carter – Comedian speaker and seminars

After a brilliant and intense morning for my section I decided to go straight into a 7 minute section of my one woman comedy show called ‘Spot the Difference’, which tells the story of my own overseas adoption, search for identity, vulnerabilities and struggle with family life.

Joy Carter

My talk described firstly about the power of humour to overcome tragic situations in our lives at all levels, alluding to past historical references such as ‘gallows humour’ and how soldiers used humour as a healing weapon mentally during the second-world war. Humour can help engage powerfully with past traumas to help young adults to find their voice, restructure painful memories and produce a positive narrative.  Humour seminars is similar to art therapy it helps a person to unpack challenging emotions and stories giving an individual confidence to even face the ‘unfaceable’.


I spoke about the problem for anyone who has experienced high levels of trauma to explain such complex emotions and circumstances to the general public, friends and family and how humour can help people relate to the often extreme and complex situations.

I have written a training seminar called ‘laugh 4 life’ that so far I have used in the business world to help employees deal with high levels of stress, but I am working on an educational package for young people to apply like myself into trauma and attachment related areas.

Humour is that powerful and is at times is the key to freedom from the dungeons of the past.


Other speakers that day included:

Alex Pethik ‐‘Developing Effective Practice – the role of the

Designated Teacher for CLA & Previously Looked After


Felicity Chame ‐‘Kate Cairns Associates & Wilberforce School ‐Co‐creation of an attachment aware

and trauma informed school’

Karl Wall ‐‘Promoting the Achievement of Looked After

Children (PALAC) ‐a pioneering programme to support

professionals to enhance the achievement and wellbeing of

children and young people in care’



Author: Joy Carter

Joy Carter CEO and founder of Adoption Arena. ‘Sharing Joy’ sees Joy write on the positives in this field. What can we learn? What is the government and society doing or not doing concerning adoption or fostering? Expect exclusive interviews and narrative. Read more

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