By Dr Rebecca Eynon (Associate Professor between the Department of Education and the Oxford Internet Institute) & Professor Jo-Anne Baird (Director of the Department of Education)
Now that the infamous Ofqual algorithm for deciding the high-stake exam results for hundreds of thousands of students has been resoundingly rejected, the focus turns to the importance of investigating what went wrong. Indeed, the office for statistics regulation has already committed to a review of the models used for exam adjustment within well specified terms, and other reviews are likely to follow shortly.
A central focus from now, as students, their families, educational institutions and workplaces try to work out next steps, is to interrogate the unspoken and implicit values that guided the creation, use and implementation of this particular statistical model.
As part of the avalanche of critique aimed at Ofqual and the government, the question of values come in to play. Why, many have asked, was Ofqual tasked, as they are every year, with avoiding grade inflation as their overarching objective? Checks were made on the inequalities in the model and they were consistent with the inequalities seen in examinations at a national level. This, though, begs the question of why these inequalities are accepted in a normal year.
These and other important arguments raised over the past week or so highlight questions about values. Specifically, they raise the fundamental question of why, aside from the debates in academia and some parts of the press, we have stopped discussing the purposes of education. Instead, a meritocratic view of education, promoted since the 1980s by governments on the right and left of the spectrum has become a given. In place of discussions about values, there has been an ever increasing focus on the collection and use of data to hold schools accountable for ‘delivering’ an efficient and effective education, to measure student’s ‘worth’ in ways that can easily be traded in the economy, and to water down ideas of social justice and draw attention away from wider inequalities in society.
Once debates about values are removed from our education and assessment systems, we are left with situations like the one now. The focus on creating a model that makes the data look like past years – with little debate over whether the aims should have been different this year is a central example of this. Given the significant (and unequal) challenges young people have faced during this year, should we not, as a society have wanted to reduce inequalities in our society in any way possible?
The question of values also carries through into other discussions of the datafication of education, where the collection and analysis of digital trace data, i.e. data collected from the technologies that young people engage with for learning and education, is growing exponentially. Yet unlike other areas of the public sector like health and policing, schools rarely have a central feature in policy discussions and reports of algorithmic fairness. The question is why? There are highly significant ethical and social implications of extensive data use in education that significantly shape young people’s futures. These include issues of privacy, informed consent and data ownership (particularly due to the significant role of the commercial sector); the validity and integrity of the models produced; the nature of the decisions promoted by such systems; and questions of governance and accountability. This relative lack of policy interest in the implications of datafication for schooling is, we suggest, because governments take for granted the need for data of all kinds in education to support their meritocratic aims, and indeed see it as a central way to make education ‘fair’.
The Ofqual algorithm has brought to our attention the ethics of the datafication of education and the risk that poses of compounding social inequalities. Every year there is not only injustice from the unequal starting points and the unequal opportunities young people have within our schools and in their everyday lives, but there is also injustice in the pretence that extensive use of data is somehow a neutral process.
In the important reflections and investigations that should now take place over the coming weeks and months there needs to be a review that explicitly places values and ethical frameworks front and centre, that encourages a focus on the purposes of education, particularly in times of a (post-) pandemic.
By Celine Gross, associate at Social Finance. Part of a series published by the Rees Centre on data (see below for related posts).
As a data scientist focusing on Children’s Services, I’ll admit that the first things which spring to mind when you mention Annex A and CIN Census are “inconsistent” and “designed for compliance”. That said, these datasets hold a wealth of information and my team found a powerful way to use them to provide evidence of the quality of children’s journeys through social care. It may also be useful for you.
For those who don’t know them, Annex A and CIN Census are children’s services datasets created by local authorities. Annex A is a document prepared for Ofsted inspections of children’s services departments, listing all events that happened in the last six months (contacts, referrals, child protection plans, etc.) and some information on children looked after (care leavers, adopters, etc.). CIN Census are submitted by local authority children’s services annually to the Department for Education and only contain details of children ‘in need’ (being assessed or under a child plan) from the past fiscal year.
