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Title: The virtual school for cared for children : an exploration of its current and future role in raising pupils' academic attainment and achievement and promoting emotional wellbeing
Author: Simpson, Rebecca Jane
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2012
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It has long been recognised that cared for children can be at a disadvantage in terms of their educational experiences and outcomes (Comfort, 2007). The Care Matters Green Paper (DfES, 2006) suggested that although educational outcomes for cared for children had improved, there was still a gap between the outcomes for cared for children and those of the wider school population. A number of suggestions to narrow this gap were proposed, including the introduction of a virtual school head who would be responsible for driving up the performance of schools in relation to cared for children (DfES, 2006). In 2009 the role of the designated teacher of cared for children became statutory (DCSF, 2009a) with the aim of promoting the educational achievement of cared for children.This thesis aimed to explore the current and future role of the virtual school for cared for children in one local authority, using a mixed methods research design. The current role was established through semi-structured interviews with members of the virtual school team and surveying designated teachers using a questionnaire. The future role was explored through an appreciative inquiry session involving three members of the virtual school and one designated teacher. Appreciative inquiry seeks out what is already working in an organisation and builds on this success (Carter, 2006). There are limited examples of the use of appreciative inquiry in educational research regarding vulnerable groups (Woollam, 2010a; Woollam, 2010b), particularly within a mixed methods approach.Data was analysed using descriptive statistics and thematic analysis. The majority of designated teachers suggested that they were confident in their role. Existing support from the virtual school included individual casework, funding, training, support during placement breakdowns and emotional support for the designated teacher. Additional support was requested for post-16 cared for children and adopted children. Virtual school staff reported increased funding, the virtual school head position and virtual school branding, the raised profile of cared for children and relationships as facilitative to their work. Barriers included cared for children’s experiences, staff knowledge and experience and low expectations for cared for children. It was perceived the virtual school model was “working”; advantages over previous models included “sitting” in education, access to senior meetings to raise the profile of cared for children’s needs and being a “bridge” between social care and education. Priorities for the future role of this virtual school included “being bold”, developing early years and post-16 provision, increased enrichment opportunities and widening the remit of the virtual school to include other vulnerable groups such as adopted children, child protection cases and children in need. Implications for educational psychology practice and future research are considered.
Supervisor: Tyldesley, Kathleen; Atkinson, Cathy Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Ed.Ch.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: appreciative inquiry ; cared for children ; designated teacher ; educational psychology ; looked after children ; virtual school