Evidence Centre seminar: June 2019
Published: July 5, 2019
Our June seminar featured two presentations looking at research on children's and young people's educational experiences.
One presentation looks at quantitative research from the Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI) on children's educational engagement, the other sharing insights from conversations with children and young people in care about their experiences in education.
The insights from both presentations have wider implications for policy and practice and provide a unique insight into children’s experiences of care and protection and education systems.
Educational Insights Into Children in Care - Dr. Duncan McCann
Dr. Duncan McCann works in the Analytics and Insights team within the Evidence Centre at Oranga Tamariki. Duncan discussed quantitative research from the IDI on children’s educational engagement and achievement for differing levels of care and protection experience.
Educational Insights Into Children in Care - video transcript
Dr Duncan McCann - the Analytics and Insights team within the Evidence Centre at Oranga Tamariki:
Tena Kotou Katoa. Thank you for the introduction there, Kerry. Yes I'm Duncan McCann from the Evidence Center and I'm here today to talk to you about the Educational Insights into Children in Care.
Now essentially what I'm just going to talk about is a few sort of like trends and kind of like general insights that we saw from what, if we look at the data, what does the educational perspective look like if we are just like focusing in on children in care. So let's launch into it, shall we?
So first off I'm just going to have here the IDI Disclaimer. So we are going to be using data here today that came from the IDI. And this is just generally to let you know that there isn't any identifiable information in here, and also these aren't necessary official statistics as a result.
Now a lot of the data is actually sourced from Oranga Tamariki’s Children's Well-Being Model that we built in the IDI. Now essentially this well-being model was developed at the -- for the formation of Oranga Tamariki to provide a measurement backbone. It was really so that Oranga Tamariki could kind of understand what do children's well-being actually really look like, rather than just what our organisation says about them, but what can we see from a kind of wider perspective.
And through consultation with multiple organisations and government agencies over the course of several years, we came up with the sort of conceptual idea of what well-being looked like and that sort of is broadly held in the model under these five well-being domains.
So you've got sort of safety - children safe and feel safe. Security - that's sort of financial resource security. Connectedness that’s do children know where they belong and how they connect to each other in their culture. Wellness - which is broadly a health domain, essentially it's like are children mentally and physically healthy? And then you’ve got development and this is broadly the education domain and that's like do children have the skills and aspirations, skills and knowledge they have to in order to achieve their aspirations.
Now because we needed the sort of broad view of not just like some piece of data here, some piece of data there, to actually really get this full conceptual idea of well-being we had to build the model in the Stats New Zealand's integrated data infrastructure - the IDI.
Now, just for anyone who's maybe not so familiar with what the IDI is, it's basically a giant database that Stats New Zealand holds with almost everyone in New Zealand in it, and they're all anonymised within there, they just have a random ID and you can't actually identify who anyone actually is.
But from the IDI you can see a lot of micro data - you can see the various interactions an individual has had with multiple government organisations and departments over the course of their life going back years and years and years.
So it allows the opportunity to do a large scale modelling of large populations and to really sort of understand what the full kind of life course and interaction of individual looks like. So we use the data in the IDI to feed up into all these various domains, and that creates a whole bunch of indicators. So there's data and there from Oranga Tamariki, there’s data from Justice, data from MSD, health, education and multiple organisations so you get that kind of full picture.
But today we're going to focus in on that development domain – the one that is education because we're only interested in the educational aspects of children in care.
So, first up, what we're gonna do is from the model we pulled out essentially all five to 17 year old children at a particular point in time. Those who are like, you know, eligible basically to be engaged with education, and we looked at one population which was all children who were in the care of Oranga Tamariki currently at that point in time.
Then we took another population - all those who had no care experience whatsoever with Oranga Tamariki to provide a comparison group. And now here we just have a little bit of educate -- a little bit of demographic information and as you can see from the age profile graph they're basically the “In Care Population” and the “No Care History Population” broadly - very similar. They have the same age breakdown so there's not much difference going on there. It’s a bit of a different story when you look at the ethnicity makeup of those two populations.
