Sue Soan gave a key note presentation at Edubury 3, the East Kent based monthly meetup for all those interested in education. She presented the findings from her recent PhD on provision and support for Looked After Children who have experienced abuse or neglect. Below is a report of the presentation including a full video.
Dr Sue Soan is a Principal Lecturer at CCCU, specialising in supporting professionals in the education of children with additional needs. She directs and teaches on a range of courses within the Faculty of Education and her research interests are Looked After Children, motor and coordination development, autism, SENCO and able & talented education. Prior to joining the University, Sue taught for over 25 years in nursery settings, primary and secondary mainstream and special schools, including as a SENCO
Sue undertook this study over a number of years whilst also being a lecturer in the Centre for Enabling Learning at CCCU and focused in on the experiences of a small number of children during this period. Her research also considered the developing policy and guidance framework for ‘Looked After Children’. This was reviewed alongside others sources of evidence in order to find out common themes across the different domains of knowledge were having an impact on practice in relation to these children.
Sue choose this area of research because she was concerned that, from her own and others’ experience, it appeared that children who had experienced neglect or abuse in early life had significant problems when they became adolescents. This was also supported by evidence in relation to the GCSE attainments of such children.
Clearly because this is a sensitive area to research, Sue had to ensure that her methodology was ethically appropriate and responsive to the needs of the children involved in the study. It took her 18 months to two years to gain the permission of social services and to go into schools to gather data. This is elaborated in the Part 1 of the video of the event. Sue chose to focus on the progress and achievement of children who had suffered abuse or neglect during the ages of 3 and 5 as this is posited as a period where the child learns important language that underpins relationships. Sue followed the children for over three and a half years.
Part 2 of the presentation considers the methodology and findings of her research. She attempted to consider the contribution of all the different stakeholders in the provision for these children across a range of different schools. A conceptual framework based on one proposed by Cuthbert et al in 2011 was adopted and adapted. This was taken from the publication ‘All Babies Count’. Sue utilised data gathering tools for quantitative and qualitative data that are all available to schools, thus allowing further extension and dissemination. Information on physical and motor development was also included in the data gathering.
Sue found that the different domains of knowledge were not often shared across all the professions involved. In terms of professional practice she found that the professional who worked directly with children did not have the influence needed to make the required child centred decisions within their own professional boundaries. Professionals focused on fulfilling the functions determined by their own professional role. This echoes the findings from Monroe’s review.
She also found a lack of child centred goals as well as goals that were infrequently derived from the potential for joined up working. Information from assessments or other documentary evidence gathered for meetings were often not employed to best effect. This was especially the case in relation to speech and language. The systems and processes in place actually acted as a hindrance for professionals to work together in a child centred way.
Part 3 documents the implications for practice and deals with some of the questions from the audience. Sue suggests that there is a need for learning together so that professionals gain the opportunity to share pre-qualification training. This should facilitate professional working across disciplines due to enhanced cross professional skills and a clearer shared understanding of each other’s roles. This needs to be built upon by opportunities for joined up working after qualification and this will be dependent upon systems and leadership that facilitate child centred approaches.
Sue emphasised that voice of the child is frequently called for but that it is not heard and acted upon enough in the case of Looked After Children who have experienced neglect or abuse especially in ways that could count for the child. This takes time and requires the development of a positive relationship with the child. This in turn is dependent upon professionals have a knowledge of typical and atypical child development which Sue found was not always in place.
Finally Sue calls for policies that are child centred rather than emphasising compliance and being narrowly target driven.
Sarah Roberts provided a very useful short talk on support for students at university who had been ‘Looked After’ as children.
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