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Researchers from the Rees Centre have been exploring how the use of non-mainstream schools might affect the educational outcomes of children in care.

A journal article has, this week, been published by The British Journal of Social Work entitled ‘Closing the Gap’: How is the Use of Non-Mainstream Schools Related to the Educational Outcomes of Children in Public Care?

 The article stems from a wider programme on the education of children in care, and complements previous work showing that in the ‘right’ mainstream school and in stable placements a substantial proportion of these children can catch up educationally with their peers.

Dr Nikki Luke co-authored the paper with Professor Ian Sinclair.

Nikki said: “Our analysis shows that some local authorities make disproportionate use of non-mainstream schools for children in care. Outcomes at GCSE are particularly low for children in care in these authorities.

“Non-mainstream schools may be the best option for some children’s needs, but our study suggests that for many children in care, the provision of supportive, inclusive mainstream schooling could be a better way to help them realise their academic potential.”

The paper argues that there is a real need for individualised teaching in a supportive setting which should be flexibly met in mainstream schools, special units within these schools or, at the most, short-term placements in NMS.

In high-income countries, children in care have, on average, much lower educational attainment than their peers. This Rees work suggests that reducing the use of NMS, combined with best practice in mainstream schools and placement support, could substantially reduce this notorious and hitherto intractable gap.

Read the full article in the British Journal of Social Work or access it here

Rees DPhil student Lucy Robinson’s snapshots on “Military life, mobility, and me: A collection of composite images by British service children” has been published in the Journal of Military, Veteran and Family Health.

 The four snapshots originate from ongoing doctoral research exploring how military life shapes British service children’s identity and educational experiences. Over a series of sessions, 19 service children aged 9 to 16 years engaged with several creative activities including self-portraits and relational maps and timelines, supported by exploratory questions and group discussion. For the snapshots, Lucy used images, spoken word, and text from the data corpus to create four compositive images that reflect British service children’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences around two military lifestyle dimensions — mobility and identity.

The goal of the snapshots is threefold. First, to act as a platform for service children’s voices to be amplified and taken seriously. Second, to act as a discussion point for readers so they can engage with the snapshots to spark conversation, draw comparisons, and — where applicable — reminisce about their own experiences of military childhood. Third, to advance current understanding of the experiences of British service children, as they continue to embody the strength beside the uniform.

“I’m delighted that my snapshots have been published within a special edition – The strength beside the uniform – of the Journal of Military, Veteran and Family Health. By centring the service children in my contribution, I hope to highlight the importance of listening, and responding to, their experiences of military life,” Lucy said.

The snapshots are open-access and available to view following this link: Military life, mobility, and me: A collection of composite images by British service children | Journal of Military, Veteran and Family Health (

Rees Centre research officer Dr Andrew Brown has published a paper in the British Educational Research Journal that discusses key issues about how adopted children and young people experience school in the UK.

Titled “Coherent lives: Making sense of adoptees’ experiences in education through narrative identity” the paper delves into the importance of wider school experiences and individual developmental challenges for adoptees. It takes a narrative adoptive identity approach to understanding adoptees’ unique challenges that may enhance their opportunities for better educational progress.

Read the full journal here, or blog here.

DPhil students Lucy Robinson, Jennifer Ginger and Josie Scammell attended and presented at the University of Bath’s Qualitative Research Symposium in January.

Lucy and Jennifer presented on the topic ‘Credibility, trust and power: is sharing positionality with participants always ethical?’ In their presentation, both students discussed how they shared their differing positionalities with their participants, within their respective research contexts, and reflected on their rationales for doing so. They also reflected on what they chose to hold back, what was left unsaid and what impact this may have had on their participants. They left the audience to question their own experiences of sharing positionality with research participants and encouraged further debate around the ethical complexities of this practice. Lucy also shared her research ethics tree.

Josie presented on her paper titled ‘(Over) thinking exit ethics: conceptualising a trauma-informed approach to the ethics around leaving the field.’  Her paper explores the ethics around the actual exit from the field itself, looking at the ways in which trauma-informed qualitative research frameworks could be expanded and adapted to include guidance around ethical considerations for both the participants and researcher when considering the exit from fieldwork.

