The role of the school
Schools are the one institution that almost all children regularly attend and are a significant influence on their socialisation. Where teachers or other trusted school staff (such as assistants or school nurses) do know about the situation, they can provide emotional and practical support to children of prisoners. Teachers can help affected children academically, through homework clubs or extra tutoring.
Schools can also encourage parents to be open with their children about parental imprisonment and they can reassure and encourage them to be honest about the impact of parental imprisonment on their child’s school attendance (e.g. absences due to prison visits). They can also protect children from bullying and stigmatisation.
However, these potential contributions are not always realised because schools are often unaware of the existence of children of prisoners, their experiences, life changes and needs. School staff and other professionals need to be alert to these children’s need for emotional support and counselling.
Teachers and other staff also need guidance on how to engage children in conversation around parental imprisonment. Schools need to be sympathetic and show an awareness of the needs of children of prisoners but parents need to have the confidence and trust that if they share this information, the school will be supportive and treat the information confidentially.
Teachers and other staff can tackle stigma surrounding parental imprisonment by raising awareness of this issue in schools and by promoting a positive, non-discriminatory school environment.
Further information can be found in the COPING report.
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