Now ethnicity as defined in the model is self reported. So what we look at is what is it that you said your ethnicity was. What do you identify with? And so that sources like the census, education, health, things like that. So if you said, and we have four broad categories essentially, if you said you're Māori we consider you to be Māori. If we said you're a Pacific, we consider to be Pacific. However if you said you're Māori and Pacific in one or multiple sources, we have a third category called “Māori and Pacific” because we don't believe we should say which one you identify with most if you've reported it in multiple sources. And then we have New Zealand European and multiple other ethnicities and a broad “other” ethnicity category.
Now if you look at the “No Care History Population” broadly that looks similar to the majority of the New Zealand population - 21 percent Māori, 10 percent Pacific and 4 percent crossover Māori and Pacific.
However, it's quite a different picture when you look at the “In Care Population”. There's a large overrepresentation of Māori in the Care Population – you have 55 percent of kids in care are Māori with a further 8 percent who are Māori and Pacific. So there is a large disparity that exists there in these two populations.
Let's, so we're interested in what does the educational engagement of these two populations actually look like with the “In Care Population” versus the “No Care Experience Population”.
Now the easiest way actually to see what educational engagement might look like in the IDI is actually to look for things that might break that educate, break that engagement that you're having with education. So we're going to focus in on like five sort of disruptive indicators as it were, like we're going to look at, like, how many, what proportion of these populations had stand downs in the past year, what proportion of them were suspended in the last year - like formally removed until a suspension meeting was held. How many had truancy in the last year - that's between what has been defined one in 83 calendar days truant within the school year. High truancy – those who've had more than 84 days in the last school year.
And then, of course, we're looking at alternative education as well. And this is essentially if you're enrolled in education where mainstream schooling is no longer able to actually meet your needs. So if we look at these five indicators and compare these two populations we're looking at, we actually see quite an interesting picture here. We see that essentially the Care Population has a very high representation in all of these educational disruptive indicators. What you can see is like for instance in the last year 9 percent of the children in care had been stood down from school as opposed to only one percent of the No Care Experience Population. Six percent of them had low-to-moderate truancy in the last year's as compared to only two percent in the No Care Population; and four percent had high truancy compared to only one percent.
So you see there is a large disproportion of representation of Children In Care in all these indicators compared to the No Care Experience population.
Now it's important to note though at this point that this graph is not saying that because you are in care therefore you have poor educational engagement. What you need to understand is that when a child is having to be brought into care they've reached, they come from a pretty bad situation. They've essentially had a pretty tumultuous life course that's led them to a kind of crisis state where they've needed to be taken into the care of Oranga Tamariki, now so generally the well-being of children just before they come in care looks very poor in comparison to the rest of the population who has no care experience. So there is a lot of other correlating factors here that that could be contributing to this large disparity that we're seeing.
Now, the thing is we can actually dig a little further down into these indicators what does this look like if we look at how this plays out across age groups. So we're going to focus on two indicators - stand downs in the last year and low to moderate truancy in the last year. And we basically looked at what proportion of five to nine year olds 10 to 13 year olds and 14 to 17 year olds in these populations have displayed these indicators. So if you look at the stand down graphs here, you can see five to nine year olds in care four percent of them had been stood down last year. Now stand-downs are a relatively rare event to the best of times but four percent is a quite a high proportion especially when you compare it to the No Care Experience population where you can see it's practically non-existent.
And then if you go to the next age group 10 to 13 years up, you see it escalates very strongly to 11 percent and then again to 12 percent in the 14 to 17 year old population.
So there seems to be this large escalation with age especially in comparison to the No Care Population, and you see a similar behaviour going on in the low to moderate truancy - again three percent in the five to nine year old group for care and then it jumps to six percent and 11 percent. So there's this escalation with age and it's almost diverging away from this sort of representation you get in the No Care History population.
So, essentially what this is sort of highlighting is like educational, sort of, disengagement is happening for very young children in care, and it's then just escalating further with age. So, there's an opportunity basically to get involved as early as possible - try and find wraparound support and try and stabilise that education at a young age, because it's only going to get worse as they age through the system essentially.
Now we can also break this down by another way. What if we looked at how this plays out across ethnicity? So here we have stand downs last year – low to moderate truancies in the last year by our four ethnicity categories. Now I'd like you to focus on the no stand downs in the last year and the no care history graph here. Now, you can see there is a pretty clear correlation going on with ethnicity here. If you look at the other ethnicity category - less than one percent have had stand-downs then it jumps up to two percent for Pacific, then jumps up again for Māori and Pacific and jumps up to Māori.
