Helping young carers make the GCSE grade

Nawaal Iqbal, 16, who cares for her nine-year-old sister Zara, got seven A*s, three As and one B in her GCSEs

Nawaal Iqbal, 16, who cares for her nine-year-old sister Zara, got seven A*s, three As and one B in her GCSEs Buy this photo

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THE COUNTY’S young carers worked harder than most for their GCSE results.

But many were supported by a new Oxford University programme to raise aspirations, build confidence and encourage them to capitalise on the skills they have gained through caring for loved ones.

Among those on the Compass programme is Nawaal Iqbal, 16, from Cowley, a pupil at Wheatley Park School.

She got seven A*s, three As and one B and said she was “really happy” to have got such good results.

Nawaal cares for her sister, Zara, nine, who has cerebral palsy and a condition which causes developmental delay.

On top of her school work, she helps get Zara ready for school, feeds, changes and showers her.

Nawaal said: “Sometimes it’s a little bit hard to keep up, particularly with revision when you have to put in a bit of extra time.

“I had never really thought of putting that I’m a young carer on a CV before but I see now it shows I can manage different responsibilities.”

There are an estimated 11,000 young carers Oxfordshire and traditionally children who have caring responsibilities do not perform well at school.

But the programme is helping pupils buck that trend.

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Nayaab Iqbal, 16, from Headington, cares for her brother Haider, 12, who has a rare condition called Raine Syndrome.

She said: “As any older sister would, I look out for him and look after him.”

Nayaab who is also at Wheatley Park, got one A*, eight As and two Bs.

She said:”Haider had an operation a couple of weeks before my prom and I found that quite hard because I didn’t know if I wanted to go.

“The Oxford course has been amazing. “I was quite shy before and it really helped with my confidence.”

St Birinus School pupil Max Harwood, 16, from Didcot, juggles schoolwork with caring for his father, Gerald, who has a brain injury and mental health problems, and his own disability of dyslexia and dyspraxia.

He picked up four Cs and four Ds on Thursday.

The teenager said: “When I was doing my GCSEs at home revising I had to go every five minutes and check he was all right.

“I did find it very difficult.

“The Oxford programme gave me time away when I didn’t have to worry or look after my dad all the time.”

The Compass programme has just finished for the second year but this is the first time a group of Year 11s took part.

It includes workshops at the university, trips to places like Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, and a residential course at an Oxford college, with hours and visits organised in accordance with school and caring commitments.

This year, 14 Year 11 pupils took part and 10 Year 10s. Dr Julia Paolitto, from Oxford University said: “Young children who are carers for family members have really appalling attainment rates compared to the population.

“It’s very rare they go on to university because quite often they are struggling with school and significant caring responsibilities.

“This is about supporting them thinking about their options and thinking about how the skills they have as carers will be transferable.”

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