You are 10-years-old. Every day you have extra chores at home, supporting your parents as they care for your disabled brother and sister. This makes it hard to find times to hang out with friends and complete your homework.

That’s the sort of scenario that could face up to 800,000 children in the UK, according to estimates on the Children’s Society website. And that’s why two schools linked to the Diocese of Oxford have been given Gold Young Carers Awards for their work to support pupils who have caring responsibilities for their loved ones.

Chesham Bois CE School in Amersham and Thomas Harding Junior School, a community school in the Oxford Diocesan Buckinghamshire Schools Trust, both received the awards in a ceremony on 30 January.

Thomas Harding’s project was shown in a film at the event. Chesham Bois was later visited by a camera crew from ITV news. Inclusion manager Carole Groves, who set up the club, was interviewed.  She leads the club which sees up to 15 pupils meeting for breakfast every Thursday morning to talk about the challenges they face.

“We held an assembly to raise awareness, and four children came forward who I wouldn’t have identified,” says Carole. “We have now had training for all of our staff.

“All the children love food, so we have breakfast and have a chat. We talk about their aspirations, encouraging them that they can be successful in whatever they want to be successful in, as long as they work hard. They might not have a computer at home but we have a home-work club. We want them to know that the world is their oyster.”

Thomas Harding Headteacher Mel Nugent said their Young Carers Club grew from a Year Four nurture group run by Jo De Louvois, the school’s Family Liaison Officer. “The children were really positive about it and felt it was somewhere they could share the things they were worried about. She delved deeper and realised that a few of them had caring responsibilities for disabled siblings.”

As the nurture group ended, Jo contacted the Bucks Young Carers who helped them put on an assembly to raise awareness. They gave the children criteria to help them identify as young carers.  BYC went on to support the school in setting up the club. “We have 14 children, and they call themselves Friendship Fighters as they feel they are fighting for themselves and their families and doing it through friendships,” says Mel. The club meets on a lunchtime, in a room away from the usual hubbub of the school. They eat together, have some quiet time and play card games and quizzes to help encourage them.”

Ruby, one of the Thomas Harding pupils, said: “I am a young carer because I have to look after my older and younger sisters (who both have learning difficulties) and the responsibility is sometimes hard. I have to sometimes be responsible for giving my sister medicines even though I am only 10.”

Anita, another pupil, said: “I sometimes have to look after my brother, who has disabilities, and also help my dad when he is tidying the house, getting him up in the morning,  being organised and it can sometimes be hard.

Kids award

 So what tips do Carole and Mel have for other schools who feel a Young Carers’ Club would help their pupils?

Carole says: “Use your mentor. Buckinghamshire County Council will send a link worker from Bucks Carers for the first six weeks. Get yourself properly set up and involve the parents when you can as well. You are supporting not just the child but the whole family. It’s really worth doing well.”

Mel added: “Definitely ask your Young Carers group to get involved and help support you set something up and have someone on your staff who can run your club. The Bucks Young Carers were really enthusiastic. They wanted to help and gave us games and activities.”

There are also Young Carers groups in Oxfordshire, Wokingham and West Berkshire.