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Yippee - retaining young people from care in post compulsory education: a five country study



Young people who have been in care during their childhood are at high risk of experiencing social exclusion as adults (Jackson 2008). They are much more likely than other children to be not in education, employment or training (NEET) at the age of 19, when local authorities are required to report this figure to the government. Only 11 per cent attain the target qualification of five passes in the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) at A*-C grades. There is no published information on what happens to their education after the age of 16, the end of compulsory schooling in the UK.


In most European countries children are expected to stay at school to 18. In England, among children not in care, an increasing proportion stay at school or in further education after GCSE. put in figures. Those who do not are highly disadvantaged in the job market, and children who have been in care are cut off from opportunities to fill in the gaps in their education resulting from family problems, changes of placement and personal difficulties. Yet almost all the limited research on the education of children in care as well as government targets have focused on the period up to 16. There has been more recent interest in improving access to higher education for care leavers, stimulated by research sponsored by the Frank Buttle Trust and their 'Quality Mark' for universities with a comprehensive strategy for recruiting and supporting students with a background in care (Jackson et al. 2005). However a first step to raising the numbers of these young people going to university must be to prevent them from dropping out of education as soon as they are legally able to do so, as the majority of children in care do at present.

The 'Yippee' project: aims and methods

The acronym 'Yippee' stands for 'Young People in Public Care: pathways to education in Europe'. The project is funded under the European Union Framework 7 program on social exclusion and involves five partners: England, Denmark, Sweden, Hungary and Spain (Catalonia), chosen to represent different welfare regimes. The research is coordinated by the English partner. The project started in January 2008, so it is still at an early stage, but the research team is committed to ongoing dissemination to promote theoretical discussion as well as developments in practice.


The overall aim of the project is to investigate educational pathways among young men and women from a public care background after the end of compulsory schooling; and to examine how more of these young people can be retained in further and higher education.


Specific objectives are to:

i)         map current knowledge about educational participation among young people who have been in public care;

ii)       track and evaluate the educational plans and pathways of a sample of 19-21 year-olds from a public care background;

iii)      identify the conditions within the care and education systems that facilitate or inhibit entry to and continuation in post-compulsory education; and

iv)     explore young people's constructions of learning identities and trajectories in terms of class, gender, race, ethnicity and care responsibilities both from the perspective of young men and women themselves and of carers and staff in services designed to support them.


The first substantive piece of work has been to produce a State of the Art review in each country and a consolidated report in English which will be posted on the Yippee website in September. The core of the project is a case study in each country, which will consist of a survey of all young people aged 19-21 who have been in public care in selected areas. This will be followed by in-depth interviews with a purposive sample of young people in each area. Those selected for the intensive study will be asked to nominate someone who has been important in supporting their educational progress, who will also be interviewed. A year later the participants will be interviewed again to see how far they have followed their planned educational path and to what extent their hopes and aspirations have been realised, what helped and what stood in their way.



Cross-national study highlights differences in culture and attitudes which set a backdrop for services. It is already clear that the five partner countries have very different conceptions of what is meant by education and different perspectives on childhood and adolescence which do much to shape opportunities for learning at school age and beyond.


In Sweden and Denmark, for example, the view seems to be that everyone has the capacity to learn and the job of the education system is to create an environment that enables them to overcome obstacles and make progress, even though they may do so at different speeds. Compared with the UK there is more emphasis on personal development and less on targets and assessment. One task of the research is to find out how far this more holistic approach to learning benefits those with a background in care, among others.


In all countries there is a dearth of information on what happens to young people after they leave care, and as yet England is the only country which provides follow-up services on a statutory basis (under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000). There does not seem to be an official perception in the other partner countries that the educational attainment of children in care is problematic, but this may be because, apart from the work of Professor Bo Vinnerljung in Sweden (Vinnerljung 2005) there has been almost no research on the subject. Findings from the Yippee project will be important in establishing if a problem exists, in raising awareness and drawing out practice implications.



Jackson, S. (2008) 'Careleavers, Exclusion and Access to Higher Education.' In D. Abram, J. Christie and D. Gordan (eds) Multidisciplinary Handbook of Social Exclusion Research. Chichester.: Wiley.


Jackson, S., Ajayi, S. and Quigley, M. (2005) Going to University from Care. London: Institute of Education.


Vinnetljung, B. Öman, M. and Gunnarson, T. (2005) 'Educational attainments of former child welfare clients: a Swedish national cohort study.' International Journal of Social Welfare 14, 265-276



Contact details

Sonia Jackson, Professor of Social Care and Education, University of London, Thomas Coram Research Unit, 27/28 Woburn Square, London WC1H OAA

Tel: 00 44 1454 853711.

Email: Sonia.Jackson@ioe.ac.uk


Dr Claire Cameron, University of London, Thomas Coram Research Unit. Address as above.


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