Queen's students support children in care
Students from Queen’s have been working in partnership with a local independent fostering agency to help children in care with their reading and education.
Foster Carers Association Northern Ireland (FCA) specialises in the care of children who have experienced developmental trauma and deprivation.
The Reading Together programme, delivered by the Widening Participation Unit, brings together trained Student Mentors with children in care aged 7-10 to help them improve their literacy skills. The programme has been running since September 2020 and while it’s designed to be delivered in a classroom set up, the virtual roll out of the programme has meant that six children were able participate in the weekly sessions.
Paula Moran, Outreach and Learning Development Manager at Queen’s said about the programme: “Queen’s Widening Participation Unit has been delighted to work with Foster Care Associates this year on the Reading Together Programme. It was a challenging experience to deliver the programme online but the commitment to work collaboratively to achieve this ensured that the young people had a valuable and rewarding experience, as evidenced in their feedback.
The students who delivered the programme worked hard to build relationships with the young people and although we were unsure of how effective this could be in an online environment we were delighted with the success of the programme. We look forward to continuing our work with Foster Care Associates in the years ahead.”
Rachael Stockdale, one of the trained student mentors who took part in the programme, said: “When we were initially asked to consider going online with this programme, I had concerns about how effective it would be, but I can confidently say that I was completely wrong about that. In fact, this online programme has been incredibly effective and, in my opinion, has been a lifeline for the children and the carers in a time of such uncertainty and unpredictability during the pandemic.”
Patrick Devlin Interim Operations Manager at FCA Northern Ireland said: “We were so thrilled to have been a part of the first trial of the Queen's University Belfast reading programme amongst fostering as the changes in our young people have been outstanding.
“Learning to read truly makes a difference that can last a lifetime and that is exactly what we stand for here at FCA and is a great example of the opportunities that we want to give to children and young people in our care.”