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The Nuffield Foundation has awarded £2.8 million for an ambitious research programme to improve the lives of children and families by better understanding their needs and experiences.

Over the next five years, Professor Leon Feinstein, Director of the Rees Centre at the University of Oxford, will lead this innovative collaboration between local authorities and universities to transform how information about and from children and families is gathered, interpreted and used in child and family social policy at both local and national level.

The project will focus on children and families who need additional support from local authority children’s services, who are often the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in society. For example, this will include children and families referred to children’s social care services; younger children who need help to have a good start at school; and children in care and young people leaving care.

Statistical or ‘administrative’ information about children and families – commonly known as data – can improve practice and policy, but there are gaps and complexities in how this information is used. Other types of information, particularly the views and expertise of children and families, are vitally important. This project aims to ensure children’s and families’ voices, and the views of practitioners, are heard and used to improve practice, services and policy.

The project includes five Local Sites. Greater Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, North Yorkshire and Hampshire local authorities will work with academics from Oxford University, the University of Sussex and London School of Economics and Political Science, University College London and Manchester Metropolitan University to build capacity and understanding about how to better use administrative data, children and families’ voices and information from practitioners to improve services.

Researchers will collaborate with children, young people, parents, carers, professionals and policymakers to understand and shape how information can be used ethically and effectively. Local Sites will also explore how the use of these different types of information can be co-designed with children and families, and how to support sustainable learning and change. The project has not yet been named, as the intention is to include children and families and practitioners in deciding the name.

A series of workshops, webinars and podcasts will share learning with all those working with children and families, including researchers, practitioners and managers, and policymakers. Academic thinking in this field will also be shaped by a range of research outputs. A Learning Network, run by Research in Practice, will bring together 20 local authorities to test out the findings from the five Local Sites and to develop learning materials to support better information use across England.

Tim Gardam, Chief Executive of the Nuffield Foundation, said:

“We established the Nuffield Foundation’s Strategic Fund to encourage ambitious, multi-disciplinary projects that would re-frame the social policy agenda and improve people’s lives.

“This project stood out for its originality and intent to work closely on the ground with local government and practitioners, as well as children and families. It aligns with our focus and priorities across the Foundation’s interests in Education, Welfare and Justice. By transforming the quality and use of information and data by local authorities, this project has real potential to reduce inequalities and improve the lives of the most disadvantaged children and their families.”

Professor Leon Feinstein, Principal Investigator and Director of the Rees Centre at Oxford University, said:

“We are thrilled to be leading a project with such a strong and committed group of local authorities, academics, and leaders in social policy. The Nuffield Foundation has provided us with a tremendous opportunity to bring evidence into policy and practice in a new way and to really support improvement to the lives and experiences of children and families. If we get this right, we can make sure data and information are used for and with people, rather than, as so often is the case, for and by government.”

Further information about this collaboration can be found here.

To stay informed about this project as it develops, contact with the subject header ‘keep in touch’.

We are delighted to announce new funding at the Rees Centre from Diverse Care for The Hazel Project research, which builds on our work focused on teenagers in fostering placements.

The first incarnation of the Hazel Project began in the 1970s with the development and introduction of a placement project for adolescents in Kent (1974-1979). This project aimed to arrange foster placements for adolescents thought likely to benefit from a fostering environment. The Hazel Project was developed at a time when fostering for adolescents was not conceived of as a wholly viable option, with residential group care being the dominant placement type and the level of foster family breakdown at a high.

The Hazel Project research at the Rees Centre  – in collaboration with Diverse Care – will explore, contemporarily, the promises and constituents of effective specialist and therapeutic fostering for adolescents. The research will also address re-emerging debates around the professionalisation of fostering and how best to meet the needs of adolescents within the family environment.

Dr Caroline Cresswell, who joined the Rees Centre in April will conduct an extensive systematic review in the area, the findings of which will be disseminated to contribute to persistent debates and the development of policy and practice concerning looked after adolescents. Caroline will be joined by a DPhil student in October 2020, whose research will contribute to the field.

OUCEA is happy to announce that Kristine Gorgen successfully defended her thesis online on 24th April, subject to revisions. The thesis Welcoming and Othering- civic education for adult immigrants in Germany and the United Kingdom, supervised by Prof. Therese N. Hopfenbeck and Assoc. Prof. Liam Gearon, focused on citizenship test and the preparation courses for such test in Germany and the United Kingdom. Kristine investigated the content and structure of civic education, identifying narratives of the national self and the immigrant other therein. Whilst spending the autumn of 2017 as a visiting researcher at WZB Social Science Research Centre in Berlin, she completed her data collection (observations and interviews) in Germany with subsequent data collection in England. The  examiners were: Dr Mary Richardson (UCL IOE) and Dr David Johnson (Oxford University).

Dr Ellie Ott and Professor Harriet Ward from the Rees Centre will work in partnership with colleagues at Lancaster University to produce evidence informed guidelines to inform practice when babies are removed at birth through care proceedings.

The new project, launched today, will be led by Professor Karen Broadhurst.

The team will develop guidelines over the next 18 months, working closely with health and social work professionals and with birth parents.

The guidelines will then be piloted in eight local authorities and health trusts during a six-month period and used in at least 30 child protection cases involving newborn babies. The ambition is for the guidelines to be adopted and developed into guidance by local authorities, health authorities, the police and the judiciary throughout England and Wales, and for local authorities and the judiciary to understand why so many infants are being taken into care and to explore measures to prevent this.

More information about the project


The inaugural Rees Centre Annual Lecture 2019 was delivered by a panel of speakers on the topic of school exclusions and issues for looked after and adopted children.

Harry Daniels, Professor of Education at Oxford spoke about wide disparities in rates of official school exclusions across Scotland, Wales, England and North Ireland and outlined new research from a multidisciplinary group that will take a holistic view of exclusions and consider their consequences for young people, their families, schools and other professionals.  Alison Woodhead from Adoption UK considered issues that adopted children and families experience related to school exclusions. Lisa Cherry, author and trainer, spoke of her own experiences and provided insights into research she has carried out looking at impacts on education and employment of care experienced adults who left care in the 1970s and 1980s and were excluded from school.

The full recording of the event is available here.

The Rees Centre was pleased and privileged to contribute to The Care Experienced Conference at Liverpool Hope University and the recently published Research and Academic Group Report.

This special edition (open access until Feb 2020) presents a range of research reported at the ESRC Seminar Series on Fostering Teenagers, co-hosted by the Rees Centre. Each paper is followed by a commentary by a care-experienced young person. Topics include parenting styles, transitions to adulthood, child sexual exploitation, fostering unaccompanied asylum seeking young people, young people in custody and the needs of LGBTQ and separated teenagers.

Special Issue: Child & Family Social Work, volume 24, issue 3, July 2019

All the articles in this special edition are open access until Feb 2020.

A snapshot of our activities over the last 2 months.

Rees Centre newsletter for July:

Including launch of outcomes framework funded by the Nuffied Foundation.

Last month Professor Nancy Perry, Dorothy Lam Chair in Special Education and Professor of Educational and Counselling Psychology and Special Education at the University of British Columbia, delivered the OUCEA Annual Lecture on Using Formative Assessment to Catalyse Self- Regulated Learning. 

Nancy’s lecture is available in full length here.