What type of policy might help?: school mobility and children in care

Navin, Fiona (2012) What type of policy might help?: school mobility and children in care. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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The educational needs of children in care are highlighted as requiring more research (Cashmore, Higgins, Bromfield, & Scott, 2006), in particular, the extent to which individual factors impact on educational outcomes (P. Taylor et al., 2008). The research presented in this thesis explored one factor that can affect the education of children in care – school mobility. The school mobility of children in care can be seen as a 'wicked' policy problem, occurring at the intersection of the education and child protection systems. As such, this research adopted a policy analysis approach, considering the antecedents of current policy and imagining what type of policy might support children in care who are mobile.

This study engaged a critical lens, beginning with an understanding that within democratic society it is important to consider the agency of citizens, framed by an understanding of the relationship between citizens and the state (Garrick, 2011). This relationship can be explored through policy analysis which, Garrick (2011) notes, 'brings to the surface' the role of state activity. An examination of the role of the state, its policy drivers and modes of governance can reveal the taken-for-granted assumptions and perspectives that define institutional practices. In view of this, and using critical theory as a lens for investigation, the education and child protection systems within Queensland were examined.

This study was situated within a larger project that explored school mobility and trialled a position known as the Mobility Support Teacher. As such, the design of the research presented in this thesis was partly informed by the larger project. This doctoral study involved three distinct components. The first component explored the role of the state in navigating and responding to the various shifts and pressures created by globalisation, and in part neoliberalism, with regard to the school mobility of children in care. The second component examined current Queensland policy, as specifically related to the education of children in care, and highlighted that there exists a 'confused' policy framework. The third component explored le quotidian (the local or daily life) through a case study approach. The case study presented statistical profiles of the population and communities within which the research was situated and conducted under to develop an understanding of context. Additionally, the characteristics of school mobility of 50 children in care were examined and interviews with five teachers and four Mobility Support Teachers provided an insight into teachers' perceptions of working with this 'dually involved population' (Wulczyn, Smithgall, & Chen, 2009).

Fairclough's (1992b) model of Critical Discourse Analysis was used to investigate and explain teachers' work within this 'confused' policy framework. In particular, teachers' positioning of themselves and their students, as well as the perceived legitimacy of power relations between teachers and others involved with children in care, was explored. The framework exposes a complex interplay of interests and how teachers navigate through, and negotiate with, the child protection system. The data were further analysed to understand teachers' constructions of children's needs.

The research confirms that the state is navigating complex territory and, presently, has not addressed the contradictions created by neoliberal modes of governance. Instead, 'temporary settlements' (Dale, 1989) are reached by the state which creates the policy landscape in which educators and Child Safety Officers must work. Consequently, educators find themselves operating within a policy framework, characterised by lacunae, or spaces. Examining the enactment of policy highlights the difficulty that educators face when operating within such a space and some possible subsequent impacts on the education of children in care.

The implications of the data analysis suggest that the type of policy response that might best support mobile children in care should be underpinned by a more holistic view of school readiness coupled with more significant emphasis on resourcing for case management. The thesis demonstrates that the state remains a significant influence on policy despite the shift in the locus of control and that this shift has minimised the state's capacity to prioritise equity issues. Given the current formation of the state, this thesis highlights that it is important to consider policy implications and educational consequences for children in care and, more particularly, children in care who are mobile.

Item ID: 27193
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: access, children in care, disadvantaged children, education, equity, foster children, institutionalized children, policies, Queensland schools, school mobility, student mobility
Date Deposited: 27 May 2013 02:33
FoR Codes: 13 EDUCATION > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130313 Teacher Education and Professional Development of Educators @ 50%
13 EDUCATION > 1301 Education Systems > 130105 Primary Education (excl Maori) @ 50%
SEO Codes: 93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9304 School/Institution > 930403 School/Institution Policies and Development @ 50%
93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9399 Other Education and Training > 939903 Equity and Access to Education @ 50%
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