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Title: 'The theory doesn't work here' : an exploratory study of child care practice in a 52-week residential special school
Author: Pike, Nicholas Keith
ISNI:       0000 0004 2735 6429
Awarding Body: Cardiff University
Current Institution: Cardiff University
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis reports an exploratory study of a residential unit in a special school for young people with complex learning disabilities and challenging behaviour. The study, which draws on ethnographic research methods, describes a relational approach to care based predominantly on ‘common sense’ explanations of behaviour rather than on a coherent knowledge base. Residential carers drew largely on informal models of care and the nature of the child care task was constructed predominantly from the prevailing staff culture of ‘how we do things here’. Staff made very little use of formal planning mechanisms, partly because documents were inaccessible to them, partly because documents were poorly completed and did not always match the observable skills of the young people. Such plans were often predicated on a much higher staff: student ratio than was actually available, and the way shifts were organised made their execution difficult to achieve. The construction of the child care task is illustrated in depth by a detailed examination of two micro-practices: providing meals and using bedrooms. In both cases, the research demonstrated that staff were working in a complex context of conflicting ideas, principles and instructions from a variety of competing sources. However committed to the principles of ordinary living, of choice and control, or to learning from everyday life, given the severity of impairment of some young people, the complexity of the context and the shortage of staff, residential workers had to improvise and often decide for themselves how tasks were to be undertaken, without reference to such plans and programmes as were available. The research suggests that the staff operate in this way because of the anomalous, even liminal, position of the residential special school in relation to mainstream child care practice and the challenges that this poses for staff, school managers and placing authorities.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.S.W.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: H Social Sciences (General) ; LC Special aspects of education