So, There is sort of this trend going on with ethnicity here for this indicator. But what's interesting is you don't see that same trend mirrored in the In Care Population. You see, yes, relatively high levels of stand-downs in the last year across these ethnicity groupings, but in fact it’s, they're all at a sort of relatively similar level - there's not as much of a sort of trend going on there.
So ethnicity doesn’t seem to correlate in quite the same way for the Care Population. Interestingly enough on this one the Pacific population has a 4 percent - which is quite low. But this one probably might need to be treated with a little bit of caution because when you talk about Pacific children in care who then have stand-downs you’re starting to talk about quite small numbers, so the sample size is getting a bit small – so there might be a bit of variance in that percentage.
You also see sort of similar sort of non-mirroring going on with ethnicity in the low to moderate truancy. You see that while Māori and Pacific have relatively, like, stay at similar levels in the No Care History population. Those with other ethnicity – very low levels of low to moderate truancy.
Yet once you go over to the In Care Population you see much higher again, but there's a bit of variance at the top but relatively flat around the same level for most of them. So again ethnicity is not quite correlating the same way here.
Now if we talk about educational engagement we always want to talk about stability in schooling as well. That's always a major kind of like aspect of this. So what we wanted to look at is, is we want to look at school changes for these two populations. So if you look at how did any of these, what was the proportion of these populations that had a school change in the last year? You can see that 22 percent of children in care had a school change in last year, as opposed to only 6 percent of those with No Care History. So it's indicative that there is a bit of schooling instability in the last year as it were. But this is just one recent school change - what happens if we looked at multiple school changes? So, let's look at, what is the, how many school changes you've had over the course of your life.
So we looked at how many had three or more school changes over the lifetime and 25 percent - a quarter of children in care - had three or more school change in their lifetime, as opposed to only 3 percent of the No Care History population. Now is a pretty stark wide difference here, and so it's showing that -- and what's even more stark is when you consider the fact that we've actually adjusted this and removed those school changes which are necessary. We removed intermediate to secondary, we removed primary to intermediate - so these are actually a real representation of actual school changes that an individual is going through.
So there does seem to be a bit of schooling instability going on with this population. And, of course, no education argument is complete without looking at achievement. So we looked at basically all 18 to 19 year olds in the model and compared those with care experience versus those with no care experience. And what you can see is, again, quite a stark picture – essentially children in care do not achieve anywhere near to the same level as children not in care. In fact, 45 percent of children with care history achieve no NCEA level qualifications whatsoever, as opposed to only 16 percent of the “those with no care experience”.
Now you can start to unpick the sort of story a little bit more when you actually consider what age children might have left school at. For instance, in the Care History Population 37 percent of them had left school at age 15 or 16, and that's compared to only 10 percent of those with no care experience.
So it's looking like perhaps those in care just weren't necessarily at school long enough to achieve NCEA levels because they are four times more likely to have left school by these ages than the Not In Care Population, which sort of again maybe harkens back to that sort of schooling stability thing we saw on a previous slide.
And it's also very interesting if you actually break down achievement by ethnicity. So what we have here is a graph showing the proportions of these populations who achieve NCEA level two or more by ethnicity. Now if you look at the No Car eHistory graph, you can see there is a trend with ethnicity going on here. Māori have some of the lowest levels of achievement - only about 68 percent of them achieved NCEA Level 2, then that steps up to Māori and Pacific – 70 percent, Pacific 75 percent and other at 81 percent.
Yet when you look at the Care History graph there you see that the differences in ethnicity almost shrink to absolutely nothing. You don't have that sort of same correlation with ethnicity at all there. It seems if you are in care you achieve essentially at the same rate regardless of your ethnicity, which might be indicative that by the time you've reached the sort of, like, situation where you need to be in care, that sort of becomes the kind of overriding factor that determines your educational achievement at that point. Like, the situation around you is at such a state that all kids in care sort of achieve equally as it were.
So it might make a good case that children in care might need that sort of extra support, extra wraparound services, because they're all equally as in need of assistance in this area.
