Reading’s Children in Care Council wins national award

Children and young people looked after by Brighter Futures for Children in Reading have been awarded first place in the prestigious A National Voice Awards 2023.

Care2Listen – the name chosen locally for Reading’s children in care council – is a group of young people in care aged 12 to 17 years old. The group was shortlisted alongside 14 other children in care councils and, on 25 October, won first place for the participation award.

The award acknowledges the hard work the group has put in to establish an open, safe space for children and young people to be able to share and provide their views and work on projects that interest them.

The group has developed resources to ensure the workforce at Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) is child-focused, promotes participation for all Reading children and young people in care, and that they consider how their own practice can impact the lives of others.

A key piece of work completed by Care2Listen was to help update BFfC’s promise to children and young people in care and the group is now helping to plan and run two celebration events for all children and young people in care.

The group is organised by Brighter Future for Children’s Participation Officer, Emma Cheek, who was so impressed by their achievements, she entered Care2listen for the award. Emma also runs groups for care ambassadors and a social group for all children and young people in care, called Care2HaveFun.

The judges were impressed by Care2Listen’s attendance at meetings with both BFfC and Reading Borough Council and how the young people share their experiences and ideas on how things can be improved.

A National Voice Award is designed to recognise the work of children in care councils and care leaver forums. Groups are nominated across a range of categories, before Coram Voice and A National Voice shortlist and judge the entries.

Di Smith, Brighter Futures for Children’s Board Chair said:

“We are absolutely delighted to see Care2Listen’s incredible work recognised on the national stage.

“Our amazing group of young people really want to make a difference and this is clear to see in all the hard work they have put in.

“I have no doubt they will continue to impress and make a significant difference for many children and young people in care.”


A National Voice Awards 2023 - Coram Voice


Services improving for Reading’s children in care

Services for children in care in Reading are improving and there are clear plans to make further progress, says a report from Ofsted.

Inspectors carried out a Focused Visit on Children in Care in Reading in September and found most of the children were living in stable homes which met their needs and that they received child-focused support from committed social workers. Focused Visits are not graded.

The Ofsted report also says most children enter care in a timely way and are prepared and matched carefully with carers, enabling them to feel stable and secure and to make progress.

Two inspectors looked at Brighter Futures for Children’s (BFfC) arrangements for children in care during the focused visit on 12 & 13 September. The inspectors’ findings are reported in a report, which was published today.

The report says: “Most children experience positive and stable relationships with their social workers, who are aspirational for them. Social workers know their children well and have insight into how best to build relationships with each of the children they support.”

The majority of social workers’ caseloads were found to be manageable which allowed them to spend time with children to develop positive relationships.

The report goes on to say that decisions for children to come into care, or to return home, are made thoughtfully and are well informed by detailed and thorough assessments which senior managers oversee effectively.

The inspectors found there is thoughtful and sensitive consideration of the most appropriate arrangements for children’s longer-term care and that children are actively supported to maintain relationships with important people in their lives.

Reviews and records were found to be written to children in language which is child focused and caring and they are given support to participate in meetings and in key decision-making events.

Inspectors said the needs of disabled children in care are well known and understood and they live in homes which meet their needs well. Unaccompanied asylum seekers were found to be well supported on their arrival in Reading and are supported to access legal advice, social activities, health care and education.

The report also says children’s personal education needs are regularly considered and reviewed by the Virtual School and they are encouraged to take part in a wide variety of activities, hobbies and interests of their choosing, which they enjoy.

The inspectors also highlighted areas for improvement, including the quality and impact of management oversight and supervision, the quality and impact of audit processes to improve social work practice and the impact of the corporate parenting panel on driving progress for children. Plans were already in place at the time of the Focused Visit to drive improvement in these areas.

Di Smith, Board Chair of Brighter Futures for Children, said: “I was very pleased to read so many positive comments in the inspector’s report about the services we provide for Reading’s children in care.

“I was particularly impressed with the praise for our hard-working and committed social workers who inspectors said are aspirational for the children they support and develop positive relationships with them.

“As well as identifying strengths, an Ofsted Focused Visit also highlights areas which need more attention. We are already working on those areas and we will move swiftly to implement changes to ensure our children and young people in Reading receive the best possible service.”