What Works for Children’s Social Care provided a grant to the team at Social Finance to facilitate this work. We were also in receipt of grant funding from the Christie Foundation. Both streams of funding allowed us to explore the use of data and how it could be used to identify promising practice. Although the project had some unintended outcomes, we were able to create and share tools such as template Data Processing Agreements which can help other partnerships between Local Authorities (LAs) or between LAs and partners to work together safely and ethically on analysing individual-level data.
From ‘events’ to ‘journeys’
We took the lists of events from Annex A and CIN Census and turned them into ‘child journeys’– strings of events concerning the same individual. We did it using Python but you could do the same with R and other programming languages. This allows us to make journeys themselves the objects of analysis, or to analyse events based on what happens before or after them.
A simple journey, simply expressed looks like this:
With a bit of visualisation, a more complex journey looks like this, over an 18-month timeframe:
We found that analysing journeys opened new possibilities for looking at the quality of processes of a system, rather than at their compliance.
Often, this starts with a practice insight: ‘X shouldn’t generally happen after Y’ – allowing us to define an archetypal journey which our local authority partners are interested in, and see how often it is happening, and in what contexts.
One example was when we focussed on ‘potentially missed risk at assessment’ – a journey where a child’s first assessment did not result in a plan (higher-level intervention) but a subsequent referral within 6 months did.
Some numbers jumped out for social care service managers and quality assurance directors:
· In some local authorities, these ‘potentially missed risk’ journeys were happening 25% more often with some demographic groups than others, and more often with certain types of risk – identifying opportunities for quality audit and the types of cases first-line managers should review;
· In some local authorities, they happened more often at the weekends and at busy times of year – putting some numbers on things managers had long suspected to be true.
Many of these patterns were present in some local authorities but not others, highlighting possibilities for sharing of good practice.
Can you use journeys in your work?
These are just a few examples of what journey analysis can do. There are many more interesting journey archetypes and use cases that could turn this journey analysis into better decisions, targeted service improvement work and interesting research. We’re hoping to partner with universities and with local authorities to take this forward.
We’re keen to share what we learnt. We have started publishing our journey code on GitHub. We’re excited to see how it could be improved and how it could be used in local authorities (with around 600 analysts across England), by researchers and by others. We’ve already benefitted massively from being able to check our interpretations of how the data represents reality with analysts and managers in four local authorities, and we hope that GitHub can become a place to grow that collaboration.
Please feel free to add your own tools as well as to improve the ones we have started. You might also be interested in the code that cleans Annex A according to the Ofsted guidance here.
What Works for Children’s Social Care will soon share a report detailing aspirations for the project, what we learned and what we see as possible and useful in this type of work. Please visit their website for details.
There is a growing community of data-minded people, passionate about supporting better decision-making in the children’s services space. Let’s continue collaborating and building on each other’s learning: if you see the potential of child journeys, please get in touch! And do share your ideas: what tools did you create?
This blog post was written by Celine Gross from the consultancy Social Finance.
Contact Celine: email@example.com
It is part of a series of posts published by the Rees Centre on data. The Rees Centre welcomes guest blog posts from professionals across the sector. Views expressed are authors’ own and do not represent those of the Centre.
Related Rees Centre blog posts:
Children’s Social Care Data User Group
The Children’s Social Care Data User Group (CSC DUG) was set up in 2017 by the Rees Centre, University of Oxford and Thomas Coram Research Unit, UCL. It is a network of academics, local authority data managers, analysts, charities and funders with a shared vision that administrative data from children’s social care and other relevant agencies in England can be analysed and fed back into policy and practice to improve the way that children’s social care services respond to children, young people and their families.
The group focuses on data submitted to and analysed by the Department for Education (namely the SSDA 903 children looked after data and the Children in Need Census data).
Membership is open to any individual or organisation who is using, or plans to use, children’s social care data collated by the Department for Education (Child in Need data, Looked After Children data or Section 251 social care expenditure data in relation to children’s services).