Now, we've looked at children in care, we’ve looked at children without care, but we want to know maybe a little bit more. What happens if you've been in care for quite a long period time? Let's say you’ve spent two or more years altogether in care. Now this could have been a consecutive block - this could have been a couple of blocks over the course of life, we're just looking to see had you been in care for over two years in your life. And what you see, is you see a little bit of a change here. While children who spent two or more years in care still have relatively high levels of these disengagement indicators, it is improved from the general in care population - there only 7 percent of them are being stood down rather than 9 percent. Only 3 percent them have high truancy rather than 4 percent, so that's quite interesting, and it's, if you look into this school stability aspect as well, let's see what do the school changes look like? Again you see an improved picture. You see that school changes in last year is only 13 percent. It's still quite high compared to the No Care Population at only 6 percent, but it's improved the No Care population, so it looks like in recent years children who spent a lot of time in care have had more school stability.
Of course, if you look at the three or more school changes it's still relatively high, but potentially this could've happened further in their past. But there is looking like there is a bit more stability for this population. And when you look at the educational achievement picture of it children spent two years in care still don't achieve anywhere near as well as those who have no care history.
However, they are slightly improved over the In Care Population at a point in time. You see that 42 percent of them, more of them are achieving NCEA levels than were in there In Care Population, and coupled with the fact that you actually see only 32 percent of them have left school by age 15-16, this is again improved over the care population.
So we're starting to see that kind of aspect and maybe they're staying in school for a little bit longer – maybe they have less school changes, so there, it might be a bit of school instability involved here – that would be very interesting story to sort of dig in further and unpick to see if that is perhaps the reason why this is going on.
Now, finally another interesting thing you can do with the model is you can look at sort of like life outcomes for a model population essentially. Because the IDI contains a vast array of historic information for adults going all the way back to their child years you can see what do populations that have certain sort of interactions in their childhood look like in the future essentially.
So here we have basically a graph that showing the proportions that are involved in, like, life outcomes; so, like, participation in education, employment training up to age 20, long term benefit dependency up to age 25, and regular offending up to in your early 20s as well.
And generally what you see is, if you have care experience you have generally poorer outcomes – you have, like, you have less, a lower proportion of them end up participating in education, training and employment. You have a higher proportion of long term dependency and a higher proportion going on to regular offending.
But we're interested in the education aspect of this, what happened is, so we thought what do we look like; what does it look like if we focused on those who achieve NCEA Level 2 versus those who didn't achieve NCEA Level 2 in these two populations. And what you actually see is that, for instance, in the care population if you achieve NCEA Level 2, this dark blue bar, you had a much higher proportion went on to have participation in employment, education and training. A much lower proportion - 26 percent drop down to 13 percent, who ended up on long term benefit dependency in their early 20s and 8 percent of the care population dropped to 5 percent in the regular offending category.
But interestingly enough you see that exact same trend being mirrored in the no care experience population. So achievement of NCEA Level 2 appears to, like, enable better life outcomes. And there could be a number of reasons that are sort of contributing to this, but it would be something very interesting to sort of dig into a little more and find out what is necessarily sort of going on in this aspect here.
So after all that, I just want to throw up a few conclusions for you here about some of the things we talked about today. Essentially we've seen that children in care basically have higher levels of educational disengagement and this tends to escalate with age across the indicators.
And you also have, they have low educational achievement then non care experience children. Ethnicity also doesn't appear to correlate quite as strongly in the care population as in the non care population – both in the indicators and also in the educational achievement. We also know that children who spend, like, longer in care seem to have better educational engagement and achievement, and the fact that this would seem to be coupled with less school changes and a higher proportion leaving school later in their, in later years, maybe suggests that there's a possible stability aspect that needs to be investigated.
And finally we looked at model life outcomes and these were basically showing that these outcomes are better for children who have, like, no care experience as to those who did have care experience. However, this was improved if they managed to achieved NCEA Level 2 regardless of whether they had care experience or not.
So thank you very much for that, and I will be passing over to Karen in a moment and she'll be telling you about those, all those interviews they had with children about their experiences which will be very interesting I think.
End of transcript.
Experiences of Education for Children in Care - Dr Karen Harris
Dr. Karen Harris is a Senior Advisor in the Voices of Children and Young People team at Oranga Tamariki. Karen discussed a project named ‘The Educational Experiences of Children in Care’ which provides insights from children and young people, caregivers, social workers, and educators relating to children’s experiences, achievements, engagements, and outcomes in education.