Cllr Graeme Hoskin, Lead Councillor for Children’s Services, said: “Many children in care will have experienced trauma and need to feel loved, cared for and safe. It is one of the most important responsibilities of a local authority to care for these vulnerable children and young people.

“It is heartening that the overall findings of the Ofsted inspectors were that most children in care in Reading are well looked after in stable homes, experience positive relationships with their social workers and are well supported in education and personal development.

“I would like to thank everybody involved in looking after our children in care in Reading. The important task now is for the required improvements identified by inspectors to be implemented as soon as possible.”

The full Focused Visit inspection letter can be found at:

Mental health support service for Reading young people receives top marks

A mental health support service which works in Reading schools has been rated good or above by almost 100% of its users.

The Mental Health Support Team (MHST), run by Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC), operates in 36 schools in south, west and central Reading.

An annual feedback report for the team showed that 98% of respondents rated their experience of working with the MHST as good or above, while 88% rated it as very good or excellent.

Feedback was received from 272 people, compared with 50 last year, and the majority came from young people who had used the service.

When asked to rate their overall experience of working with the MHST, 93% or respondents rated it between 4 - 5, out of 5.

There were also touching comments from young people, parents and school staff.

One young person said: “It 100% met my needs. Our sessions felt like a conversation – we talked through things together and I felt heard, understood and respected.”

Another said: “The best part of working with MHST was writing a story every week and sharing feelings in our sessions. I am going to carry on sharing my feelings with other people more now.”

The MHST was launched in 16 schools in west Reading in January 2020 as part of an innovative trailblazer project. It was expanded to a further 20 schools in south and central Reading in September 2022.

The team supports children and young people, and their families, with emerging, mild or moderate mental health needs, focusing particularly on low mood, anxiety and behaviour. The aim is to help prevent more serious problems developing.

The MHST is funded by Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire & Berkshire West Integrated Care Board and complements mental health support already provided in schools and by existing professionals and services in Reading.

Di Smith, Board Chair of Brighter Futures for Children, said: “You can receive no better praise than hearing such positive comments from the young people you work with.

“I am so delighted that our Mental Health Support Team is having such an impact in the schools they work in.

"It is brilliant that the MHST and school staff are working so closely together to help children and young people in Reading receive essential support for their mental health and wellbeing needs.”

Cllr Ruth McEwan, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Education and Public Health, said: “We know that children and young people nationally are struggling more with mental health issues, so services such as the Mental Health Support Team are vital.

“It is excellent that we have professionals in schools to help children with issues such as anxiety before they develop into anything more serious.

“The feedback report clearly demonstrates that the MHST is making a big difference for children and young people in Reading, as well as their families and school colleagues.”

You can view the report and find out more about the MHST at:

Thanks to the Virtual School

I stood there in the doorway, butterflies in my stomach and I took a moment to reflect. When I came into care at the age of nine I could barely read or write.

My journey here, to this point, has been a roller coaster of highs and lows. The baggage I came with and couldn’t shake, the anger, the tears of frustration and despair, the happiness, the joy and the pride.

I remembered the butterflies in my stomach on August the 23rd as I held my brown envelope, surrounded by people screaming, shouting, laughing and crying as they discovered their GCSE results. I started to panic because I knew I needed certain grades if I was going to realise my ambition to become a nurse.

My Mum (Foster) was waiting outside and I didn’t want to let her down even though she always said that it didn’t matter what the results were, it was my journey that made the difference and as long as I tried my best she was proud of me.

The Virtual School has supported me every step of my journey. When I struggled they provided tutors to give me that extra help and without that I could not even imagine taking GCSEs. They made revising slightly easier once I acknowledged I needed that extra help and the tutors were great and I loved every minute of it – even Physics!

My Foster family were always there supporting and encouraging me, even when I knew I was being quite horrible to them. After I had sat the exams, I felt like I could finally breathe again. I knew that I had put my full effort into the exams and the revision that went with it. My Mum (Foster) however didn’t allow me to just relax – she had organised work experience in a nursery for a week and signed me up for National Citizen Service.

For five weeks I forgot GCSEs and focused on me – facing new challenges, building new friendships, learning new skills - a fantastic experience. I took a deep breath and tore open my envelope and felt in an instant happiness and then despair. My Mum (Foster) looked at my results and hugged me and I saw in her face how proud she was. 7 GCSEs – 5 6s and 2 4s but I had just focused on the one I had failed which I needed for Photography A Level at my current school.