To join the group’s mailing list: email firstname.lastname@example.org
By Ellie Suh (Research Officer, Rees Centre, Department of Education)
The Cost Calculator for Children’s Services (CCfCS, or Cost Calculator) is a research-based purpose-built tool that helps local authorities to assess and analyse the costs of providing social care to children in care. The current Cost Calculator team includes Dr Lisa Holmes (director of Rees Centre), Helen Trivedi and myself. I am currently taking part in the SUCCESS programme which, funded by Aspect, provides training, support and funding to help social scientists transform innovative and marketable ideas into a business or social enterprise. In this blog, I explain the motivation for taking the Cost Calculator to the social enterprise model.
The tool was initially developed to facilitate analysis for academic research conducted by Dr Lisa Holmes and colleagues to understand the relationship between the needs, costs and outcomes of children in care. The research aimed to move away from aggregate costs that did not reflect the detail of the children’s social care. For this reason, costs were often understood at an aggregate level or using per head cost. Of course, these are useful summary figures; however, they do not provide analysis that is sufficiently detailed to assess cost-effectiveness or to inform strategic decision-making in service provisioning or commissioning.
The research team used a bottom-up unit cost methodology which makes it possible to analyse cost at various levels of detail, such as for an individual child, a cohort of children or by needs group. The tool can provide costs by placement type or service providers and to provide what-if analysis. Having more analysis provides greater room for local authorities to monitor progress and to evaluate new initiatives in a systematic and transparent manner. Around 50 local authorities at different points have been either engaged in research or worked with the tool, and there are a number of case studies that highlight the benefits that the analysis has provided.
The tool was initially developed as an Access database. Technology and the uses of data have evolved. Over the past three years, the research team have also moved from the University of Loughborough to the Rees Centre, Oxford University, so have used this time to reflect and plan next steps. This is why the Cost Calculator is moving to a web-based platform. As technology advances, users expect a more secure, efficient and intuitively designed interface. More local authorities are paying attention to collecting data and maintaining its quality. We have also seen more use of data dashboards and data visualisations. The sophisticated analytics provided by the Cost Calculator could empower local governments that are looking to make informed decisions and to strategise in response to increased demand for children’s social care.
To move to the next stage of development of the Cost Calculator we consider that the social enterprise model is best aligned to our needs. While it will make no profit, the social enterprise model provides an operable structure that enables both maintenance and development of the tool. Revenue will be generated through a clearly defined and affordable pricing model, which improves the financial sustainability of this social initiative. Revenue generation will be utilised for supporting the end-users and keeping up with the latest technology. Without a sustainable business model to support continuous development, the contribution of this academic research is likely to be short-lived.
The team is working on setting up the social enterprise so that this academic research can continue to make a contribution to a wider community in a meaningful and sustainable way. I will keep you updated on my journey through the SUCCESS programme – watch this space.
Get in touch with Ellie – email@example.com
By Dr Velda Elliott (Associate Professor of English and Literacy Education and Director of Doctoral Research)
The DPhil in Education is an advanced research degree awarded on the basis of a thesis and an oral examination. If studying full-time, the programme takes between 3-4 years to complete. By the end of the programme, graduates are equipped with a wide range of research skills as well as in-depth knowledge, understanding and expertise in their chosen field of Education research.
Graduates of the Oxford Education DPhil are all over the world embarking on an amazing range of careers. Below are just a handful of examples of how our former students are currently making a positive difference in the world within the sphere of Education.
Graduates In The Third Sector and Beyond
Lila McDowell (DPhil in Education, 2012) is the Deputy Director of Hudson Link, a non profit organisation which provides college education, life skills and re-entry support to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated men and women to help them make a positive impact on their own lives, their families and communities, resulting in lower rates of recidivism, incarceration and poverty. In her ‘spare’ time she teaches classes at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Read her article on the need for formerly incarcerated leaders for prison education programmes here.
