ERG SES C 11, Inclusive Education
Children living in care are one of the most educationally vulnerable populations (Hedin and Hojer, 2011; Zetlin, 2012). International research has evinced a significant gap between children in care and their peers in terms of education (Berridge, 2012; Evans, 2016; Goddard, 2000; Sebba et al. 2015). These children have poor results regarding their grades, literacy and numeracy test scores, attendance and exclusions across different contexts (O’Higgins, Sebba and Luke, 2015). There is also evidence of the low proportion of young people who were in care that reach the University level (Jackson, Cameron and Conelly, 2015).
There is a clear link between the low level of educational attainment and the risk of social exclusion (Jackson and Cameron, 2012) that makes education a key element in the present and future well-being of this group of children.
The need of reversing current figures in the education of children in care has made of this topic a growing research field in many countries, increasing the awareness and relevance towards it (Brodie, 2009; O’Higgins, Sebba and Luke, 2015).
The main approach in this research area revolves around the reasons for the poor educational outcomes of children in care (Brodie, 2009; Berridge, 2012 O’Higgins, Sebba and Luke, 2015). With this purpose, the care system has been the context where most of the studies have focused their attention, as it is the natural locus of the work with this group. In this scenario, the role of the school appears collaterally, but not at the center of the analysis.
However, the school also needs to be studied and questioned, in order to complement the current knowledge about the education of children in residential care. If the school does not take its responsibility for compensating inequalities, it could "contribute, probably in a non-explicit way, to increase the risk of social exclusion of certain pupils" (González, 2008, p.4). In this regard, it could be very enriching to link the current knowledge of education of children in care with the approach of inclusive education (e.g. Booth and Ainscow, 2011).
This paper tries to respond two research questions:
- What are the measures and strategies that an “inclusive school” implement to compensate educative inequalities for all pupils and, especially, for children in care?
- What are the key elements and possible challenges teachers identify to work properly with children in residential care?
This proposal is part of a broader research project that focuses on school responses towards children in care. Being the school the research object of this study, the case study design (Stake, 1995) appears as the most suitable method. In this paper, one case study of a primary school is presented. It was selected because of two reasons: a) it has, among their pupils, children from the three biggest residential homes in the city where the research was carried out (in the south of Spain); b) this school is characterised by an innovative educational project, where inclusion is written to be an important part of it. Main data come from the school professionals´ voices. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with the head teacher, the head of studies, the special education teacher and all the teachers that had children in residential care among their pupils. In order to contrast this information, two social workers from two different residential homes were also interviewed, following a semi-structured script. This makes a total of 11 interviews. Qualitative data were analyzed through a thematic approach. Once the interviews were read, Nvivo-11 software was used to organised and code the data. The research project, in which this paper is set, has passed the evaluation of the Ethics Committee of the University of Granada. Moreover, both Educational System and Child Protection System were contacted and informed about the purpose of the research. Previous to developing the interviews, participants were informed about their rights, according to the Organic Law 15/1999 of Protecting Personal Data. They received the “Information to Participant Document” and the “Consent Document”, where anonymity and confidentiality were guaranteed.
- Context This case study is based on a public school. During 2013-2014, the leadership team is renovated and lead a transformation process based on the project of “Learning Communities” (Díez and Flecha, 2010). The majority of families in this school have a high socio-economical level. They are very heterogeneous regarding their country of origin and cultural background, being from 21 different nationalities. The collective of families is usually involved in the “Learning Communities” project. In this context, 11 children from three different residential homes attend to the school. - Measures and strategies this school implements to compensate educative inequalities for all pupils and, especially, for children in care With the implementation of the new project, the leadership team introduces new measures and strategies of attention to diversity. Previously, when children had difficulties on following the curriculum, they were placed in a different classroom with a specialised teacher. This dynamic change when the new headteacher and head of studies realised that children did not improve. They promote that every child with academic difficulties should be always in the mainstream classroom, receiving there the support of the specialised teacher. Another tool for a more inclusive education is the cooperative work, as the main methodology used. - Key elements and challenges teachers identify when working with children in residential care When teachers and the rest of school staff were asked about key elements of a proper intervention with children in residential care, they highlighted the importance of inclusion. They mean to not separate these children from their classmates. On the other hand, professionals recognise the difficulty of dealing with disruptive behaviors, which is identified as the biggest challenge on the educational work with children in residential care.
Berridge, D. (2012). Educating young people in care: What have we learned? Children and Youth Services Review, 34, 1171–1175. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2012.01.032 Booth, T., and Ainscow, M. (2011). Index for Inclusion: Developing learning and participation in schools (3rd Revised edition). Bristol: Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education. Brodie, I. (2009). Improving educational outcomes for looked-after children and young people. Díez-Palomar, J., and Flecha, R. (2010). Comunidades de Aprendizaje: Un Proyecto de transformación social y Educativa. Revista Interuniversitaria de Formación del Profesorado, 24(1), 19-30. Retrieved from http://www.redalyc.org/articulo.oa?id=27419180002 Evans, R., Brown, R., Rees, G., and Smith, P. (2016). Systematic review of educational interventions for looked-after children and young people: Recommendations for intervention development and evaluation. British Educational Research Journal, 1–27. https://doi.org/10.1002/berj.3252 Goddard, J. (2000). The education of looked after children. Child and Family Social Work, 5, 79–86. Retrieved from www.nrdc.org.uk González, M.T. (2008). Diversidad e inclusión Educativa: Algunas reflexiones sobre el liderazgo en el centro escolar. REICE. Revista Iberoamericana sobre Calidad, Eficacia y Cambio en Educación, 6(2), 82-99. Hedin, L., Höjer, I., and Brunnberg, E. (2011). Why one goes to school: What school means to young people entering foster care. Child and Family Social Work, 16, 43–51 Jackson, S., and Cameron, C. (2012). Leaving care: Looking ahead and aiming higher. Children and Youth Services Review, 34, 1107–1114. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2012.01.041 Jackson, S., Cameron, C., and Graham., C. (2015). Educating Children and Young People in Care: Learning Placements and Caring Schools. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers O´Higgins, A., Sebba, J., and Luke, N. (2015). What is the relationship between being in care and the educational outcomes of children? An international systematic review. Rees Centre, Ed. Oxford. Sebba, J., et al. (2015). The educational progress of looked after children in England: Linking care and educational data. Oxford: Rees Centre. Retrieved from http://reescentre.education.ox.ac.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/ EducationalProgressLookedAfterChildrenOverviewReport_Nov2015.pdf Stake, R. E. (1995). The art of case study research. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. Zetlin, A. G., and Weinberg, L. A. (2004). Understanding the plight of foster youth and improving their educational opportunities. Child Abuse and Neglect, 28, 917–923. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2004.03.010
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