She picked me up and help me realise how proud I should be of my achievement. I had made it into 6th form. I have learnt that when you are faced with setbacks there are always other opportunities which open up. My Foster family helped me take ownership of my initial disappointment, to focus on the positives and push myself outside my comfort zone.

I applied for different A Level options at different schools and was accepted by one which allowed me to follow my interest in Photography, as well as Medical Sciences and Geography at A-Level. I could also study Drama.

I could not have reached this point without the support and encouragement of my Foster family and the Virtual School. I am happy and proud of what I have achieved. Some of my achievements the Virtual School has helped me with - 7 GCSEs, Level 1 flute, Level 4 in climbing and numerous badges and certificates for swimming and challenges through Guides.

I am happy to say I am attending 6th form. It is very different to school. You are not spoon-fed information, you are expected to work more independently, which is a bit of a shock and there is a step up in terms of the work needed. You are given more responsibility for learning, but you are studying subjects that you enjoy. Teachers talk to you as adults and you’re expected to behave as such. It is fun being able to dress how I want each day and I enjoy dressing up in business smart clothes on Fridays.

So here I stand, the butterflies this time are excitement and anticipation, looking forward to facing the challenge of a new school and a whole new type of learning. It’s down to me now. I confidently pull open the door and enter.

Reading GCSE exam results day 2023

Young people who sat their GCSE exams in Reading this summer will be finding out their results this morning.

Vocational technical qualification (VTQ) students will also be receiving their results this week.

The team of advisors at Elevate careers service are on hand to offer guidance and advice to young people who need support after receiving their results this morning, including a drop-in session between 12noon-4pm today (Thursday 24 August).

Brian Grady, Director of Education at Brighter Futures for Children, said: “I wish every success to all the young people receiving their exam results in Reading today.

“Your time at school was interrupted by the pandemic which meant you faced the challenges of remote learning and being away from friends and family. I hope your resilience and hard work has paid off and that you have received the results you wanted.

“If your results are not what you were hoping for, please try not to worry. There are so many different opportunities to consider and our team of expert advisors at Elevate career service can offer you guidance and support.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all headteachers, teachers and school staff in Reading for supporting their pupils with such dedication through challenging times.”

Cllr Ruth McEwan, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Education and Public Health, said: “Congratulations to all young people in Reading receiving their GCSE results today. I have been so impressed with the way you have tackled the challenges of the pandemic with such perseverance and determination and achieved so much.

“This is an exciting time in your lives and if your results were not quite what you were hoping for there are still many options available to you. Please contact our friendly careers advisors at Elevate who can help guide you through them.

“I hope you enjoy the remainder of the summer before embarking on your next adventure.”

There are a variety of ways of getting in touch with advisors at Elevate:

The following websites offer advice for young people and parents/carers about coping with stress and anxiety around the exam results period:



Reading A-level results 2023

A-level students who sat their exams this summer have been receiving their results this morning (Thursday 17 August).

Young people in Reading will also be receiving their AS-level, T-level, BTEC and other Level 3 results and planning their next steps.

The team of advisors at Elevate careers service are on hand to offer guidance and advice to young people who need support after receiving their results this morning, including a drop-in session between 12noon-4pm today.

Brian Grady, Director of Education at Brighter Futures for Children, said: “Congratulations to all young people in Reading receiving their results today for what they have achieved.

“I am proud of Reading young people for the results they have achieved. It should not be forgotten that these young people experienced three years of disruption to their education due to the COVID pandemic and have demonstrated great resilience and determination.

“For those young people who did not receive the results they hoped for, I would urge you not to worry and be assured that there are many options open to you. Our expert advisors at Elevate careers service are there to help you and I would encourage you to make contact.

“I would also like to thank all teaching and support staff in Reading who have worked so hard to support their students through challenging times.”

Cllr Ruth McEwan, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Education and Public Health, said: “Well done to all young people in Reading receiving their exam results today. You should be very proud of the way you have persevered through lockdowns, remote teaching, social distancing and all the other challenges you have had to face in unprecedented times.

“I wish you all the best with your next steps, whether that be university, training or employment.

“If you were disappointed with your results, I would urge you to contact our friendly team at Elevate careers service who can guide you through all the different options available to you.”