Mahmoud Natout (also DPhil in Education, 2014) founded a consultancy in the Lebanon which works to enable organisations to develop play-based learning and to leverage the power of play to unlock human potential for creativity and innovation in all stages of life. Ashish Jaiswal (DPhil in Education, 2011) is a freelance author and consultant. He has spoken and taught all around the world. Fluid, his latest book, assimilates lessons from the approach applied by geniuses through out history and offers a fresh model of learning and thinking. His previous book, How to Reform a Business School, was based on his thesis, a multi-year case study of how Yale transformed its business school.
Aqeela Datoo (DPhil in Education, 2013) is Strategic Partnerships Manager at the Aga Khan Foundation, supporting programmatic design of education worldwide.. Before this role she spent three years ‘on the ground’ with the Aga Khan Foundation in India, leading their education programmes. Hannah Grainger Clemson (DPhil in Education, 2011) is Schools Policy Officer at the European Commission, where as well as using the expertise developed during her doctorate in her work, she has followed up her Rugby Blue from Oxford by becoming part of a European Camogie team, which won the World Games last year!
Ariel Liu (DPhil in Education, 2013) bridged the gap between the academic and the non-academic world. After graduating from Oxford, Ariel worked at the Stanford University Department of Education as a post-doctoral research fellow, where she researched digital video collaboration and the use of mobile computers in education. She then joined Google, first as a User Experience Researcher for Search and Maps, and now as a Senior User Experience Researcher and manager. Currently, she leads a team of researchers building user-first experiences for Google Search, Maps, and Assistant.
Graduates In Higher Education
Many of our alumni work as Higher Education lecturers, including Natalie Lundsteen (DPhil in Education, 2011) who is Assistant Dean for Career and Professional Development at University of Texas Southwestern. She visited the department earlier this year and delivered an excellent session on thinking about careers post MSc or DPhil. Patrick Alexander (DPhil in Education, 2011) is Director of Research in the Oxford Brookes Faculty of Education, just across town, so is also a frequent visitor back to the department. Tania Saeed (DPhil in Education, 2013) is Assistant Professor at Lahore University of Management Sciences, Pakistan, where she has published two books since completing her DPhil, including one based on her thesis, co-authored with her supervisor Dr David Johnson. Nick Hopwood (DPhil in Education, 2007) is Associate Professor at the University of Technology, Sydney, where he also maintains a strong public engagement presence, including recording his ‘wall of failure’ as a public service to academia! (Nick originated the still immensely popular Advanced Qualitative Research course at the Department, which supports advanced doctoral students with their data analysis.) Prachi Srivastava (DPhil in Education, 2005), who co-authored a methods article with Nick when they were both students, is Associate Professor in Education and International Development at Western University, Canada. She is also a Member of the World Bank Expert Advisory Council on Citizen Engagement.
Mitsuko Matsumoto (DPhil in Education, 2012) is a lecturer at the Autonomous University of Madrid; James Hall (DPhil in Education, 2009) is Associate Professor at the University of Southampton.
Others work in non-academic roles in universities, including Aly Kassam-Remtulla (DPhil in Education, 2012), who is now Associate Provost for International Affairs and Operations at Princeton University. Gill Houston chairs the UK Council for Graduate Education – but to be fair she had a lifetime of working in Research Student policy and practice before she completed her doctorate with us!
Graduates in the department!
And of course there are quite a few of us still in Oxford… I’m one, as is Susan James Relly, the Associate Head of the Social Sciences Division and Alis Oancea, Professor of Philosophy of Education and Research Policy and Director of Research. Steve Puttick, our Associate Professor of Teacher Education is another, as is James Robson, Departmental Lecturer in Higher Education and Jessica Briggs Baffoe-Djan, Departmental Lecturer in Applied Linguistics. Both our History educators, Katharine Burn, Associate Professor of History Education and Jason Todd, Departmental Lecturer, also gained their DPhils in the department. Recent graduate Natalie Usher is an Educational Development Advisor with the University’s Centre for Teaching and Learning.
