What can schools do to realise expectations?

Join the discussion in the third Rees Centre public seminar – even if you can’t be there.

Wednesday 20 February 2013
5.00-6.30pm at 15 Norham Gardens, Oxford (Seminar Room A)

Children and young people in foster care are at risk of poorer educational outcomes, which may be exacerbated when changes in placement are accompanied by changes in school. Professor Peter Pecora will explore the evidence on academic pathways for young people in foster care and discuss some of the factors that predict educational success. His recommendations will include the need for service providers to maximise stability and support, and to work with young people’s strengths as well as addressing their barriers to learning. Professor David Berridge will expand on this to discuss how the educational achievements of looked after children can be understood within the wider educational attainment literature. Why are some pupils low attainers and what specific factors apply to looked after children? How do we address the concerns of adolescents separated from their families? The discussion will be set within recent policy initiatives in England. Child psychologist Dr Peter McParlin will respond, giving a practice perspective.

How to participate
Post your questions here for our speakers. We will use as many of your questions as possible and feed back responses from the session through this blog post.

The Rees Centre welcomes your comments on this blog post. We reserve the right to moderate any comments. Please note that any replies to your comments will come from the Rees Centre rather than the author of the post.


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10 responses to “What can schools do to realise expectations?”

  1. nikkiluke says:

    Questions are coming in for our speakers…

    “With all the research that has gone on over the years on looked after children, are the educational outcomes better and if not why not?” – Theresa Winnard, foster carer

    • nikkiluke says:

      • Very good question. Educational outcomes have improved but not as much pupils generally. Also the research shows that most LAC make progress educationally but not as much as we would wish. I discussed this in my 2012 article, which is referenced at the end of my slides from my talk, which will be placed on the Rees Centre website soon. (David)

      • As Professor Berridge mentions above, this is complex. The gap in achievement is likely a combination of pre-foster care deprivations, child maltreatment, school and placement moves, and inadequate educational supports. (Peter P)

  2. nikkiluke says:

    Chris Gabbett, Principal of Trinity Catholic School in Leamington Spa, asks:

    “I have just organised my spending of the catch up premium. For LAC, is this best spent on getting them past L4 or improving social and emotional literacy?”

    “What are some pathfinder schools re the use of ‘ethos’ to better support LAC and what did they do that worked?”

    “What CPD models have the most impact?”

    • nikkiluke says:

      • Again, good questions but we don’t really have good evidence about which of the many interventions are the most effective. Given how different many LAC are, and the fact that there are quite separate groups, I suspect you need to make individual decisions in consultation with the pupil and others. (David)

      • So glad you are doing this. Carefully try to match the support to the child’s needs, enlist the foster and if available, the birth family in supporting you and the child, and carefully monitor for which children your special strategies have the most effect over time and for which kinds of child situations your staff have to customize or change the strategies. Sorry we do not have a more definitive answer. (Peter P)

  3. Sarah V says:

    Could school help to achieve a clear focus on “Expectation” for the young person? Could this be achieved through a team approach, school, social worker, foster carer and therapist and agreed with the young person. Could this cover all aspects of the young person not just education. As people around the young person change – potentially everyone at different times could this document not facilitate communication past, present and future.

    • nikkiluke says:

      • As you perhaps know, there is a body of educational literature showing that the expectations we have for children are very important. We don’t really understand how this interacts with the other influences. However, I suspect showing that we believe in young people, they have potential and we show a genuine interest in their progress are very important factors. (David)

      • Amen to that..!! It is about expectations, celebrating and nurturing resilience. Youth need to hear praise about what they are good at….. and that adults see them as pursuing future education. (Peter P)

  4. Jackie White says:

    Should there be a requirement for teacher training to include attachment theory and the impact that attachment/trauma can have on a child’s ability to engage in education?

    How can foster carers best support children with attachment issues in education?

    • Lily Edwards says:

      Hi Jackie,

      This is a fantastic question that you have asked. I am an adoptive parent to two boys and also a qualified teacher so I can see the issues in Education for children with attachment issues from both perspectives. During my training, we did cover a few lectures on Attachment Theory, but it was very much just the mechanics of attachment that were discussed. There was certainly nothing about attachment issues/disorders and how these can impact in the classroom. Now that I have a child of my own who has attachment issues, I am able to see first hand the problems such children face within the current Education system. After doing much reading and research in this area, I am able to reflect back on my 7 year teaching career and can identify at least one child in every class who had attachment issues. This is not just an ‘adopted’ or ‘fostered’ child issue, but is one that has an impact on children who have suffered a bereavement, or who are from chaotic backgrounds still living with trauma. Had I known then what I know now, I would have ensured I had done further training in this area – in saying this though, looking at the CPD on offer in my local authority, there are no courses on this, so where does that leave us?

