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ACWA Conference Sydney 2018: Effecting Successful Systems-wide Change - Towards a Quality Education for All Children and Young People in OOHC


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Whether from our professional experiences, strong social justice orientations, or the stories we hear from children in care, care leavers, and foster carers, most of us just know that education has the potential to make a significant contribution towards improving the life-chances of children and young people in OOHC. From countries as diverse as Canada, Denmark, England, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, United States, Wales, and Australia, we now have a relatively strong body of research literature on the education of children and young people in OOHC, to support such beliefs. Across these studies, we now also have a better understanding of: the educational challenges that children and young people across these countries face; the competing underlying explanations; and some of the more promising individual policy and practice initiatives that appear to be making a difference to the lives of some. However, what we seem to know much less about is how to go about effecting successful system-wide change. Based upon the experiences of four jurisdictions overseas that appear to be having some success in relation to the education of children and young people in OOHC as case examples, the paper: identifies areas of possible success; examines respective contexts, approaches, and explanations for how such success is being realised; and explores possible lessons for other jurisdictions. While 'one size does not fit all', a range of strategic, policy, leadership, professional, and structural issues, are discussed. The four case examples are England, Scotland, Sweden, and Ontario Province in Canada.

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ACWA Conference Sydney 2018: Effecting Successful Systems-wide Change - Towards a Quality Education for All Children and Young People in OOHC

  2. 2. Introduction: Education and OOHC Canada, & Denmark England, & Finland Hungary, & Ireland Israel, & New Zealand Scotland, & Spain Sweden, & United States, Wales,… & Australia
  3. 3. Objectives for today 1. Share with you some education of children in care developments from: ◦ England ◦ Scotland ◦ Sweden ◦ Canada 2. Offer a perspective on why I think that these countries are making progress 3. Draw out some of the key themes
  4. 4. England Close working on the ground between child welfare & education Research from Emeritus Professor Sonia Jackson, & Clare Cameron Voice of the care experienced, & Who Cares? Trust Range of initiatives (e.g. (Personal Education Plans, Virtual School Head, Designated Teacher, & Pupil Premium) National minimum standards for foster care Education training for social workers & foster carers Focus on inter-agency collaboration OFSTED reporting National Network for the Education of Care Leavers Staying Put provision, & transitioning from care v compressed transitions Some improvements
  5. 5. Scotland Schools & OOHC managed by same organisation Research from Dr Graham Connolly Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland Voice of Care Experienced, & Who Cares Scotland? Education & Culture Committee of the Scottish Parliament Inquiry into the educational attainment of looked after children. Focus on inter-agency collaboration Annual reporting by government on educational attainment Continuing Care from 18 to 21 Some improvements
  6. 6. Sweden Schools & child welfare managed by municipalities Research from Professor Ingrid Hojer Comprehensive administrative datasets facilitate outcome (monitoring &) research Few targeted education of children in care initiatives, but strong universal provision Masters qualified social workers & teachers Strong social pedegogy orientation Better education outcomes than most countries
  7. 7. Ontario, Canada Children’s Aid Societies (approved NGOs), & 73 school boards Research from Emeritus Professor Bob Flynn Looking After Children materials Foster care paired reading programmes Registered Education Savings Plan Stay Home for School Program (18 to 21) Mentorship & orientation programs Range of financial education packages Some improvements
  8. 8. Theme 1: Expect more of (and for) Our children in OOHC Our families with children in OHC Our foster carers Our social workers & resi workers Our schools Our leaders Ourselves
  9. 9. Theme 2: Learning placements Do we recruit foster carers who value education, how do we support them in this, & where necessary do we provide supplementary support? How well do residential facilities promote learning? In planning for a sufficient mix of care placements, where does education fit into that? Does remaining at an existing school get sufficiently prioritised in placement decisions? Do we enrol our children in schools that are good enough for them?
  10. 10. Theme 3: (Caring) schools Children have supportive relationships with teachers, with focus on both pastoral & academic support  Children feel valued for their contributions, & believe that the school cares about their wellbeing When care placements do necessitate a change of school, there is a ‘need for speed’ & schools may need to help children adapt As a group, children in care have additional education needs, & may require compensatory education to catch up School works hard on attendance issues Pre-school education
  11. 11. Theme 4: Transitioning from care, and staying in education Schooling TAFE Apprenticeships Training courses University Employment Extended care from 18 to 21/25
  12. 12. Theme 5: Collection and use of quality information 1. “If you don't count it, it doesn't count” 2. Reliable statistical information is essential. 3. Better use of data by practitioners 4. Someone with clear responsibility for ‘monitoring’ academic progress 5. Ongoing availability of jurisdiction-wide statistics to report progress 6. Research & evaluation
  13. 13. Theme 6: Take a strategic organisational approach Interagency collaboration that serves children Design Doing things differently Building on strengths Addressing barriers Challenging assumptions Consultation Monitoring, reporting, & evaluation
  14. 14. Theme 7: Just providing quality care can go a very long way… Children feeling cared for & cared about Connections & committed relationships Nurturing environment Stability & purposefulness Cultural & other forms of identity Belonging, & engagement Promoting resilience Hope
  15. 15. Concluding thoughts 1. We need to think beyond what an organisation does and how it does it; why does your organisation exist? 2. Why was your organisation established, has its purpose changed, who does it serve, what are its values, and how do you demonstrate those values in your daily work? 3. If we are serious about improving outcomes, how can we change our organisations so that we spend most of our time on what is important, and less on what is urgent?
  16. 16. Questions? Thanks For a copy of the presentation or to contact me, please email