Experiences of Education for Children in Care - video transcript
Dr. Karen Harris - Senior Advisor in the Voices of Children and Young People team at Oranga Tamariki:
Kia ora. I'm Karen from the Voices of Children team in Oranga Tamariki and I led this education project for the Voices of Children team. I just also want to mention that prior to coming to Oranga Tamariki, I've always worked in education as a teacher and an educational psychologist. I guess I'm mentioning that because I'm going to try and stick to talking about the literature and what we heard in our interviews but may sometimes go off piece with other little reflections based on having worked with children in care and education over a number of years as well.
As Kerry outlined at the beginning, this project has really been in four parts. Duncan has just talked to us about part two, which was the review of the government data, but we've also got these three other aspects to the project. One of which is the voices of children and key adults in their lives which was us going out and meeting with and interviewing and talking to children and adults about their experiences of education.
There's also the literature scan which I'll talk a little bit about today as well. And then the fourth part of the project is a summary of the three pieces brought together in one synthesis. So for each of those four parts there is an individual report and we will be publishing those reports in a couple of weeks' time so we'll let you know when they've been published.
What I'm going to attempt to do today is give some brief highlights from the interviews and the literature, but there is a whole wealth more in the reports when we're able to share them a bit more with you.
In terms of the people that we met with and interviewed in the interviews. We met with twenty three children and young people aged between seven and 15 and then a range of adults that were linked with those young people in some way, so caregivers, social workers and what we've called education staff because the education staff that we spoke to were a mix of teachers, principals, pastoral support workers and RTLB. So, the individual children that we engaged with, through working with their social worker we also identified someone in their education that we'd also have an interview and talk with.
Overall the findings for us fall into these eight areas, these eight key areas that I'll now go through each eight and for each one I'll try to highlight what we saw as key pieces of research in the literature review and what we heard from children and adults in the interviews as well. And some of them have got more in terms of literature and some of them have got more in terms of what we heard from children and adults through the interviews.
Trying to link on from what we've heard from Duncan in terms of academic achievement, the literature again reinforces the data that it doesn't look a great picture. The international literature talks about children in care very much underachieving in terms of exam results and in terms of how we measure achievement in schools.
So, it mostly, for the literature, focuses on measuring cognitive skills, literacy and numeracy, so when they're talking about underachievement in education those are the areas that the literature is mostly focusing on. It's very much consistent throughout the research that children in care do under achieve in those measured areas.
In addition to the one that's kind of highlighted on the slide here Luke and O'Higgins founded an international systemic review about eight major studies that reported a gap in educational achievement between children in care and their peers and that this was shown through cognitive skills, literacy, numeracy and also throughout the child's education journey.
Other indicators that are talked about in the literature are things like Fergusson and Wolkow, who talk about the children in care are much more likely to repeat one of their academic years as well.
In terms of the voices research and what we heard through our interviews, first of all when we talked to children and adults about achievement, they very much talked about achievement much more widely than just measured exam results so for the children and the adults that we spoke to, when we talked about achievement or when we asked them questions, when they talked about achievement, they talked about achievement as being things like the child being able to attend school, the child feeling that they could engage in group work, the child feeling that they changed their behaviour or that they were showing that they were changing things about their behaviour.
So in the interviews, although sometimes they were talking about academic achievement, they were also talking much wider about what achievement might be like for children in care.
But what was noticeable from the interviews is that children in particular very much minimized their achievements and found it very difficult to identify things that they were good at or found it very difficult to acknowledge those things if an adult pointed them out to them. So if we knew of something that we'd been told they were good at or we could see there was something they were good at in the interviews, if we reflected that back to them they found that very hard to accept or go with and would often minimize their own achievement. So even with things they were succeeding at, they would find it very hard to recognize that and have that acknowledged.
The quote that's up there is really showing somebody who reflected that she felt that achievement wasn't always necessarily based on her ability. It was based on whether or not someone else would make a decision that she was able to get the award or get the reward for learning and in her words she kind of described it as, "People like us don't get those awards".
So for her, achievement looked very different again in that it wasn't what she was doing, it was who was going to acknowledge that achievement for her.
