Thursday, 18 July 2013

Supporting the educational transitions of looked after children at Key Stage 4: the role of virtual schools and designated teachers

an article by Jennifer Driscoll (Programme Director at the Department of Education and Professional Studies, King's College London, UK) published in Journal of Children’s Services Volume 8 Issue 2 (2013)


There has been little research on the education of looked after children over the current school leaving age of 16, although the underperformance of this cohort at Key Stage 4 (age 14-16) has been the subject of considerable academic commentary. This paper aims to contribute to understanding of the ways in which looked after young people nearing the end of compulsory education can be supported and encouraged to continue in education and training.

Interviews were undertaken with 12 designated teachers for looked after children and four virtual school heads, as part of the first stage of a three-year longitudinal study following 20 looked after children in England from years 11-13 (ages 15-18).

Participants identified particular challenges in ensuring a successful educational transition for looked after young people in year 11 and expressed concern at the cumulative effect of multiple transitions at this stage on young people’s lives. There appears, however, to be an increasing focus on and commitment to giving young people a “second chance” to acquire qualifications commensurate with their potential post-16. The comparative advantages and disadvantages of school and further education colleges for this cohort at Key Stage 5 are considered.

Practical implications
The implications of the forthcoming extension of the school leaving age for professionals supporting looked after young people post-16 are discussed.

The designated teacher for looked after children became a statutory role in 2009, and to date there has been little research on the role of these professionals, or the work of virtual schools.

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