Understanding the educational experiences and opinions, attainment, achievement and aspirations of looked after children in Wales.


In January 2015 the Welsh Government commissioned a study on LACYP and education. CASCADE completed the research: Understanding the educational experiences and opinions, attainment, achievement and aspirations of looked after children in Wales’ over a six month period.

In response to the internationally recognised low educational attainment and future prospects of LACYP, the Welsh Government commissioned this research and set out two objectives for the study:

1: Conduct an in-depth qualitative research study with looked after children, to provide insight into their experience of education and their opinions on what could be done to improve it.

2: Collate and report relevant data and literature.

Activities and Methods

  • Statistical and literature review
  • Full systematic review of educational interventions with LACYP
  • Individual interviews using creative methods (with 39 LACYP aged 7-16 years old)
  • Peer researcher led focus groups (6 focus groups with 26 LAYP and care leavers aged 16-25 years old)


Key findings

  1. Statistics from England and Wales illustrated a pervasive gap between the educational attainment of LACYP and non-LACYP at all Key Stages.
  2. The review of the literature suggested a number of barriers to LACYP’s educational attainment and achievement, including: placement and school instability, carers not equipped or expected to support with learning, and a pessimistic view of the educational potential of LACYP held by key professionals,.
  3. The systematic review reporting on evaluations of educational interventions for LACYP is the most comprehensive to date. The conduct of evaluations was found to be poor therefore the evidence-base is too limited to recommend investment in any established interventions.
  4. The majority of LACYP we interviewed with were aspirational and had lots of ideas about careers and employment. However, for some participants, the development and realisation of ambitions was at risk because of unresolved emotional problems, limited opportunities and resources, and unstable or unsupportive relationships with carers, teachers and social workers.
  5. LACYP discussed the disruptions to their day in the form of visits to the school from social workers and other professionals and meetings that were scheduled in school hours and on school premises.
  6. A lack of resources and access to funding for educational equipment, particularly ICT was recognised as a key barrier.
  7. Young people discussed the educational qualifications of foster carers, and felt that they should have a set of basic skills to enable them to support LACYP’s education.
  8. Stable care and school placements and consistent relationships and routine featured as key aspects in enabling LACYP to fully participate in learning and school and college life.

The final report and executive summary are available online at:  http://gov.wales/statistics-and-research/understanding-educational-experiences-opinions-attainment-achievement-aspirations-looked-after-children-wales/?lang=en


The final research report made 17 recommendations for the Welsh Government which are based upon the statistical and literature reviews and the contributions of the LACYP who participated in the research. These recommendations are available in the full report and executive summary:  http://gov.wales/statistics-and-research/understanding-educational-experiences-opinions-attainment-achievement-aspirations-looked-after-children-wales/?lang=en


Alongside the report and executive summary, CASCADE also produced a number of innovative visual materials to help disseminate the findings and recommendations of the research to a diverse range of audiences. These include:


Three music videos:

Four Films:

Academic Staff

ResearcherDawn Mannay
ResearcherEleanor Staples
ResearcherSophie Hallett
ResearcherLouise Roberts
ResearcherAlyson Rees
ResearcherRhiannon Evans
ResearcherDarren Andrews
Related publicationsUnderstanding the educational experiences and opinions, attainment, achievement and aspirations of looked after children in Wales