To discover more about the DPhil in Education at the department, visit: www.education.ox.ac.uk/programmes
Join the Oxford Education DPhil Community
What did an Oxford Education DPhil do for you? Let us know by joining the newly created LinkedIn Alumni Group, or search ‘DPhil Education Oxford Alumni’ on LinkedIn.
Meet some of the alumni mentioned in this post:
By Imogen Casebourne (Research Student, Learning and New Technologies Research Group, Department of Education)
Over the course of my studies I have been thinking about mobility and place in the context of learning for work. Recent events have thrown some of the issues I have been considering into sharp relief.
Suddenly mobility has been hugely restricted for many, but not for those whose movements between places of work, or whose movement from home to a specific workplace are essential for society to function (even if at risk to themselves). Others who can only work in a specific location, but whose work is not regarded as essential at this time find themselves unable to work at all. Finally there is another group, who may typically travel to a place of work but in theory at least are able to work from home. For this third group of individuals place is, in theory, not especially relevant to their work, which, again in theory can be done anywhere.
But as this third group of people suddenly found themselves confined to their homes, it became very apparent that a formal function of place is to exclude some activities in order to enable others. For example, most workplaces, as well as most places of formal study, such as lecture theatres and University libraries, typically exclude young children, so that activities related to caring for children must happen elsewhere. Today, many individuals attempting to work from home also find themselves attempting to teach and care for their children in their home at the same time.
While the occasional intrusion of children into an apparently non-appropriate workplace context can be charming, as with the BBC commentator who was suddenly joined by his children while live on air, the reality is that households and homes are unequal places. Obviously homes may be more or less well equipped with technology that enables communication with others, which is a problem in itself, but they are also different sizes and shared with more or fewer people. This means that they afford very different opportunities to distance oneself from other activities and other people in the home in order to concentrate on work or learning. Finally, roles within households may be gendered and there are concerns that evidence from previous pandemics suggests that a prolonged period of lack of access to public spaces set aside for work or study during a pandemic may lead deepening gender inequity. For example, there appears to be anecdotal evidence that during the pandemic publication rates may have decreased for female academics.
These types of concern were quickly raised by students and other commentators. For example, final year students asking for the choice not to take exams online, on the grounds that not all students would have access to a quiet environment in which to do so.
Learning technologies have obviously been hugely important in enabling learning to continue through this crisis, and things might have been much more difficult without them. In the first weeks of the lockdown I was invited to online meditation classes and realised that I could take a virtual tour of many of the world’s great museums or national parks. Meanwhile friends started learning languages, taking music classes and educating their children with the help of online resources such as Khan Academy, and for the past weeks, I have taken part in daily live virtual exercise classes.
However, learning technologies cannot by themselves eradicate existing inequalities of access to place or availability of discretionary time, while unequal access to devices and unequal quality of connection may introduce other inequalities. For example, a German study suggested that individuals whose poor bandwidth had the effect of slowing their speech as it was heard by other online participants, might be perceived as mentally slower by those other participants. Perhaps with these types of issue in mind, some commentators on equality have added the term ‘situational impairment’ to their lexicon.
Today in the UK there has been a heated debate about when children should return to school, and alongside all important considerations about the safety of all involved, concerns about the potential disadvantages of online learning for some are rightly a part of that debate. If were to turn out that a return to the previous practices associated with learning at educational institutions remains unsafe for some time to come, a broader debate may be needed about other ways in which current inequalities might be addressed.
Meanwhile, for workers in the UK who are unable to go to work at present and have therefore been furloughed, one of the few work related activities that is currently permitted while furloughed is work related learning. Presumably, that would be demanding for those who are also home schooling, but it is notable that there has so far been relatively little coverage or debate about what, if any, work related learning activities this group may be undertaking and what their experiences have been.
BBC Commentator interrupted by his children https://youtu.be/Mh4f9AYRCZY
Online learning resources mentioned in this blog
Example virtual exercise classes, there are many more
The Khan academy
Live mindfulness sessions
Online language learning
Related studies into work, learning and mobility
Bekerman, Z., Burbules, N., & Silberman-Keller, D. (2006). Learning in Places: The Informal Education Reader. Peter Lang Publishing Inc.
