Adults' and children's views of a sense of belonging and how this can support atypical school transitions for children in care.

  • Leanne Greenwood

Student thesis: Doctor of Educational and Child Psychology


Background: Developing a sense of belonging, a psychological drive to belong to groups, has been described as an innate human need. Pupils are more motivated, engaged and dedicated to their education if they experience this sense of belonging in their school environment. Extending understanding in this domain will potentially inform how schools can better promote belonging, particularly for their most vulnerable pupils. Methods/ participants: A systematic literature review (SLR) uses thematic synthesis to explore high school staff perceptions of how schools address pupils' needs to experience belonging. 5 papers were identified using the PRISMA framework and evaluated for methodological quality, coherence and integrity in terms of the evidence. Action research with virtual school staff and a group of looked after young people explored how best to support children in care develop a sense of belonging when they experience an atypical in-year transition to a new school. Appreciative inquiry focus groups were carried out and data was analysed collaboratively. Analysis/ findings: The SLR identified recurring themes focusing on support offered by individual staff within school, as well as support offered on a more systemic level, via school routines and procedures. The action research identified numerous implications across the levels of individual casework and supporting capacity building within schools, including the importance of young people having at least one key person with whom they can build a trusting relationship. Reflections on the experiences of those involved in the appreciative inquiry were also considered. Conclusion/implications: Differences between adult and young peoples' perceptions of belonging were identified and implications for practice and future research are considered. Finally, after an exploration of evidence-based practice and practice-based evidence, a strategy for disseminating evidence to professional practice is proposed.
Date of Award31 Dec 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorCaroline Bond (Supervisor) & Catherine Kelly (Supervisor)


  • Appreciative inquiry
  • Transition
  • Looked after children
  • Action research
  • Belonging
  • Secondary school
  • Connectedness
  • School staff views
  • Relatedness

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