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Ground-breaking seminar shares research on the education and well-being of children in care


Leeds Beckett University has hosted a seminar looking at the education and wellbeing of children in care.

James Graham Headingley Campus

Organised by Dr Sharon Pinkney, Course Director for BA (Hons) Childhood Studies at the Carnegie School of Education, it brought together academics as well as external partners from Leeds City Council and other professionals and was attended by foster carers, Virtual School Heads and staff from social work and kinship care teams.

The seminar was an opportunity for academics at Leeds Beckett to share their research and expertise, and to discuss the implications of research findings with practitioners.

Opening the seminar, Dr Pinkney gave a powerful presentation on the ‘Emotional landscapes of care: embodied practices in educating looked-after children’. She talked about earlier and more recent research findings relating to lived experiences of children in care as they journey into and through Higher Education, and how the emphasis was on the importance of enduring and positive trusting relationships for young people in care.

Dr Tom Quarmby, Senior Lecturer in the Carnegie School of Education, shared his experiences of his involvement in a project for re-engaging care experienced young people through sport and culture. He talked about the findings which suggested where young people are disaffected with traditional school learning, if they took part in relevant and engaging educational activities based around their interests in sport or popular culture, their learning and chances of success within mainstream school were much enhanced.

Professor of Social Work at the School of Health and Community Studies, Nick Frost, put forward the importance of ensuring that the voices of young people are heard positively. He highlighted that supporting children in care is focused on relationships involving warmth and empathy.

Building on the idea of relationships, Dr Gary Walker, Principal Lecturer in the Carnegie School of Education, shared his research into understanding the lower educational outcomes for looked-after children. His findings challenge the dominant research position that these lower outcomes can be mainly explained by a lack of appropriate support from those who work with them. Dr Walker found a complex set of factors at play, including a focus on relationship-building and on meeting the socio-emotional needs of the young people while at the same time trying to navigate structural forces that militate against educational success in order to help young people make as much educational progress as possible.

The presentations were followed by a discussion and plans for future continuing partnerships between academics from Leeds Beckett University and professionals.

Dr Pinkney and Dr Walker are currently involved in a joint research project with Leeds City Council exploring the journeys of children in care into higher education, which will throw light on significant issues that impact upon choices they make and barriers they face. It will also focus on the difference that positive relationships can make to attainment for this group of young people.

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