Written by IFF Research

Improving educational outcomes for looked after children: Welsh Government publishes our findings

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We are delighted to announce that the Welsh Government has published our research findings, exploring an integrated approach to improving educational outcomes for looked after children.

About the research

The study aimed to assist the Welsh Government in shaping future policy for supporting looked after children in education, to improve educational outcomes. The research focused on the need for integration and collaboration between education, social services, and others, primarily at Local Authority (LA) level.

We interviewed a range of stakeholders, with a focus on what is working well and less well within the current systems of support for looked after children in education. This included social care and education stakeholders and practitioners in all 22 LAs, eight school leaders, five care experienced young people and other interested parties. We also reviewed relevant Welsh and international policy and practice documents.

The research findings

To create the conditions for better integration and collaboration, the study identified nine principles (outer circle of the diagram below). These relate both to systemic ways of working and practices adopted by individual practitioners. It is expected that all LAs adopt these principles and that they would be enshrined in local strategies for looked after children. Key principles based on existing good practice and include:

  • A child- or person-centred approach which must consider educational needs alongside concerns about wellbeing, health, and placement stability.
  • As corporate parents accountability is key, staff at all levels and across LA departments should hold themselves accountable for looked after children.

The study also identified the key building blocks (or jigsaw pieces – see the centre of the diagram) to improving educational outcomes for looked after children through an integrated approach. These include:

  • The collection of more holistic outcomes data on the wider social and emotional factors that are likely to impact educational progress. This must be done systematically across all local authorities with the Welsh Government holding LAs to account.
  • The implementation of ‘restorative leadership’ i.e. leadership that is both supportive and challenging. This may involve establishing a virtual schools approach in Wales – as is already in place elsewhere. Pilots are recommended to test and evaluate how this approach can work best in Wales.

Read the report

The publication of all the findings is available to read on the Welsh Government website.

Can we help?
To find out how we can help you with your next research project, please contact our Learning & Skills team.