Health and Social Care Board NI

Evaluating the Effectiveness of the Improving Educational Attainment and Achievement of Looked After Children in Foster Care Service



  • In 2018, the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) in Northern Ireland (NI) (now the SPPG), commissioned CES to complete an evaluation of the ‘Improving Educational Attainment and Achievement of Looked After Children in Foster Care’ Service, (otherwise known as the Fostering Attainment and Achievement (FAA) Service), delivered by the Fostering Network (TFN).
  • Key aims of the FAA Service were to build the capacity of foster carers and equip them to meet the educational challenges faced by children and young people in foster care and to promote education and learning opportunities for children and young people, including access to specialiste ducational services if required.

The Challenge

The main objective of the evaluation was to evaluate the effectiveness of the FAA service including:

  • Identifying the most effective aspects of the service
  • Assessing the effectiveness of Personal Education Plans inenabling access to the service
  • Identifying the range and type of children, young people andfoster carers who engaged most successfully with the service
  • Assessing the impact and outcomes for children and youngpeople and foster carers
  • Exploring stakeholders’ understanding and perceptions of theFAA service

What We Did

The evaluation took a ‘programme theory’ approach, which assesses the contribution that policies, programmes or services make to the achievement of outcomes, while also exploring how and why outcomes have or have not been achieved. The team involved from CES were Dr Alison Montgomery, Dr Claire Hickey, Caitlin Allen, Dearbhaile Slane, Dr Joan Broder and Dr Suzanne McCartney.

The team conducted a series of qualitative interviews and focus groups with FAA service users, service providers and key health and education stakeholders, to gather their perceptions and/or experiences of the formal education supports, extra-curricular activities, summer schemes and foster carer supports provided through the service. A group of young people with care experienced backgrounds supported the evaluation through their role as peer researchers.  

You can read our Guide to Working with Peer Researchers here.

The Impact

The evaluation found that engagement with FAA supports and activities contributed positively to children and young people’s educational, social and emotional development.

The bespoke nature of formal education supports and tutor attributes were important in helping them with challenging and oftentimes difficult experiences of the formal education system.

Children and young people’s experiences of success through the effective delivery of extra-curricular supports and summer schemes improved their self-esteem and confidence.

Foster carers’ engagement with supports was lower than might have been anticipated although those who accessed supports, found them helpful.  It was recommended that further consideration be given to how foster carers’ participation could be encouraged and supported.

Additional recommendations were made regarding how the service could be made more effective, taking account of the wider systemic enablers and barriers.

You can find out more about the Fostering Attainment and Achievement Service here.

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Health and Social Care Board NI


Research, Evidence, Evaluation Policy Development


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