Billett, S. (2013). Mimetic Learning in Circumstances of Professional Practice. In Technology-Enhanced Professional Learning: Processes, Practices, and Tools (pp. 85–96).
Cohen, R. L. (2010). Rethinking “mobile work”: Boundaries of space, time and social relation in the working lives of mobile hairstylists. Work, Employment and Society, 24(1), 65–84.
Jamieson, P., Fisher, K., Gilding, T., Taylor, P. G., & Trevitt, a C. F. (2000). Place and Space in the Design of New Learning Environments. Higher Education Research & Development, 19(2), 223–235.
McNeill, B. (2014). Time and the Working Online Learner. In Barbera, E., & Reimann, P. (Eds.) Assessment and Evaluation of Time Factors in Online Learning and Teaching (pp. 24–62). IGI Global.
Schoenenberg, K., Raake, A., Koeppe, J. (2014) Why are you so slow? – Misattribution of transmission delay to attributes of the conversation partner at the far-end. In International Journal of Human-Computer Studies (pp. 477-487).
Sharples, M. (2019). Seamless learning: Continue learning across locations, technologies and activities. In Practical Pedagogy 40 new ways to teach and learn (pp. 54–58). Routledge.
Wacjman, J. (2016). Pressed for Time THE ACCELERATION OF LIFE IN DIGITAL CAPITALISM. University of Chicago Press.
A selection of articles and blogs written in response to changes in working and learning caused by the pandemic
By Ken Kahn
From 2016 to 2018 Niall Winters and Ken Kahn participated in the European eCraft2Learn project whose aim was to apply elements of the Maker Movement to STEAM education. The main task we had was to create resources to enable students (13 to 17 years old) to incorporate AI into their projects. We have continued to work on the programming components, guides, and sample projects since then. Most recently, two teams in India have each decided to build ambitious sequence of lessons and activities using our AI programming learning resources. They both have plans to beta test these resources with thousands of students. One of the Indian teams is also developing a very inexpensive, yet capable, educational robot. We are collaborating with them to adapt our software to interface with the robot. The team in Chennai was sufficiently interested in our efforts to fly Ken Kahn there for a short visit in February (when India had reported only 3 Covid-19 cases).
All the software we have produced has an open source license and the learning materials have Creative Commons licenses. Consequently, we only learn of schools or projects building on our work if they contact us. While we are unaware of any users in the UK (but in June we plan to introduce our materials as part of the Go Girl project), we are aware of users in Greece, Singapore, Indonesia, China, Spain, Germany, Finland, and Cuba. The Chinese team (led by Jingjing Zhang who received her doctorate from our department) launched a project and began gathering data from trials when the coronavirus put everything on hold.
More information about our efforts to enable school children to do AI programming at https://ecraft2learn.github.io/ai/
The team at NeuroLove introduce their new online platform, created to help young people stay emotionally and physically well.
This guest post is published by the Rees Centre during the coronavirus pandemic.
NeuroLove is an interactive website offering mental health support and the opportunity to stay socially connected during the current, very strange times, that we’re living in. aim at NeuroLove is to reach out to those who are particularly vulnerable, especially young people with experiences of living in care, but anyone who might be struggling at the moment is welcome to use the website. Reports have highlighted the increased vulnerability of those who have current or underlying mental health issues in the current climate. Social distancing guidelines have made many people feel isolated and low. Staying indoors, hoarding food and increased exposure to the news have increased certain mental health issues like; anxiety, depression and eating disorders. Often meeting up with friends, grabbing a coffee or going to the gym are common ways to cope with negative thoughts and feelings. However, many of these common coping strategies have been restricted at the moment. We hope that people will think of NeuroLove as a virtual friend, offering positive ideas to make these times feel a little less lonely.