The second point, in many ways is as we've kind of talked about could be quite obvious that children's emotional needs needs to be met before they could learn and achieve. But we heard that very strongly from teachers talking about them feeling that that was their role, to help the child meet their emotional needs to help them learn to regulate or whatever else they needed before they would be in a position to learn. So teachers very much recognizing that that was part of their role and that they weren't going to be rushing to learn in an academic achievement until they felt they had created an environment where their emotional needs could be met.
Another teacher who also described as saying that we shouldn't be thinking of children in care as having - she described it as a learning difficulty - but we shouldn't be thinking of children in care as not being able to achieve, because for her, her perception was that when we do create a situation where their emotional needs are being met, she felt the children she'd worked with were achieving the same as any other children in her class.
Academic achievement was also talked about in terms of the link between academic achievement and what was happening for the child at home and in the interviews we had very mixed views about this. So some educators felt that if the home environment was feeling stable and if caregivers were engaged in education, then that would help children in terms of their academic achievement and how they would engage with school.
But actually we did hear other really contrasting views of children who may be experiencing quite turbulent home life still and difficulties at home and actually the perception was that school was creating that safe space for them. So, for this particular social worker, he was very much describing seeing children that he was working with as thriving in school and doing well academically and for him, his perception of that was because it was what the school were doing, it was having a principal who approached things in a particular way, and so actually the school was becoming the safe space for the child so they were achieving. So we heard quite mixed views about the impact of home life on achievement.
In one particular school where there were a number of children in care attending that school, the adults that we spoke to in that school talked about children in care as being the first children who arrive in school in the morning because they felt they were getting so much out of the school environment that for them they were there every day. They said their attendance was really good. So really different messages about what home life can -- how that might influence how children were performing in school.
That leads on to a theme that came out around learning difficulties and the statement that we've got up there is that children and young people in care can experience learning difficulties which might require access to learning support. Again, in the literature, there's many different ways of describing what learning difficulties are but in the literature they're very much talking about cognitive learning difficulties, so again cognitive skills and literacy and numeracy.
The literature suggests that children in care do have high rates of special education needs. And I know there'll be lots of potential reasons for that in terms of what we define special education needs and how we measure it. The literature consistently showed that children in care do have high rates of identified special education needs. Some of the literature is suggesting therefore that the difficulties with learning weren't necessarily to do with the care status and that they already had learning difficulties and then happened to come into care and so someone picking there of whether it was an innate learning difficulty or how much of it is impacted on by their care status.
But consistently through the literature it does suggest that there are much higher rates of identified special education needs for children and much higher rates of children accessing learning support services compared with their peers.
In terms of the interviews, again, people talked about learning difficulties much more broadly so they weren't limited to talking about just learning. So, learning difficulties were referred to as also being about behaviour and communication skills and maybe sensory needs as well. Overall people that we talked to in the interviews very much talked about children as benefiting from learning support and saw that as a positive and when they were talking about learning support, it tended to mostly be talking about having a teacher aid and the benefit of having that adult in school that the child could connect with and that was able to support their learning and their emotional needs.
Social workers also talked about schools providing much more flexible learning opportunities. So again just taking it away from necessarily that formal learning difficulty and going down a formal kind of learning support group. Social workers described teachers who were just themselves were able to provide a very flexible environment for children in care. And so that could be things like children being able to go to the library when they needed quiet time, do their work somewhere else, having breaks and using IT to help them regulate and calm down and many, many other kind of examples like that.
But what social workers were describing for many of the children that they were working with was seeing teachers create those environments and create a much more flexible curriculum that they felt benefited the children in care that they were working with.
Exclusion and disciplinary action. Again, Duncan's talked about what we can see from the data about exclusions. And again the literature paints a very bleak picture around that, that there are high rates of exclusions or suspensions or different forms of disciplinary action for children in care. And again, that seems to be reflected throughout all of the international literature as well.
What the literature at this point doesn't really go into is the potential reasons for why. In our interviews, I think we hear more about what are the reasons for that. The literature is very much focused on the data and the numbers are saying, well, yes, there are high rates of exclusion and other types of disciplinary action for children in care.
Some of the literature does talk about there being high rates of diagnosed behaviour difficulties for children in care. So things like ADHD and FASD. Lots of discussion and debate about when the diagnosis happens and what that actually means but the literature seems to suggest that there are high rates of what they describe as clinical behaviour needs for children in care.
