Perspectives of looked after children on school experience : a study conducted among primary school children in a children's home in Singapore
The study was conducted on the ground that the education of looked after children (specifically children in a Children's Home) is significant for their development, future success and social integration. While low attainment has been reported from research done in UK, the issue is largely neglected by researchers in Singapore. The aim of thisstudy is to provide a description of looked after children's perspectives on their experiences in the mainstream schools in Singapore. The study was a case study conducted in a residential home with about 40 Primary School children. The research comprises four phases of data collection. It began with a preliminary finding that looked into the demography of the children in the Home, especially their educational attainment. Next, structured interviews that explore children's perspectives concerning school, teachers, classmates, lesson time, homework, and aspiration were conducted with 21 informants. Documents that provide information about the Home's operation were also collected and examined for the understanding of the Home's environment and support for children's education. Finally, conclusions drawn from these data were used to formulate a questionnaire that involved all Primary School children in the Home. Results from the preliminary study had confirmed that the academic achievements ofchildren in the Home were skewed towards the lower end. While the Home had incorporated a number of measures to ensure its charges were adequately supported to meet school demands, school progress was not its main thrust and a personalized educational plan to address individual needs was not practiced. Eight issues arose from the findings of the interviews and questionnaire survey. Concerning school, their general feelings, dissatisfactions, teachers' roles, relations with classmates, school transfer and aspirations were discussed. Although the Home was not the focus of the study, children's perspectives concerning the people and its environment on educational support gave the background to their experiences in school. Ultimately, there remains a need for school and the Home to improve their facilitations to encourage school progress among looked after children. The findings suggest that information plays an important role in teachers' effectiveness and it could be acquired through training and the stipulation of regular review meetings with the Home staff. Besides collaborating with the teaching staff, the Home could consider looking into a personalized educational plan, revamp its educational support programme and physical environment, and allow children's participation in certain decision making.