Unauthorised absence among looked after young people. A mentoring perspective

Emma O'Neill, Una O'Connor, T CASSIDY

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Looked after children and young people (LACYP) are identified by the Department of Health (DH) as one of the most disadvantaged groups in Northern Ireland (NI), who exhibit a regular pattern of non-attendance at school, and who are likely to experience poorer educational outcomes.
Aim: To understand why there are higher rates of unauthorised absence from school among post-primary LACYP. Using a qualitative approach, the school and educational experiences of LACYP were explored using the perspective of a group of mentors from the Voices of Young People in Care (VOYPIC) Mentoring Project. Six participants took part in semi-structured one to one interviews which were then analysed using Thematic Content Analysis (TCA). The study revealed LACYP face a number of social challenges relating to their school attendance, including stigma and bullying as a direct result of their care status. They were described as having difficult relationships with peers and teachers that were not conducive to a positive school experience. Education authorities and schools were viewed as contributing to the problem due to disciplinary measures. Additionally features of the care system compounded the issue through placement instability and the parenting style of corporate parents. Education and care authorities must find ways of collaborative working to ensure the educational needs of these young people are met. While trauma associated with pre-care experiences can impede school attendance, authorities must recognise and address how they ‘look after’ those in their care, and how their actions can contribute to the problem.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-41
JournalJournal of Social Sciences and Humanities
Issue number1
Early online date24 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Mar 2020


  • Looked after children and young people
  • education
  • school


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