An exciting research conference with a focus on attachment-aware and trauma-informed practice in schools will be held at Harcourt Hill Campus, Oxford Brookes University on Thursday 20th June 2024.

Rees Centre will be presenting key findings from the Alex Timpson Attachment and Trauma Awareness in Schools Programme that explored the perceived impact of whole-school attachment and trauma awareness training on staff and children in over 300 schools across England.

The Conference is supported by organisations including the Mulberry Bush Organisation, SEBDA and the Attachment Research Community.

The conference will also include opportunities to network with like-minded colleagues and to choose from 4 practical and interactive workshops.

Click here for more information.

Rees DPhil student Lisa Cherry recently made it into the Big Issue Top 100 Changemakers list for 2024, as voted for by the public.

Named as an inspirational figure in the women, family and children category, Lisa is recognised for her work in assisting schools and services to create systemic change in the way that we work with those experiencing trauma. As director of Trauma Informed Consultancy Services, Lisa hopes to provide accessible, scientifically grounded knowledge and information to all those working with and around trauma, resilience and recovery. With more than 30 years of experience working in and around education and children’s services, she works extensively with social workers, education providers, probation workers and those in adult services, training and speaking to over 30,000 people around the world.

“Formed in the early 90’s, The Big Issue has been part of the soundtrack of my career. I cannot think of a publication that I would rather be aligned with than this one. I felt so proud to be on the front cover; in a publication which continues to highlight how much still needs to change in regard to homelessness, stigmatisation and marginalisation caused by inequity and systemic harms. Onwards we must go,” Lisa said.

The award-winning author is also in the midst of her new book on cultivating belonging. Her other successful books include ‘Conversations that Make a Difference to Children and Young People’ and ‘The Brightness of Stars.’

This is the first time the Big Issue has called on the public for nominations for those they believe are responsible for innovative change. The magazine received nominations for people and projects across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Changemakers marks its 5th year in 2024, and the list showcases the top 100 Changemakers across the UK in categories such as Housing and Homelessness; Food and Nutrition; Climate, Environment and Sustainability; Sport, Culture and Fashion; Education, Mentorship and Business; Communities Migrants; Refugees and Asylum Seekers; Women, Fashion and Children; and Health and Disability.

An online event to examine how our understanding of poverty and need has evolved, or not, since the time of Thomas Coram, and the impact this has on the contemporary world, will take place on Monday 29 January at 6pm. 

In a speech made to the Duke of Bedford at the first meeting of the Foundling Hospital governors in 1739, Thomas Coram spoke of his ambition to protect the ‘innocent subjects’ of King George II. The language used to refer to those in need has fluctuated, but continues to reveal important facts about how societies past and present have conceptualised themselves and the systems of wealth and welfare they create. 

Emeritus Professor Harriet Ward CBE, who is an Honorary Research Fellow at the Department of Education’s Rees Centre, is one of the panel speakers and will be talking about the historical development of the concept of the deserving and undeserving poor, and how this legacy has affected the experiences of children in care, including those looked after by Coram’s Foundling Hospital.

Titled ‘His Innocent Subjects: A Historical Exploration of the Deserving and Undeserving Poor’, the online event will see a panel of speakers consider the historical roots and impact of a dichotomy that continues to share narratives and policy around poverty. 

To find out more and to sign-up for the event, register here

One of our DPhil students, Lucy Robinson has had one of her research methods – the self portrait and relational map – published by the National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM). The publication includes details on the method, a step-by-step guide and a recommended reading list. Creative data generation methods like the ones used by Lucy are a valuable tool for qualitative researchers studying complex social phenomena. They can also support more inclusive research practice and offer the researcher the opportunity to explore an individual’s experiences more deeply than through speech alone.

“It’s been a brilliant experience to write for the NCRM and have the opportunity to share one of my research methods with a wider audience. I hope my tutorial will encourage and inspire others to use creative data generation methods in their own research”, said Lucy.

Find out more about Lucy’s research method here.