In England, children who are in fostered local authority care are described as Looked After Children (LAC). These young people are sometimes vulnerable, hard to reach and can be left behind in the educational system and wider society. In many ways – their voices are not easily heard. They are overseen at local authority level by a ‘Virtual School Head ’. This is an officer in the local authority who is accountable and responsible for making sure the children and young people have every opportunity whilst in local authority care to achieve their potential.
As a group, there is a remains a ‘gap’ in educational attainment when compared to children who are not looked after. For example, just 15% of LAC (in Nottinghamshire) achieved expected standards at the end of KS2 (junior school aged 7 – 11). This compares with the total English school population of 55% achieving expected outcomes (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government 2016). With such a significant gap, Nottinghamshire County Council embarked on an ambitious programme of support and challenge to improve the picture for those pupils in local authority care.
Working collaboratively with the children, home (the adults who foster/care for the pupils) and school, Looked After Children were offered an opportunity to ‘power-up’ their literacy through a multisensory programme of learning and confidence building.
The programme was developed by Dr Petula Bhojwani and Craig Wilkie for Nottinghamshire County Council, to motivate, engage and build confidence of the children through carefully selected literature, software and apps for their tablet and, resources such as puppets and props. The aim was to improve Literacy outcomes and boost speaking and listening skills in order to ‘close the gap’.
Key to this work was the ability to capture evidence and demonstrate progress. Bhojwani and Wilkie used RIX EasySurvey to capture and monitor progress throughout the intervention. EasySurvey is an accessible online survey tool that is easy to use and fun for children to engage with… Measuring data before and after the activities helped the shaping and evolving of the intervention and proved the benefits of the work by demonstrating positive changes in confidence, behaviour and engagement in Literacy skills of the children. RIX EasySurvey supported both summative and formative assessment.
Central to being a confident communicator is the concept of ‘audience’. RIX Wikis were used to showcase work that the children generated during the project. RIX Wikis are simple, easy to build websites that children and their families used as a digital ‘scrapbook’ to collect images, video and text of their literacy achievements. Through a simple secure sharing facility, the children and their parents shared these work showcases with the school, family and friends. RIX Wikis are the perfect tool – literacy is more than text it’s about making meaning and meaning making. It’s about making yourself heard and understood.
The project outcomes contributed to the KS2 Nottinghamshire LAC outcomes rising from (pre intervention) 15% in 2016 to 30% in 2017 (post intervention). Whilst a gap still remains – the performance gains were indisputable and RIX software was the digital component that complimented the books and resources the children were given.
RIX software contributed specifically by:
- Being accessible and easy to use.
- Being good value, low cost, high impact.
- Allowing children to be better understood.
- Allowing children to be better understood.
- Allowing children a safe space to share and show things they were proud to have achieved.
- Being fun and motivational to use.
- Building relationships between home and school through the online nature of Wiki websites.
The research and outcomes of the project, including details about the use of RIX EasySurvey and RIX Wikis is documented in the book; Power-Up Literacy, published by the UK Literacy Association. UKLA, 9 Newarke Street, Leicester, LE1 5SN. The book features resources, guidance and support to allow schools to replicate elements of the intervention themselves. ISBN: 978 1 910543 88 7. www.ukla.org
To experience the benefits of the RIX Wiki for yourself and your students you can buy a RIX Wiki by clicking here
Get involved! We are particularly interested in hearing from Virtual School Heads and those with specific responsibility for Looked After Children to support our continued research and software developments. Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org