One piece of literature that's in the report by Quest reflects interviews with children where children describe -- so this is seven in-depth interviews with children in care, and children describe a sense of frustration and distrust with the education system because they felt they weren't given the same chances as their peers to learn from their mistakes. So that was a perspective bringing in that actually some of the children were feeling like they possibly were being pushed towards exclusion quicker than some of their peers and their own perception of that.
In terms of the Voices research, again, obvious kind of point, the difficulties experienced by children in care can lead to exclusion. What people tended to be talking about in their interviews was that children in care may be suffering from trauma and may be exhibiting reactions to trauma. So really, in terms of the adults, mostly the social workers and the teachers, what they would be describing is that children are showing trauma behaviours and then these are the things that are leading to exclusion. So not suggesting that those behaviours -- they are causing difficulty and need to be supported, but the underlying cause of those behaviours possibly was through the trauma that they've experienced previously. And what are the implications of that.
This quote here, this longer quote, and there is, in the report, a much more in-depth description of this young woman's story, but I included it in here because I think what she talks about is she describes knowing herself really well, knowing that this is just who she is and that she reacts really quickly to things, so recognizes that if somebody says something to her, that's who she is, she will react really quickly and so things escalate very quickly. But for her, she also talks about, "I come back down from that really quickly".
But what she was describing -- it's an illustration of the potential trauma reaction that some children may show in many situations that include in schools. But what she also talks about in the in the longer description is what helped her to come back after being excluded. We heard lots of stories around that about for children what helped them to come back after having that rejection of being excluded from school and all of the great strategies that were being put in place to support children to come back into that environment.
So for her, she talked throughout the interview about her three months. We don't know if it definitely was three months or what that looked like exactly but for her in her mind she was excluded for three months and she kept going back to that three months when she wasn't in school because she was so excited to get back into school. So I just put that in there as an illustration of that trauma reaction and for her, again, she felt like she might not actually change, this might just be who she is and that she will always react quickly.
So kind of just the kind of complexities around that. I mean I guess one of the things that was very distinct for the children that we spoke to and in thinking about children in care in schools is the number of changes of school that they can experience.
So for many, many children, for those speaking to children in care, we were often quite shocked at the number of schools that they talk about that they've been to. And again this is really just supported through the literature and more in the literature about the impact of that particularly around children who have not been able to fit back into a curriculum very easily.
We also heard from two children in our interviews, two sisters who were interviewed together who talked to each other during the interview about their very different experiences of moving into a school and for one child, she felt that she'd done all of the learning before, she'd moved on into the curriculum and it had been repeated so she was bored and not engaged. But for her sister in her class she said, "I felt really behind, I didn't have a clue what people were talking about because I hadn't learned any of this previously".
So that came through quite strongly in the interviews about the impact of actually schools teaching curriculum in a slightly different order and what that means for children. And then again, the obvious kind of things around that the school disruptions, school changes disrupting relationships, particularly with peers, but in this particular piece of research, children talked about the value they placed on having a trusted relationship with an adult in school, someone that was advocating for them and then how upsetting that was to lose that very quickly if they then had to change school and then the difficulty of trying to re-establish that in another settings.
In the Clemens research, the children in that piece of work talked very clearly about how they felt they weren't involved in decisions made about changes in school and that they felt that their views needed to be taken into account more about whether they wanted to try and remain at the school they were in or what they would want from a different school if they were moving.
In the Voices research, in the interviews, children and adults were very clear that school can provide stability when care placements were changing and so in an ideal world as much as possible people were talking about wanting to try and stay in the same school or keep children in the same school as much as possible.
What the adults talked about in terms of some of the difficulties was that it was children arriving in school and maybe the adults in the school not having much information about that child. So if changes of school happened very quickly, the difficulties of helping that child settle in if the school didn't have much information.
What the children talked about particularly was the difficulty of maybe leaving a school suddenly and not having had the opportunity to say goodbye to friends and to end those relationships in that previous school.
There was one social worker who in the report gives a description of a new boy that she'd started working with. And she said that when she one day picked him up from school, he turned back to his friend and said, "Bye. I might not see you later, I might not be coming back." And she said, "Well, where are you going?" And he said, "I've never stayed at any school for very long." So just becoming quite a norm around change in schools.
