Does carer involvement raise the attainment of children in care?

Children in care are at risk of low educational attainment (Trout, Hagaman, Casey, Reid, & Epstein, 2008). Interventions have been developed to address this problem but systematic reviews of the evidence find that their effectiveness is currently limited (Evans, Brown, Rees, & Smith, 2017). Research suggests that the processes underlying low achievement for this population, which are key to informing theories of change in interventions, are poorly understood (Liabo, Gray, & Mulcahy, 2012; Stone, 2007). This research speaks to this gap in the literature by investigating risk and protective factors for children in care.

This study follows on from the findings from three prior systematic reviews; these found that carers play an important role in the education of children in care. The present study investigates this in more depth.

It analyses longitudinal secondary data on the educational outcomes of 690 teenagers in care in Ontario, Canada. It examines the relationship between carer involvement and the educational outcomes of young people they care for. Specifically, the study uses descriptive statistics and two longitudinal analysis models to explore what carers do, the course and predictors of educational trajectories and the direction of prediction between school performance and carer aspirations.

Preliminary findings suggest that school performance remains relatively stable during adolescence, and that special educational needs and behavioural problems play an important role in predicting whether performance is high or low. The strongest predictor of good school performance was high carer aspirations. Moreover, when the relationship between these variables is examined over time, carer aspirations predict better school performance even after prior attainment is accounted for. This suggests that carer aspirations may be protective factor for educational outcomes for children in care. The limitations, significance and implications of these findings are discussed in the full thesis.

For further details of this study, please contact me at aoife.ohiggins@education.ox.ac.uk.

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