A SPECIAL secondary school in Winsford is celebrating after receiving a nationwide accolade.

Oaklands School has received a bronze award for their work to make sure students don’t miss out on an education because they are young carers.

The Young Carers in Schools programme helps schools improve outcomes for young carers.Assistant headteacher Tamsyn Bradley, said: “We are thrilled to have achieved the Young Carers in Schools Award, gaining England-wide recognition for good practice and to showcase the quality of our school’s vital support for young carers.

"We now look forward to continuing to build our provision to provide the best support we can for our young carers and their families.”

A young carer at Oaklands said “Young Carers is a club where you can go and relax. There are people there where you can make friends”.

Young carers are responsible for emotional, practical or physical care for a parent, sibling or other family member who has a physical disability, mental health issue or substance misuse issue.

To achieve their bronze award Oaklands School demonstrated that it supports young carers in many ways, including clubs and drop-in sessions with a member of staff who is responsible for this vulnerable group of pupils.

Vital information about how to identify young carers is made available to all school staff and noticeboards and the school webpage let students and their families know where to go for help.

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Giles Meyer, chief executive of Carers Trust, said: “On average young carers will miss a day of school each month as a result of their caring role, so the steps schools take to identify and support them can have a huge impact on their learning, wellbeing and life chances.”

The 2011 Census statistics revealed that there are more than 166,000 young carers in England but research reveals that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The true figure could be closer to 700,000 young carers in England, equivalent to one in 12 school children many of whom are unrecognised and unsupported.

Research carried out by Carers Trust and The Children's Society shows that, on average, young carers miss or cut short 48 school days a year and often have lower levels of self-confidence, mental wellbeing and significantly lower educational attainment at GCSE level, because of their caring role. Ofsted's Common Inspection Framework states that inspectors will look at how well schools support young carers. While some schools are doing this really well, others struggle and this causes real problems for young carers..

Helen Leadbitter, national young carers lead at The Children’s Society, is delighted that the Young Carers in Schools Programme is bringing about national change.

“Hundreds of schools across England are participating in the Young Carers in Schools programme, using the tools and resources to improve their support systems, and ensuring that no child need miss out on educational opportunities because they are a carer. 74 per cent of schools who have achieved a Young Carers in Schools Award have noticed improved attendance among their young carers, and 94 per cent have noticed improvements in their wellbeing and confidence.”

The programme is open to all schools in England and to sign up schools can visit youngcarersinschools.com