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10 October 2017

How to Support the Educational Aspirations of Care-Leavers

Report on launch of Dr Jenny Driscoll's new book 'Transitions From Care To Independence' at King's Policy Institute, attended by audience of social workers

A child tying shoelaces
A child tying shoelaces

Given more time and support, care leavers can manage the multiple transitions after age 16, an audience of over 40 social workers heard today at the the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at King’s College London.

Dr Jenny Driscoll, Lecturer in Child Studies at the School of Education, Communication & Society, presented the findings of her new book Transitions From Care To Independence: Supporting care leavers to fulfil their potential, based on a three-year study following 21 looked-after young people from 16-18 and drawing on interviews with young people, their designated teachers and local authority professionals. This research aimed to address a major gap in knowledge about care leavers' experiences. 

Drawing on John Coleman's focal model of adolescence, Dr Driscoll argued that care leavers are very likely to experience difficulty because they are confronted with multiple challenges simultaneously. "Education and social care systems both impose forced transitions on young people,", when they need to be left to tackle "one issue at a time."

This is reflected in the interest and engagement young people showed in education after a period of time had been spent in the care system. Contrary to general assumptions, there is significant educational aspiration among young people in care, but they maay need a period of stability in care before they are able to realise their academic potential.

Dr Driscoll made a number of recommendations for policy changes to better support young people through this period, including more focused support for young people over the age of 16, the need for designated staff for care leavers in further education (as in schools currently), and greater investment in the children's social care workforce to enable social workers to build stronger relationships with young people, a clear need highlighted by many of the participants of this study.

She also highlighted the issues with schools focussing on success stories and lack of incentives for the system to support those struggling most, pointing to the limited education experienced by one participant in a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU).

Social workers were invited to respond with comments and questions throughout the session, many reinforcing the need for every effort to be made to bring stability and continuity to care leaving transitions. The event was chaired by Kathy Evans, Chief Executive of Children England. 

Full presentation slides.

Read a longer summary of the research.

In this story

Jenny Driscoll

Reader in Children's Rights