• Elisabeth Parker

Student thesis: Doctor of Educational and Child Psychology


The education of looked-after children (LAC) in the care of the Local Authority (LA) is supported by government initiatives to reduce the attainment gap that exists between LAC and their peers. Long-term outcomes for LAC pupils are poor (Sebba et al. 2015). The Virtual School (VS) has a statutory role in the education of LAC (DfE, 2014a) and aims to encourage stringent monitoring and intervention for LAC pupils, for example via a personalised education plan (PEP) outlining attainment, strategies intended to accelerate progress, and resources needed for doing so. The PEP process involves termly meetings between pupil, Social Worker and school's designated teacher. The current study uses Actor-Network Theory (ANT) (Latour, 1999) as a lens through which to conceptualise change for LAC pupils during the PEP process. Data was collected from three PEP meetings and accompanying documentation in one LA setting, using ethnomethodology, in order to explore the human and non-human actors in the PEP network which are active in creating change for LAC. The analysis made visible the strong role of the PEP document in providing structure for the meeting, along with the instrumental role of the designated teacher and their knowledge of the pupil embodied in non-human entities such as resources, timetabling and grades. The Social Worker influence on the network was less visible. ANT is explored as a material semiotic tool for analysis through a conceptual review of current literature within educational research, with a focus on the construction of research questions. The review demonstrates that ANT can attempt to answer questions about 'how' things came to be and 'who' and 'what' they are composed of. The current research also incorporates an appraisal of evidence-based practice, and a consideration of the implications and dissemination of the findings of the study at LA level and beyond.
Date of Award31 Dec 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorErica Burman (Supervisor) & Caroline Bond (Supervisor)


  • personalised education plan
  • performativity
  • children in care
  • looked after children
  • actor network theory

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