We’ve incorporated live classes and mentor sessions to bring real-world connection to an online platform. Young people can join our live sessions, learning a range of skills from baking the perfect (budget friendly) cupcake, to learning how to create video games, plus live classes to help with sleep, anxiety or low mood. If a young person wants to talk to a real person then our amazing Social Therapy team are on hand to listen and offer support. Our Social Therapists are trained to give confidential support around issues that young people often experience. NeuroLove could potentially be a vital platform for those alienated at this time.
If live sessions don’t fit with someone’s routine, they can look at the activity resource pages, where young people can take a walk around a museum, listen to podcast or make a positivity jar. By offering a selection of relevant apps, we hope to make life at home during COVID-19 crises a little more manageable.
NeuroLove was created by a diverse and incredibly dedicated team, including those who have shared similar experiences to young people living in care. Crucially, in creating the platform we had the involvement of a team of young people who helped us to shape the support offered. Complex issues that are often poorly understood were addressed by staff who had first hand experiences of these issues. We hope this brings a truthful view to mental health and leads to more effective support.
This guest blog post is written by Shaunna Devine of the NeuroLove team. Contact Shaunna
Published by the Rees Centre during the coronavirus pandemic.
The team behind the Oxfordshire Kindness Wave explain how the idea of a kindness parcel was born, each containing a message of hope, creativity for comfort, kindness with chocolate and a specially made heart for love.
This guest post is published by the Rees Centre during the coronavirus pandemic.
This act of kindness started four weeks ago from a conversation with two campaigners, Maxine Sloss and Laura Beveridge, who champion creativity, equal rights for every child and young person. Their common belief is that all young people deserve the right to grow into adulthood with confidence, feeling happy and with a sense of belonging and love. Maxine and Laura, who both live and work in Edinburgh, met just a few weeks ago for the very first time (physically distanced of course). They began developing and facilitating a response to the pandemic, aiming to reach out to children, young people and families. The idea of The Kindness Wave was born.
The Kindness Wave was formed with four key components: hope, love, comfort and kindness. Studio LR designed the branding based on drawings by Laura’s 13-year-old sister and 7-year-old daughter. Each colour represents the favourite colours of four Kindness Wave writers who were the first to receive the parcels! This was truly a collective creation. Our logo symbolises hope, love, comfort and kindness that keeps the children and young people in mind.
Whilst we are all going through the Covid19 pandemic, our belief is that each parcel will contain a message of hope, creativity for comfort, kindness with chocolate and a specially made heart for love.
‘’Loved my Creative parcel I had something fun to do at home and just to be connected to my local community is everything’’ 15 year old young person.
As a Co-founder of Scotland’s Kindness Wave I worked alongside a collective of creatives, educators, youth workers, writers to set up our community of parcel makers here in Oxfordshire. The idea developed and we are now in partnership with Ark T, Alex Timpson Trust, Oxfordshire Virtual School, Oxford Hub, Oxford City Council, Cultural Education Partnership Arts Work and Populate Co-op. We are sending out creative parcels to our young people and aim to celebrate their creativity and resilience through our website. Local and national artists, writers and students are creating conversations and challenges that give young people much needed comfort and distraction, and provide opportunities to create happy moments during this challenging time.
Oxford and Edinburgh are two cities far apart. However, through this pandemic we have created a bond to support our children and young people with love, kindness, hope and comfort. We hope they can see the true power that they have. One truth is that we all are vulnerable right now, all of us are having our resilience tested and some more than others will experience adversity.
What matters right now is that we are all in this together, and have an opportunity to connect. It is important to note that all of the products in our parcels are locally sourced, many items handmade and created by creatives in our local communities.
Written by George O’Shaughnessey on behalf of the team behind The Kindness Wave. Contact George.
This guest post is published by the Rees Centre during the coronavirus pandemic.
Nikki Luke of the Rees Centre explains why the group of children known as ‘Children in Need’ should receive more attention in policy and research. This is one of the main themes emerging from a new report ‘Children in Need and Children in Care: Educational attainment and progress’ published today.
