Are you listening? Echoing the voices of looked after children about their transition to secondary school

Yvonne J Francis, Laura Rowland, Sarah Humrich, Sally Taylor - Adoption & Fostering


Transition to secondary school is a significant childhood event, especially for the most vulnerable children. Many looked after children experience multiple episodes of instability, loss and change which can affect this move. Research shows that school belonging promotes acceptance, inclusion and respect, and impacts positively on school transfer and participation. Asking children for their views on matters that affect them can ease the process and increase their belonging and well-being. This article seeks to echo the voices of 36 children aged 10 to 12 who participated in a therapeutic primary to secondary transition initiative for looked after children. Informed by a participatory action research approach, its focus was to facilitate the child’s voice. Child-friendly, multi-method techniques and activities were used to elicit their views about the transition. Social connections, relationships, feeling safe and belonging within the school environment emerged as key themes. Children specifically highlighted the importance of friendships as a mechanism for supporting their belonging during this time. They also voiced the need for their social connections and belonging to be promoted. This unique intervention provides a framework for facilitating the voices of looked after children and underlines the need for practitioners to listen and understand moves from primary to secondary schools from the child’s perspective.