I put this quote in because for many of the children that we spoke to, they had become so used to changing school that they could list many, many schools that they had been to, what those schools were like, what the teachers were like, who the teachers were. For us we found that quite interesting and quite surprising sometimes that they could list many, many schools that they'd been to because everyone even if it had been for just a couple of days had obviously had an impact on them.
The next thing was around experiences of stigma and children in care can experience stigmatization. I'll just skim through the literature which is just reinforcing that there is evidence that children do feel that they are stigmatized against. Certainly there's one particular study that interviews children who've been in care who have gone on to university and they've described one of their main drivers for wanting to move through the education system and get to university as being to try and change the stigma of children in care as not being learners.
In the interviews, the main things around stigma was the impact that children in care felt anxious about being stigmatized if other people found out about their care status. The main impact of that would be around children kind of having to make decisions about how much they wanted to share about their care status and whether or not they wanted people to know what they thought the impact of that would be if people did know. For the adults there was really something to think about, particularly for social workers about whether they met children in school. So, some children really, really disliked that and talked about social workers should not be coming to school because they don't want people to know. For children who are in schools where there were a number of children in care, they were much more comfortable with social workers visiting schools. So depending on the culture that had built up in that school influenced whether or not children felt they were stigmatized by a social worker visited them.
The theme around high aspirations and expectations again in the literature some clear kind of views around children wanting adults to have higher expectations of them so children feeling like adults didn't have high expectations of what they could achieve or what they could be doing long term and wanting adults to support their learning but just hold higher expectations and aspirations for them.
Part of that, I think, links we found in the interviews was that for the children we spoke with they found it extremely hard to think about or have aspirations so they found it hard to think about what their future could look like, what they might want to do in the future, and what what would help them to get to that place.
So they very much relied on adults helping to structure that thinking for them and to be reminding them that there are things for them and things beyond 16 and beyond 18 in terms of school and learning.
And then this quote is a social worker who really talked about the power of education and around, as Duncan was talking about in terms of early intervention, around how if we can help children to feel they can engage in education from an early age, the impact that that can have on them through just their own motivation and wanting to learn through from there on in. Linking with much of that was the importance of friends and I think this is the piece that stood out for us mostly in the interviews that we that we did.
I'll just leave that up there in terms of the literature which kind of talks really broadly about children in care not having many friends and there's many, many reasons for that. But what we heard in the interviews as well was obviously children wanting to have friends but for us the thing that stood out was pretty much all of the children we spoke to either didn't have friends or had difficulties with friendships.
And the other bit that really stood out was they were very aware of that. So when we talked to them about who their friends were or who they might spend time with, they would often be very clear that they didn't have people to spend time with or for one particular girl, she totally made up some friends to tell us about and then told us that she'd made them up.
So that was something that was very clear to us was the social difficulties that children were experiencing. And again, many reasons as to why but that was a theme for many of the children that we spoke to.
So one of the reasons why clearly children were finding it difficult to spend time with friends outside of school, so that could be one of the reasons why they would find it difficult to maintain friendships even if they made friendships at the beginning. And then the other kind of obvious area is the impact of change in schools, so if the children were changing schools then obviously they were finding it difficult to sustain those friendships through different locations that they might be moving to.
The final theme that came out for us was the importance of extracurricular engagement. Many of the people that we spoke to really, really valued the opportunity that they had to be involved in extracurricular activities for many reasons, partly for social reasons but partly because that for them was where they felt they were achieving or that for them is the thing that gave them a bit more purpose or gave them something to have aspirations and longer term hopes about.
Much of the research talks about again the usefulness and the power of extracurricular activities. Most of the research is talking about sport when they talk about extracurricular activities, but some does widen that to other areas around more cultural engagement as well.
Children were very reliant on being able to get access to the resources they needed for those extra extracurricular activities from social workers and also having caregivers who were obviously able to enable those activities to happen and they were very aware that in order to engage in these activities, we've got to have these adults that support this for us.
So that's kind of a brief summary of those eight key findings and as Kerry said, in terms of the 'what next', well, we've already been sharing these findings through our ongoing work in Oranga Tamariki and the joint work program with Ministry of Education but particularly around the care standards, so the guidance that's been developed at the moment around care standards, all of the aspects of that that have links to education, the children's voices have been able to be shared within those to help kind of decisions being made about what those pieces of guidance could look like.
And as we say, the reports will be published on our website in a couple of weeks' time.
End of transcript.
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