Academically successful Care Leavers: what has gone right?

  • Alice Tilley

Student thesis: Phd


This research used Q methodology to explore the viewpoints of undergraduate Care Leavers (n = 10) and corporate parents (n = 20) regarding what it is that enables children who have been Looked After to achieve a university education. In addition, this study sought out the chance to explore the views of Care Leavers and corporate parents in such a way that themes emerging from each could be compared and considered in the light of future practice implications.The published literature exploring attainment in children and young people who are Looked After provides ample evidence of under-attainment and considers what might be put into place to address that trend. The role of the Social Worker in the life of any Looked After Child is detailed in statute, yet they are not the only profession who has responsibility for this vulnerable group as a Corporate Parent. The literature search carried out indicates that whilst there are a small number of studies where viewpoints of Looked After Children or Care Leavers are sought, none of the previous research has used Q methodology. A Q sort of 34 items was used to seek out the views of each participant and then these views were analysed using by-person factor analysis and varimax rotation. Factor arrays are used to provide the basis of a narrative for each factor emerging from the analysis.One factor (shared viewpoint) emerged from the Care Leavers and three factors from the corporate parents. The Care Leavers stressed the impact of being placed with the right carers, those who believed in them and the influence that a university education might have on their future. The corporate parents in Factor 1 recognised the role of carers and highlighted the role of the Social Worker and self- belief. Corporate parents in Factor 2 stressed the impact of carers, the determination to succeed and to make use of the financial support available, and minimised the influence of others especially birth family. Corporate parents represented by Factor 3 shared the viewpoint that teachers and the priority given to educational issues by everyone surrounding a child are integral to enabling a university education. In common to both the Care Leavers and the corporate parents was the central role played by carers in terms of the importance of an appropriate care placement and the belief of the carer that the child (as they were at the time) could achieve a university place.The viewpoints of the Care Leavers and the corporate parents are discussed and considered in terms of shared and divergent themes between and within the Factors. Consideration is given to what can be learned from Care Leavers who achieved a university education by those with the power and potential resource to enable the aspirations of all Looked After Children.
Date of Award1 Aug 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorGarry Squires (Supervisor) & Caroline Bond (Supervisor)

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