[Thesis]. Manchester, UK: The University of Manchester; 2010.
Looked after children (LAC) have been identified as one of the mostvulnerable and
disadvantaged members of our education system (Sempik,Ward, & Darker, 2008); they
are at risk of failing to achieve the Every ChildMatters outcomes (DFES, 2004a), and,
there are particular concerns regardinglow levels of academic achievement (DCSF, 2009c).
Much of the researchregarding LAC is from a deficit perspective and attempts to justify
the pooroutcomes reported; only recently has attention been paid to identifying whatworks
well in schools to promote achievement.Appreciative Inquiry (AI) proposed by Cooperrider
& Srivastva (1987) is anaffirmatively focused method of research and development which
challengestraditional problem-solving approaches (Grant & Humphries, 2006); it seeks
todiscover the existing strengths and successes within an organisation to inspirechange
(Espinosa, Roebuck, & Rohe, 2002). Whilst the efficacy of AI has beendemonstrated
within organisational and healthcare settings there is a dearthof literature evidencing
the efficacy of AI in educational settings. AI has notbeen used with LAC, or the professionals
who work with them, and thisapproach has the potential to provide a new lens on this
historicallyproblematic area.This thesis proposed to identify key factors which have
the greatest positiveimpact on the school experience of LAC, in secondary schools,
through the useof AI. In doing so, this thesis also sought to explore the efficacy
of AI as aresearch tool for working with LAC and school staff, and, to explore itspotential
for creating change. A single case study design was used involvingone local authority
secondary school. Participants attended semi-structuredinterviews aligned with the
AI 4-D cycle; this was followed by a workshopsession to explore findings and agree
future actions. Further data was alsocollated through content analysis of the research
interviews, participantevaluations and a research diary.Key themes were identified
including: effective adult support, engaginglearning opportunities, rewarding school
systems, a safe and secureenvironment, good quality relationships, and the importance
of normalisingthe school experience. A number of supplementary themes were alsoidentified.
AI was found to be an effective method of research; it appears tobe an interactive
and enabling approach, which considers both organisationalsuccesses and concerns.
During the workshop a number of actions wereidentified to further improve the school
experience and there is a highlikelihood that change will occur. Implications for
EP practice and areas forfuture research are also considered.