Department of Education

Aoife O'Higgins

Research Assistant

Aoife O’Higgins is a social scientist whose research at the Rees Centre focusses on the education of children in care.

Her doctoral work established a risk and promotive factor framework for looking at the education of children in care, by applying advanced statistical methods to a large Canadian database of children in care. A particular emphasis in her doctoral research was the involvement of foster and kinship carers in the education of children and how this was associated with school outcomes. Following on from her DPhil, Aoife is now involved in an ESRC funded randomised controlled trial of a reading intervention with foster carers, looking at whether teaching foster carers how to read with the child in their care can improve that child’s literacy. In parallel, Aoife is developing a research project centred on the care and education of refugee children in England.

Aoife’s interest in the education of children in care developed from her front-line work as an advocate for unaccompanied refugee children in London. She had over 10 years’ experience working with children and young people in charities and local authorities before returning to academia, obtaining an MSc in Evidence Based Social Interventions (University of Oxford) and an MA in Refugee Studies (University of East London) before her DPhil (University of Oxford, 2018). As well as her research at the Rees Centre, she is also currently the project co-ordinator for Oxford Refugee Health Initiative and Vice Chair of Governors at St Francis Primary School, in East Oxford.


  • Journal articles

    • O'Higgins, AA (2018) “Analysis of care and education pathways of refugee and asylum-seeking children in care in England: Implications for social work”, International Journal of Social Welfare.

    • Luke, N, O'Higgins, A (2018) “Is the Care System to Blame for the Poor Educational Outcomes of Children Looked After? Evidence from a Systematic Review and National Database Analysis”, Children Australia. 43(2) 135-151.

    • O'Higgins, A, Ott, EM, Shea, MW (2018) “What is the Impact of Placement Type on Educational and Health Outcomes of Unaccompanied Refugee Minors? A Systematic Review of the Evidence.”, Clinical child and family psychology review. 21(3) 354-365.

    • Tessier, NG, O'Higgins, A, Flynn, RJ (2018) “Neglect, educational success, and young people in out-of-home care: Cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses”, Child Abuse and Neglect. 75 115-129.

    • O'Higgins, A (2015) “Safeguarding Children from Abroad: Refugee, Asylum Seeking and Trafficked Children in the UK”, International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care. 11(1) 71-72.

    • O'Higgins, A (2012) “Vulnerability and agency: beyond an irreconcilable dichotomy for social service providers working with young refugees in the UK.”, New directions for child and adolescent development. 2012(136) 79-91.

    • O'Higgins, AA “The destitution of young refugees in the UK”, Oxford Monitor of Forced Migration.

  • Reports

    • Sebba, JC, Berridge, D, Luke, N, Fletcher, J, Bell, K, Strand, S, Thomas, S, Sinclair, I, O'Higgins, A (2015) The Educational Progress of Looked After Children in England: Linking Care and Educational Data. Oxford: Rees Centre & Bristol University.

    • O'Higgins, AA, Sebba, J, Luke, N (2015) What is the impact of being in care on the educational outcomes of children? An international systematic review.

    • Luke, N, Sinclair, I, O'Higgins, AA The Educational Progress of Looked After Children in England. Technical Report 2: Relating Care to Educational Attainment and Progress.

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