18 SES 09 JS, The Practice of Inclusion in Physical Activity Settings
Joint Paper Session NW 18 and NW 19
Looked-after children is the legislative term in England for all children and young people who are removed from their natural family setting and are cared for by a local authority. In 2016 there were around 70,440 looked-after children in the care of local authorities in England; 74% (51,850) living in foster-care and 11% (7,600) in secure residential settings (DfE, 2016). Internationally, this population of children may also be referred to as children in care, care-experienced children, children looked-after or youth in residential/foster care. Despite this linguistic variation across nations, much international literature surrounding this group of young people holds relevance across countries, due to the greater need and vulnerability of this population of children (Sempik et al., 2008). Research from the UK and beyond suggests that there have been recent increases in the number of looked-after children (DfE, 2016). It has also been argued that the refugee crisis that has unfolded across the European Union over the past 18 months has played a role within this, with many unaccompanied migrants entering care systems (EU Committee, 2016). Certainly in the UK, the number of looked after unaccompanied asylum seeking children increased by 54% in 2016 to 4,210. Research with/for this population of young people is therefore timely.
As one of the most disadvantaged groups in society, looked-after children are seen as being at risk of a range of adverse social, educational and health outcomes (Sempik et al. 2008). Within the UK and beyond, concerns abound regarding the systematic underachievement of this group and effort has been directed at narrowing the ‘outcomes gap’ by promoting involvement in activities that support physical, social and psychological development. Drawing on research pointing to the potential for sport/physical activity (PA) to act as a vehicle for facilitating young people’s positive development (e.g. Holt, 2008) we argue that sport/PA could play an important role here. Within the UK it has been argued that looked-after children should have access “equal to their peers”’ in this respect (DfES, 2010 p.10). Recent research also contends that sport/PA can be integral to the development of social capital, resilience and identity for looked-after children, as well as contributing to emotional, mental and physical health (Hollingworth, 2012). Paradoxically, however, research also highlights the piecemeal provision of sport/PA for looked-after children at local levels and shows that many are unable to access activities despite their desire to do so (Murray, 2012).
Relatively few studies have considered the role of sport/PA in the lives of looked-after children, although some studies within and outside of the UK have provided a more generalised account of leisure provision (e.g. Safvenbom & Sarndahl, 2000) or extra-curricular activities (e.g. Farineau & McWey, 2011). A recent literature review also noted the domination of adult voices in the few studies identified (Quarmby & Pickering, 2016). It is argued, therefore, that there lacks a body of work that engages looked-after children in exploring their relationships with sport/PA and that they represent a ‘hidden group’ in relation to research, policy and practice (Quarmby, 2014). This paper draws together data from three UK-based research projects that have each sought, in part, to address this issue. Whilst three separate initiatives, all have shared the key objective of privileging the voices of care-experienced youth (both those currently in care and care leavers) alongside those who work with/for them, in order to understand more about their broad social experiences and their attitudes towards, engagements with and development through sport/PA. A Bourdieuian framework is proposed to help understand the complex social realities of this youth population (e.g. Bourdieu, 1985).
Bourdieu, P. (1985) The Social Space and the Genesis of Groups. Theory and Society, 14(6), 723-744. DfES (2007) Care Matters: Time for Change, London, Department for Education and Skills. DfE (2016) Children looked after in England (including adoption) year ending 31 March 2016. London, Department for Education. Enright, E. & O’Sullivan, M. (2010) Can I do it in my Pyjamas?: Negotiating a Physical Education Curriculum with Teenage Girls. European Physical Education Review, 16(3): 203–222. European Union Committee (2016) Children in crisis: unaccompanied migrant children in the EU. 2nd Report of Session 2016-17, HL Paper 34. Farineau, H. & McWey, L. (2011). The relationship between extracurricular activities and delinquency of adolescents in foster care, Children and Youth Services Review, 33, 963-968. Harry, B., Sturges, K.M., & Klingner, J.K. (2005). Mapping the process: An exemplar of process and challenge in grounded theory analysis. Educational Researcher, 34(2) 3-13. Heath, S., Brooke, R., Cleaver, E. & Ireland, E. (2009) Researching young people’s lives. London, Sage. Holland, S. (2009). Listening to Children in Care: A Review of Methodological and Theoretical Approaches to Understanding Looked-After Children’s Perspectives, Children and Society, 23, 226-235. Hollingworth, K. (2012). Participation in social, leisure and informal learning activities among care leavers in England: Positive outcomes for educational participation. Child and Family Social Work, 17, 438–447. Holt, N. (2008) Positive Youth Development through Sport. London, Routledge. Quarmby, T. (2014). Sport and physical activity in the lives of looked-after children, Sport, Education and Society. 19(7), 944-958 Quarmby, T. & Pickering, K. (2016) Physical Activity and Children in Care: A Scoping Review of Barriers, Facilitators, and Policy for Disadvantaged Youth. Journal of Physical Activity & Health, 13(7), 780-787. Safvenbom, R. & Samdahl, D. (2000). Leisure for youth in residential care: an important context for intervention, International Journal of Social Welfare, 9, 120-127. Sandford, R., Armour, K. & Duncombe, R. (2010) Finding their voice: disaffected youth insights on sport/physical activity interventions. In, M. O’Sullivan & A. MacPhail (Eds) Young people’s voices in physical education and youth sport (pp.65-87). London: Routledge. Sandford, R.A. (in press) ‘I’m Many Different People’: Examining the Influence of space and place on girls’ constructions of embodied identities, in, H. Cawood & S. Thomsen (Eds.), Space Place and Cultural Identity, Inter-Disciplinary Press. Sempik, J., Ward, H. & Darker, I. (2008). Emotional and behavioural difficulties of children and young people at entry into care, Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 13(2), 221-233.
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