Theory and explanation in child welfare: education and looked-after children

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

128 Citations (Scopus)


Empirical child welfare research in England takes insufficient account of wider social theory. Intellectual, professional and political reasons for this are discussed. The implications are considered in relation to one important social problem: the low educational achievement of children looked after by local authorities ('in care'). It is concluded that the absence of a broader sociological perspective has led to insufficient and simplistic explanations from researchers and policy-makers of low achievement among looked-after pupils. It is unwise to rely on official statistics on educational outcome indicators for looked-after pupils. Previous conceptualization of poor educational performance has been inadequate, and we should refer to low achievement, not 'underachievement'. The socio-economic risk factors that are linked with family breakdown and admission to care also predict low educational achievement, such as social class and poverty. Social mobility and transition to adulthood are increasingly problematic in England, making it difficult for care leavers to improve their social position. Parental maltreatment is strongly linked with educational failure. Other countries may do no better than England does. Thus, it is by no means obvious that the care system necessarily jeopardizes looked-after children's education.
Translated title of the contributionTheory and explanation in child welfare: education and looked-after children
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1 - 10
Number of pages10
JournalChild and Family Social Work
Volume12 (1)
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2007

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Blackwell


Dive into the research topics of 'Theory and explanation in child welfare: education and looked-after children'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this