The Children's Minister Edward Timpson MP has launched an Oxford research centre that sets out to improve the lives of foster children and young people in care.
The Rees Centre for Research in Fostering and Education, based in the Department of Education, is a dedicated research centre looking at how children and young people in foster care can be helped to succeed at school.
The Rees Centre is named after Jan Rees, founder and Non-Executive Director of Core Assets. Core Assets, a major provider of children's services in the UK and internationally, is giving financial support to the centre.
University staff from the Department of Education joined Core Assets to welcome care leavers and carers to the launch event.
Centre Director Professor Judy Sebba said: 'Existing research shows there is a huge gap in educational attainment when comparing the GCSE grades of looked after children with the general population. We need to raise the expectations in schools, and support foster carers so they in turn support their fostered children's education. We need new insights into this area and the new dedicated research centre is unique in bringing education and fostering together for the first time.'
Edward Timpson MP, Minister for Children and Families, said: 'Foster carers make a massive difference to the lives of vulnerable children by helping to give them a loving and caring home, and the much needed stability for them to succeed at school. We need to know what works and why, so that we can give more children in care a better chance to succeed. That is why the work of Rees Centre is so important to children across the country. I very much look forward to working with the centre.'
To mark the launch, Professor Sebba published a review of studies from across the world examining why people are drawn to fostering. Much of the existing research suggests that other carers are often the most effective ambassadors for fostering. Later this year, researchers from the Rees Centre will launch a research project addressing the shortage of foster carers in England by focusing on what motivates carers to get involved. The research will be guided by carers, some of whom will be trained so they can interview other carers for the research.
Jan Rees said: 'We hope the centre will discover more about what makes the best foster parents, and what conditions children need to flourish in order to maximise their academic, social and emotional potential.'
The new research centre builds on the world-leading expertise of the Department of Education at the University of Oxford in exploring how disadvantaged children and young people can be helped to achieve. It will involve leading researchers like Professor Kathy Sylva, an expert in Early Years provision and Professor Anne Edwards, an expert on different approaches to multi-professional learning. It will also involve researchers from related disciplines and faculties at the University, particularly in the Department of Social Policy and Intervention, as well as from other institutions both in the UK and in other parts of the world.