A Study of Seven Looked After Primary School Children

Horsburgh, Jacqueline Janet (2018). A Study of Seven Looked After Primary School Children. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000d2bb


This study explores the experiences of seven looked after children in two Scottish primary schools. The rationale behind this study is that if looked after children could be supported effectively during their time in primary school then they may be more likely to remain engaged with secondary school and increase their chances of educational success. Literature on looked after children has tended to highlight the barriers they experience in education. This thesis examines ways in which these barriers may be overcome. The main research question asked is: ‘What practices and approaches might be used to support looked after children to engage in learning?’ Subsidiary questions explore how looked after children are regarded by teachers, including the impact that the term ‘looked after’ may have on expectations, and what looked after children are able to tell us about the support they find most helpful.

This dissertation draws on socio-cultural theories of learning in order to identify perceptions underpinning support provided to looked after children. The wider theoretical framework incorporates resilience, inclusion, collaborative learning and children’s voice. This qualitative research utilises case study methods. It explores data gathered from looked after children (N=12), their carers (N=6) including, relatives, foster carers and staff in a children’s home and school staff (N=10) comprising teachers, support staff and members of school management teams. Through the use of individual case studies an insight is offered into the support needs of a small group of looked after children.

The main findings reveal that practitioners provide support in diverse ways. However, a common theme permeating the findings is the importance of establishing relationships prior to considering appropriate materials or programmes. In addition, the views of children captured in this study emphasise the importance of supporting the development of agency in those who are looked after. The conclusions presented include recommendations for a change in focus of staff development activities for those supporting looked after children.

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