Funded by the Nuffield Foundation, the report resulted from a collaboration led by Nikki Luke at the Rees Centre and David Berridge at the University of Bristol. The findings were drawn from:
- Quantitative analysis of data from a whole birth cohort of children (471,688) born in England in 2000/01, starting school in 2006/07 and tracked through to their GCSE exams in 2017.
- Interviews with 123 children, parents/carers and professionals.
The report examined the ‘attainment gap’ between children with a social worker and other pupils, and aimed to identify the factors that might explain this gap. Our analysis showed that educational attainment was lower for children who had any social work intervention during their school years compared with those who had no intervention: from 10-16% lower at the end of primary school, and 34-53% lower at the end of secondary school.
One important theme from our research is the need for greater attention to Children in Need in educational policy and research. Historically, attention has been focused on Children in Care; a reasonable direction given that Children in Care generally represent the most challenging home circumstances and severest levels of need. However, our report suggests that for a number of reasons the focus should be broadened to include the education of Children in Need.
Solely in numerical terms, Children in Need represent a larger issue: of the 69,246 children in our dataset who needed a social worker at some stage between school Years 1-11, only 13% were ever placed In Care. Most children receiving social work services live at home with birth families. Like Children in Care, most Children in Need have a social worker because of challenging family circumstances. They are also similar in terms of other forms of disadvantage: living in significantly more deprived areas than the national average, being 3-4 times as likely as children without social workers to be eligible for Free School Meals, and 2-6 times as likely to have an identified Special Educational Need or Disability.
These similarities in the characteristics of Children in Need and Children in Care come as no surprise when another finding is taken into account: 85% of Children in Care had previously been identified as Children in Need. The centrality of Children in Care over Children in Need in policy and research belies the fact that these are generally the same children at different points in their experience of social work intervention (and instead places the focus on the child’s legal status).
In practice, of course, Children in Need dominate the work of Children’s Services, and attention is paid to their educational progress as well as to other areas of their development. Indeed, our interviews revealed that many social workers were active regarding the education of Children in Need, often working to empower and advocate for parents to help ensure an effective education.
However, in policy terms, Children in Need are not afforded the same levels of educational support as Children in Care. They do not fall under the official remit of responsibilities for Virtual School Headteachers, a role that has made much progress in championing the education of Children in Care. They also do not attract the enhanced Pupil Premium Plus funding that is available for Children in Care, which might go some way to mitigating the educational difficulties of families living in poverty, as revealed in our interviews.
With this in mind, our research findings support and build on the recommendations of the Government’s Children in Need Review. Our report outlines some of the specific changes that we feel would help to improve the educational attainment and progress of Children in Need:
- Efforts to increase the visibility of the Children in Need group should continue, including raising the profile of Children in Need within schools and in Ofsted reports.
- With appropriate resourcing, there would be strong advantages in Virtual Schools, or a similar service, overseeing Children in Need as well as Children in Care.
- There are strong arguments for Pupil Premium Plus (PPP) payments to be extended in some form to Children in Need.
- Approaches that address the impact of poverty on education should be promoted (e.g. ‘Poverty Proofing the School Day’: http://www.povertyproofing.co.uk/).
- Teacher training for pupils’ well-being should include the specific circumstances of Children in Need and Children in Care, for example ‘attachment awareness’ issues and effective and acceptable behaviour management techniques for vulnerable pupils.
This research study built on our previous collaboration (published in 2015) which was the first research to statistically link education and care factors and complement this with interviews of secondary-aged Children in Care in England. In that project, we had found that children in longer-term care did better educationally than those receiving a social work service but not living In Care.
Following this report, in 2016 the Department for Education’s annual statistics on educational outcomes for Children in Care began including a comparison with Children in Need. In 2017, the Conservative party’s election manifesto included a pledge to “review support for Children in Need to understand why their outcomes are so poor and what more support they might require, in and out of school”. This was fulfilled by the publication of the Children in Need Review in 2019.
Dr Nikki Luke, Senior Research Fellow, Rees Centre
Contact Nikki: firstname.lastname@example.org