      I believe that some radical changes are needed in the Education system to ensure the needs of all these children are fully met. Current teachers need training in this now and the future generations of teachers need to be much more fully prepared and have strategies at their fingertips that they have the confidence to implement. This can only be realised by giving higher priority to attachment in teacher training courses. This should be done (in my opinion) near to the end of the course, so that is it fresh in the minds of those teachers heading into classrooms. This should send teachers out with a confidence to recognise and fully support issues in their classrooms.

      As things stand, such children are far too often completely misunderstood. Their behaviour is seen as socially unacceptable and ‘bad’ as apposed to being their only current method of communicating their feelings. Such children are being failed by the rigid shame based systems in place such as the dreaded ‘behaviour chart’ which only exasperates their feelings and hence behaviour further.

      With regards to your second point (which I hope you don’t mind me commenting on too), I would say the best way to support is to aim to develop the best relationship possible with the school as you can. You probably know the child well (depending of course how long you have had them), so you are potentially the best placed person to tell them information about the child- their strengths and weaknesses and the areas in which you feel they need supported. You may know some of their triggers and the best methods for calming them back down. All of this is vital information that should be shared. I would also recommend that you try to find out if any support is available for the child and one thing I feel should be a necessity for all these children in each and every school is a key person that the child can turn to.

      Hope this helps and I hope you don’t mind me chipping in!!


  5. nikkiluke says:

    We also live-tweeted interesting points from the seminar using hashtag #ReesSeminar. Here is a selection of tweets on the seminar with responses from our David Berridge and Peter Pecora:

    ‏@ReesCentre: David says poor attainment is linked to school transfer and pupil attitudes. #ReesSeminar

    • Especially transfer within terms, which children find enormously complex and disruptive. We must avoid routinely changing school if placements change. Continuity is very important for all of us. (David)

    • Place children with foster parents who value education and who will encourage children. Treat the depression and anxiety and PTSD that the child may be struggling with so they can concentrate at school and excel. Nurture an area that they are good at and not just focus on an area they are bad at. (Peter P)

    @ReesCentre: Data from @educationgovuk suggests LAC similar at English & maths in KS1-2 but make poorer progress from KS2-4. #ReesSeminar

    • Interesting discussion at the seminar about adolescent development and ‘the adolescent brain’ (David)

    @ReesCentre: Peter Pecora presents large-scale data on children in foster care in the US. #ReesSeminar

    • See our slides from the seminar about what our careful data analyses with Harvard Medical School staff found linked with educational success. (Peter P)

    @ReesCentre: David: why don’t councils act like family businesses, e.g. by shortlisting job applications that come from care leavers? #ReesSeminar

    • David adds that Bristol Council has a policy for doing this.

    • Great idea! (Peter P)

    ‏@ReesCentre: Peter P: care leavers reported one of the most healing pathways was being involved in ‘normal’ activities. #ReesSeminar
    Reply from @IDickson258‬ [care leaver, advocate, retired inspector & social worker]: @ReesCentre True, but they need to have accommodation, income, real support & life’s basics in order to benefit. Still far too many don’t.

    • Good points. We’ve recently piloted providing courses of driving lessons for young people living in residential care. (David)

    • We agree—that is why your new UK law that allows youth to stay in care past 18 (up to 25?) if they are in an educational program is one important step in the right direction. (Peter P)

    ‏@ReesCentre: How do we engage schools’ senior staff in addressing difficulties of fostered YP when some see this as a ‘minority issue’? #ReesSeminar

    • Yes – ALL children need to be seen as a precious resource for our countries. We need a healthy and well-educated workforce for our societies to succeed. Data on who is doing well and not so well across multiple dimensions should be used to gauge school administrator success. (Peter P)

    ‏@ReesCentre: Sonia Jackson argues we need to make more links with research on bereavement for YP in foster care. #ReesSeminar

    • David mentioned about stepfamilies too – the sorts of complex experiences that many children go through and can be compounded if family life has broken down.

    ‏@AshcroftBen #Reesseminar Great seminar today. Thanks for the invite it was very inspiring and insightful. Great guest speakers too 🙂

    • Thanks Ben. Good to meet you and I look forward to reading your recent autobiography ‘51 Moves’, which has excellent reviews (plug!). (David)

    And there was a post-seminar question from Peter McParlin for Peter Pecora:

    “Do you think if we use the language of a ‘forever home’ we by default exacerbate unattainable goals for children and young people – given that a forever home is possibly only for the very few public care children?”

    • Thoughts from Peter Pecora: That is an important concern. It would be good to look at the UK data and decide if your current rates of achieving permanency for looked after children are acceptable. We achieve that for about 86% of the children entering care in the United States. I would think that England and Scotland, with a more experienced family support system, could do as well or better IF this became a key metric of worker and agency performance – and if the right resources were invested. Often times, it means shifting effort and not spending more – see http://www.casey.org/Resources/Publications/pdf/ShiftingResources.pdf
    I will follow this issue with keen interest to see what directions the UK takes.

  6. nikkiluke says:

    Please note that we are currently editing video footage of this event, which we will soon post online. Watch this space!

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