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Supporting our Young Carers 

  • Senior School

As a school, our relationship with Edinburgh Young Carers dates back to November 2018 when we joined the Young Carer Network. Since then, the initiative has grown from strength to strength, accumulating in Watson’s being awarded the coveted We Recognise: We Care Award in February this year. 

Following key research, further development of policies, statement training and staff support, Mrs Alison Melville was appointed the Young Carer Coordinator in our Senior School. As our lead contact, she has played a pivotal role in establishing the facility:

Alison Melville

“I was delighted to take on the role as Young Carer Coordinator in the Senior School - it has given me so many opportunities to work with and support our pupils. I have also had the privilege of working with the fantastic charity Edinburgh Young Carers (EYC) to look at the support resources we already had in place and work towards improving our systems and procedures for accurate recording and for a more streamlined support system. My focus this session was to raise awareness of young carers in our school community and ensure that each young carer has the offer of a young person's statement, and regular personalised support. Working closely with Jennifer Lewis from EYC and Ciara Weatherup, our Wider Access Manager, I have been able to look at best practice for early identification and intervention, to prevent any of our pupils taking on a caring role for too long without any support which may have a negative impact on their health and wellbeing, and academic progress.” 

Mrs Melvile attended the Young Carers Conference in March 2023 before meeting with our Wider Access Manager, Ciara Weatherup, Junior School ASL Lead, Pippa McCallum and EYC Project Manager, Jennifer Lewis to begin work on the We Care Award. Since then personal social development (PSD) lessons have been carried out and a young carer-specific notice board was created in the Senior School entrance hall, thanks to the support of Head of Pupil Development, Jo McGlynn. 

Pupils have hugely benefited from our Young Carers initiative and in September 2023, our monthly support group formed, proving an imperative asset in establishing young carers in school. Kirsty (S4) explained the reason behind why the group was introduced: 

“Young carers face a huge array of challenges as a result of their caring role. The Carers Trust young carer survey repeatedly shows many young carers are disadvantaged across multiple aspects of their lives, including mental and physical health, finances, education and employment.”

Following the launch of our support group, GWC hosted hybrid training which was provided on site for Young Carer Coordinators as part of the Young Carer Collaborative. A mere couple of months later, all our Guidance staff were trained on how best to support young carers in our school community, thanks to key EYC contact, Jennifer Lewis. Our S1s, S2s and S5s participated in further PSD lessons which focussed on raising awareness of the importance of young carers, while Mrs Elodie Robert-Christensen created various resources for further education support which were shared with the Edinburgh Young Carer Collaborative. Such dedication and preparation provided ideal evidence for our school to be presented with the We Care award - a starter level award which encourages schools to evaluate their baseline practice, and develop/adopt new ways of working to improve the young carer experience within schools.

With our award secured, an assembly was held on Young Carers Action Day to raise awareness across campus. S4 pupils, Fern

Young Carers Group

and Kirsty spoke about their experiences, discussing how this year’s theme - a fair future for young carers - not only focuses on equality but also ensures all barriers (of which their peers might not relate to) are removed. To implement this, the GWC Young Carers team hosted a Tea and Talk celebration in our Pupil Development and Nurture Base to which all members of the school community were invited. This event allowed the group to celebrate their recent We Care success and appreciate its importance within the wider school community. Fearn said:

“Not all schools have this award so we are very proud to come to Watson’s. There is lots of help available and we want to encourage all those who think they might be a young carer to let their form tutor or Mrs Melville know. Not all young carers are the same and many may have different responsibilities but it is so important that they are still recognised.”

Mrs Melville furthered this, explaining the school’s next steps in nurturing our Young Carer support system:

“Looking ahead to our 24/25 session, I would like to see our Young Carer support group grow, as word gets out about the benefits of sharing experiences and having fun in a supportive environment with like-minded others. I look forward to the implementation of the system changes for recording young carers going live but most of all, continuing to build strong relationships with Edinburgh Young Carers as one of our newly announced partnership charities.”

With this in mind, we plan to work towards our next We Care awards - Developing (level 2) and Excelling (level 3). At Watson’s, it will always be our priority to offer suitable support from school staff and remove the stigma associated with caring roles at home. We want to ensure pupils receive appropriate assessment and support planning, following the requirements of the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016. Pupils must have access to full education without barriers, including support from partnerships with other statutory, community and voluntary organisations. As we continue to develop a whole-school, sustainable approach to identifying, assessing and supporting our young carers, we will resume analysing policies and practises through regular self-evaluation - both during and after our award achievements. Above all, and perhaps most importantly, we hope to ensure our pupils feel supported, heard, listened to and believed in, within the Watson’s community.

If you or anyone you know might be a young carer, please do not hesitate to contact a member of staff you feel comfortable confiding in. As per our school motto ‘Ex Corde Caritas’, we seek to ‘Love from the Heart’ and support pupils, pastorally and academically, throughout their education.

  • Young Carers