There are a variety of ways of getting in touch with advisors at Elevate:

The following websites offer advice for young people and parents/carers about coping with stress and anxiety around the exam results period:


Exam results – advice and support for young people in Reading

Young people in Reading will be able to find advice and support from expert advisors at Elevate careers service when they receive their exam results this month.

 The team at Elevate, run by Brighter Futures for Children, will be available to talk to students by phone, text, email or in person if they are unsure what to do after receiving their results.

Young people who sat their exams this summer are due to receive their A/AS Level results on Thursday 17 August and GCSE results on Thursday 24 August.

Young people who are concerned about their exam results and want some guidance about their possible next steps have a variety of ways of getting in touch with advisors at Elevate:

  •  Book a face-to-face appointment in the Youth Hub based at The Curious Lounge, The Pinnacle building, in Tudor Road, Reading, RG1 1NH.
  • Elevate careers coaches will also be available for drop-in sessions on the GCSE and A level results days (12noon to 4pm)
  • Call: 0118 937 3766 or text 07980 744530
  • Email:

Brian Grady, Director of Education at Brighter Futures for Children, said: “We have a friendly team of professional advisors at Elevate who will be able to give expert advice and support to young people receiving their exam results in Reading.

 “Advisors will be able to help young people plan their next steps and guide them through the different options available if they didn’t receive the results they were hoping for.

 “There are a variety of easy ways of getting in touch with the team at Elevate and I would strongly encourage young people to make contact if they have any concerns or questions after receiving their results.”

 Cllr Ruth McEwan, Lead Councillor for Education and Public Health, said: “I would like to send my best wishes to all young people in Reading who are awaiting their exam results this month.

“It can be an anxious time but it is important to be aware of all the different options available to you, even if you do not receive the results you were hoping for.

“The team of advisors at Elevate careers service will be there to guide you all through the exam results period and I would recommend you make contact if you need any advice or support.”

Visit the Elevate website at:

The following websites offer advice for young people and parents/carers about coping with stress and anxiety around the exam results period:


My school story

When I joined All Saints Junior School and joined the Year 6 at All Saints School, it was a little weird at first but everyone was really kind.

The good thing about it was the learning. Initially, it was hard to get into friendship groups because everyone else had formed friendship groups but eventually I made really good friends that I still stay in touch with some times.

My teacher was really supportive of me and my headteacher wasn’t sure I would do well but I did really well. In May, I had one of the biggest tests in my school years “MY SATs”. I got greater depth in all my subjects and I got full marks in SPaG.

My headteacher was very pleased with my results and supported me in getting into my new school.

I had to do the entrance test for Leighton Park School which I passed but they didn’t tell me my score. That was my final year in primary school. The transition was really smooth to LP. Leighton Park is a big school that is rated outstanding. A new Music Centre is being built and almost finished. I can’t wait to see the finished brand new music building.

My first half term was brilliant there. They have really good hospitality and I felt like part of a family. The food in LP is brilliant and the teachers are really friendly and they help you get along with everyone else.

We have Collects which are about things in real life and we reflect about the things we have talked about during the morning session. My favourite lessons are Computer Science, Maths, English, Drama, History and Geography.

I have made a few friends, I also play games with them and I also go to after school activities. In conclusion, I am enjoying this opportunity to learn and experience school life.

Choose a Career in Childcare

A campaign to encourage people to choose a career in childcare in Reading has been launched by Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC).

BFfC, which delivers children's services in Reading on behalf of Reading Borough Council, surveyed local childcare providers recently and found that 75% of respondents had difficulty in recruiting early years staff. This is a problem which exists nationally.

The Choose a Career in Childcare campaign aims to encourage more people to consider a fulfilling career in early years and highlights the opportunities available locally.

BFfC has launched a webpage which is packed with details of the range of childcare roles available, the qualifications required and where you can find more information. There are also details about apprenticeships, training and opportunities for career progression.

Men are also actively encouraged to consider childcare as a career as they only make up a small minority of early years staff in the UK.

Case studies are being added where local early years staff tell their stories of why they love their job.

BFfC’s Early Years team has also strengthened its early years and special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) training for providers locally.

This is all being backed up with a social media campaign which highlights the many benefits of working in childcare.

Lara Patel, Executive Director of Children’s Services at BFfC, said: “Working in childcare is such a rewarding career where you can feel proud that you are helping to give children their best start.

“So many families rely on childcare but so many early years providers are struggling to recruit enough staff.

“By putting childcare in the spotlight and highlighting what a wonderfully rewarding job it can be, we hope more people will choose a career in childcare in Reading.”

Visit the BFfC Careers in Childcare webpage at: Under 5s and early years services | Brighter Futures for Children.

Forbury Gardens wildflower area dedicated to Reading foster carers

A wildflower area in the Forbury Garden is being dedicated to Brighter Futures for Children’s (BFfC) foster carers in Reading to celebrate the amazing work they do.

Reading Mayor Cllr Rachel Eden, Council Leader Jason Brock and BFfC Board Chair Di Smith led a gathering of senior councillors and managers to scatter the wildflower seeds in the Grade II listed gardens this morning (Thursday 18 May).

BFfC foster carers were then invited to a get-together in the gardens to celebrate the dedication of the wildflower area and to mark Foster Care Fortnight (15-28 May).

Brighter Futures for Children’s fostering service is the only not-for-profit Independent Fostering Agency (IFA) in the Reading area.

BFfC worked with Reading Council’s Parks department to create a special area in the Forbury Gardens as a mark of appreciation for the vital work of foster carers.

A plaque will also be installed in the wildflower area reading: ‘Dedicated, with pride, to our foster carers who help children in Reading bloom and grow’.

The wildflowers will be replaced by sensory plants when they fade and the cycle will be repeated in future years.

BFfC would like to thank Roland Staines, Head Gardener at Forbury Gardens, for donating the wildflower seeds for the garden.

The dedication follows the planting of an ornamental cherry tree in Town Hall Square in 2020 to signify the importance of our children in care feeling rooted in Reading, even if they have to move away from the town due to the shortage of local foster carers.

Di Smith, Board Chair of Brighter Futures for Children, said: “Our wonderful foster carers are special people and this wildflower area in Forbury Gardens will act as a living celebration of their vital work.

“The wildflowers also symbolise the variety and difference of our foster carers and of children in care and we wanted to recognise and celebrate this.

“Sadly, we do not have enough local foster carers in Reading which means some children and young people in our care have to live outside their home town.

“I would urge anyone who has thought about foster caring, or who would like to find out more, to contact our Fostering team at Brighter Futures for Children.”

The Fostering team can be contacted by telephone on 0118 469 3020, by email at: or via the website at:

Cllr Jason Brock, Leader of Reading Borough Council, said: “I would like to thank our amazing foster carers for all they do for children and young people in Reading. The dedication of a wildflower area in the treasured Forbury Gardens is a beautiful way of showing the town’s appreciation to them for everything that they do.

“Foster carers are always there for children when they are most in need; they deserve our recognition and thanks every day of the year. Foster Carer’ Fortnight provides us with a focal point to show that, but we have to go beyond that in making sure that they always feel valued and I hope this wildflower area will be an enduring symbol of that commitment.”

Foster carer Dimple Gillausseyn, Chair of Reading Carers’ Link, said: “Fostering can be a challenging but always rewarding experience and I am sure Reading’s foster carers will appreciate the dedication of this wildflower area in the Forbury Gardens.

“As well as acting as a constant tribute to existing foster carers, I hope it might also prompt people to think about fostering themselves.  We would love to welcome more Reading adults to our fostering family and keep local children in care close to their family and friends.”

Foster Care Fortnight is the UK’s biggest foster care awareness campaign, delivered by The Fostering Network and supported every year by BFfC. We have 250 children and young people in our care and always need more local foster carers so we can keep them in Reading. Our Fostering team have been out and about in the community to spread the word and answer questions about fostering.

The next event will be at the Civic Offices, Bridge Street, Reading on 23 May, 2-4pm.

Anyone who cannot make that date but are interested in finding out more about fostering, can join an informal online talk on Wednesday 24 May, 6-7pm. Email: to register.

Call 0118 469 3020 for a no-obligation chat or visit to discover more.


  • Rooted in Reading – The idea of planting a tree in Reading town centre for children in care came from Nick, who was 15 at the time, and was having to move away. He believed it would help him and others like him feel ‘rooted’ in the town. BFfC collaborated with Reading Borough Council, Ethical Reading and Reading Tree Wardens to plant the ornamental cherry tree outside Reading Town Hall in February 2020.