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.

Enabling care-experienced young people’s participation in research: CASCADE Voices

This chapter, written with Louise Roberts, Jennifer Lyttleton-Smith, Sophie Hallett and CASCADE Voices, explores the work of a research advisory group for care experienced young people in Wales (CASCADE Voices).

In this chapter, we locate the group within the increased focus on ‘participation’ and service user voice in research. We provide an account of how the group operates, with case study examples of the ways in which its members (all care experienced young people trained in research methods) have provided expertise in various stages of the research process. This ranges from inspiring research projects and contributing to bids for grant funding, undertaking collection and analysis of data, to working on the dissemination of research findings.

CASCADE Voices is an integral part of the CASCADE research centre (link) which has valued young people as ‘experts by experience’ (Preston-Shoot, 2007) since it was established in 2014 by Professor Sally Holland. The chapter charts the many strengths of the group, such as its long-term, open-ended nature and its close collaboration with the service user organisation, Voices from Care Cymru. Many of the case study examples provide evidence of the way that young people’s lived experience of social care intervention enhances research on social care topics.

However, we have also been clear about some of the group’s challenges such as geographical limitations to young people’s participation, how to recognise members’ contributions and how a group like CASCADE Voices is, and should be funded and valued by institutions such as Universities.

We hope that this chapter, with its concrete examples, and discussion of the strengths and challenges we have encountered is helpful to anyone thinking about young people.

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:

#messagestoschools: The IAA Project

Following on from the LACE Project, the IAA project looked at improving the educational experiences and attainment of care experienced children and young people in Wales.

Project Summary

In May 2016, the Economic and Social Research Council provided the Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE) with Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) funding to build on the findings and recommendations from the LACE project and get the messages out to diverse audiences.

The project, ‘Improving the educational experiences and attainment of looked after children and young people’ involved a series of events, workshops, consultations, and the development of a range of materials to deliver some important #messagestoschools.

Project Outputs

Consultations with care experienced children and young people, as well as a poetry competition for those in care and care leavers, led to the development of key #messagestoschools which were presented in a film, a music video and a series of posters. CASCADE worked with Voices from Care Cymru, the Care Forum Wales Looked After Children Network and the creative industries to develop a range of resources to help share these key messages to schools.

CASCADE also worked with The Fostering Network to develop the Greater Expectations magazine for foster carers.