Enabling talk and reframing messages: working creatively with care experienced children and young people to recount and re-represent their everyday experiences

JOURNAL ARTICLE

Authors: Dawn Mannay, Eleanor Staples, Sophie Hallett, Louise Roberts , Alyson Rees, Rhiannon Evans and Darren Andrews

Year: 2018

Summary:

The educational experiences and outcomes of care experienced children and young people is of longstanding concern. The pervasive inequalities they face suggest that current policies have been unable to respond fully to the complex causes of the problem. This paper reflects on a qualitative study into the educational experiences and aspirations of children and young people who are looked after in Wales. The project worked with care experienced peer researchers and drew on visual, creative and participatory techniques to explore 67 children’s and young people’s experiences of education and, importantly, their opinions on what could be done to improve it. This multimodal approach allowed space for participants to think through their subjective, mundane, but important, experiences that operate alongside, and interact with, more structural challenges. A range of films, magazines, artwork, and music outputs were developed to ensure that the project recommendations could reach wide and diverse audiences. This paper argues the voices of children and young people need to be given a platform to inform policy and practice. For this to happen researchers need to be creative in their approaches to both fieldwork and dissemination; harnessing the power of the arts to make positive changes in the everyday lives of children and young people.

To link to this article click here

British Educational Research Journal – The consequences of being labelled ‘looked-after’: Exploring the educational experiences of looked-after children and young people in Wales

JOURNAL ARTICLE

Authors: Dawn Mannay, Rhiannon Evans, Eleanor Staples, Sophie Hallet, Louise Roberts, Alyson Rees, Darren Andrews

Year: 2017

Summary:

The educational experiences and attainment of looked-after children and young people (LACYP) remains an issue of widespread international concern. Within the UK, children and young people in care achieve poorer educational outcomes compared to individuals not in care. Despite proliferation of research documenting the reasons for educational disadvantage amongst this population, there remains limited empirical consideration of the lived experiences of the educational system, as perceived by LACYP themselves. This paper draws upon qualitative research with 67 care-experienced children and young people in Wales. The sample was aged 6–27 years, and comprised 27 females and 40 males. Participants had experienced a range of care placements. Findings focus on how educational policies and practices alienate LACYP from dominant discourses of educational achievement through assignment of the ‘supported’ subject position, where children and young people are permitted and even encouraged not to succeed academically due to their complex and disrupted home circumstances. However, such diminished expectations are rejected by LACYP, who want to be pushed and challenged in the realisation of their potential. The paper argues that more differentiated understandings of LACYP’s aspirations and capabilities need to be embedded into everyday practices, to ensure that effective educational support systems are developed.

Understanding the educational experiences and opinions, attainment, achievement and aspirations of looked after children in Wales

RESEARCH REPORT

Authors: Dawn Mannay, Eleanor Staples, Sophie Hallett, Louise Roberts, Alyson Rees, Rhiannon Evans, Darren Andrews

Year: 2015

Report summary:

In December 2014 the Welsh Government, on behalf of Welsh Ministers, invited tenders for a study to explore the educational experiences and opinions, attainment, achievement and aspirations of looked after children in Wales. Following a competitive tender process, a multidisciplinary team of researchers at the Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE) Cardiff University, led by Dr Dawn Mannay from the School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, were appointed to undertake the research project in January 2015. The project was undertaken in partnership with Voices from Care Cymru, The Fostering Network and Spice Innovations. This study was undertaken in response to two key objectives set out by the Welsh Government.

  • Objective 1: Conduct an in-depth qualitative research study with looked after children, to provide insight into their experience of education and their opinions on what could be done to improve it.
  • Objective 2: Collate and report relevant data and literature.

The Daily Lived Experiences of Foster Care: the Centrality of Food and Touch in Family Life

This chapter summary is from the book Children and Young People ‘Looked After’? Education, Intervention and the Everyday Culture of Care in Wales.

This chapter sits within ‘The culture of care and the everyday lives of children and young people’ second substantive section of the book. The chapter draws on an in-depth, small scale study of ten experienced foster care families in Wales who were providing stability for young people. This chapter focuses on the experiences of the children living in those foster care homes (nine of the children were in foster care and one child had been fostered and adopted by the family). The study used creative methods to engage with children including, drawing, eco maps, written and audio diaries in addition to individual interviews. The analysis of the study took a sociological approach and as a result focuses on family practices and the often taken for granted aspects of daily life in foster care, with specific attention being paid to the body, touch and food. Positive touch was seen as significant for children as part of everyday child development, and as a source of reassurance and comfort. Many children had not experienced positive touch in the past, especially in the context of a very risk averse social care environment. The hug and the cwtch cannot be undervalued. Food too was seen as a vital aspect of nurturing. Children’s food preferences and ‘personae’ were catered for and responded to. The daily, family cooked meal, eaten together symbolised care for the child, reciprocity and reinforced a sense of family belonging. These mundane areas have received little research focus in the past but may form part of the ‘glue’ that helps to create stability and support for the child.

children and young people looked after

Chapter 7

Children and Young People ‘Looked After’? Education, Intervention and the Everyday Culture of Care in Wales

This is the first in a blog series relating to the recently released book “Children and Young People ‘Looked After’? Education, Intervention and the Everyday Culture of Care in Wales”. Read the other blogs in this series: 

Chapter 2 – Martin Elliott
Chapter 6 – Gemma Allnatt 

LACE

Understanding the educational experiences and opinions, attainment, achievement and aspirations of looked-after* children in Wales.

Project Summary

The Welsh Government commissioned the Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE) in early 2015 to conduct a study with care-experienced children and young people to explore their aspirations and experiences of education.

The project summary and outputs are available on the Cascade website, ‘Understanding the educational experiences and opinions, attainment, achievement and aspirations of looked-after* children in Wales’, and it is widely known as The LACE Project.

*The term ‘care-experienced’ children is now a widely used term in the sector and refers more broadly to anyone who has experienced being in care, regardless of their placement length, type or age. 

Creative Outputs

Alongside the report and executive summary, CASCADE also produced a number of innovative visual and audio materials to help disseminate the findings and recommendations of the research to a diverse range of audiences. These include the following videos, audio files, films, magazines and artwork.

Videos

Never look behind
Breathe
Continuity

Audio

Films

Aspirations of Looked After Children in Wales
Looked after children’s opinions on what needs to change in education
Looked after children and education in Wales 
Educational experiences of looked after children in Wales 

Posters

Magazines

Messages to schools

Following on from the LACE project, CASCADE received further funding from the Economic and Social Research Council for work around ‘Improving the educational experiences and attainment of looked after children and young people’. Consultations with children and young people led to the development of these key #messagestoschools: