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Publishing opportunity

Call for abstracts: Theorising educational engagement, transitions & outcomes for care-experienced people

Editors Zoe Baker (University of York), Katie Ellis (University of Sheffield) and Neil Harrison (University of Oxford) are seeking high-quality, international contributions for a forthcoming special issue of the British Educational Research Journal (BERJ).

Addressing the relative lack of attention that care-experienced people have received from the discipline of education, as opposed to social work and social policy, it aims to explore and deepen theoretical understandings of care and its relationship(s) with educational engagement, transitions and outcomes by applying established theory and developing new theorisations.


Most countries have a system in place to care for young people whose birth families are not in a position to look after them safely, usually due to neglect or maltreatment. While the terminology differs (‘children in care’ in the UK or ‘out of home care’ in Australia, for instance), as do the configuration, funding levels and services provided, the purposes are broadly comparable. Care can also take different forms, such as foster carers, residential facilities or extended family.

Care-experienced people are among the most educationally marginalised of any identifiable social group, both in childhood and adulthood. Typically they have markedly lower educational outcomes than their peers, as well as a higher propensity to leave education early. They are also more likely to be formally excluded or routed into ‘lower status’ forms of education.

The reasons for this marginalisation are complex and multidimensional. Pre-care experiences are often traumatic, leading to later mental health issues and challenges with engaging in formal schooling; this trauma can be compounded by removal from the family or later experiences of care. Many care-experienced people undergo significant social upheaval, losing links to family, friends and community, as well as the educational disruption of frequent school moves. Low expectations from adults, financial issues and societal stigma can also be contributory.

Nevertheless, many care-experienced people do thrive in education. Stability, access to educational opportunities and the support of trusted adults appear vital, but may be in short supply due to the structures of the state. There is a growing acknowledgment of the importance of a return to learning later in life and engagement with post-compulsory education programmes.


While there is a significant literature on care-experienced people in the disciplines of social work and social policy, there has been relatively little attention within the discipline of education. Indeed, research has tended to be atheoretical and focused primarily on descriptive accounts, evaluations of interventions or policy analyses. The purpose of this special issue is therefore to provide a vehicle through which to explore and deepen theoretical understandings of care and its relationship(s) with educational engagement, transitions and outcomes, either through the application of established theory or the development of new theorisations.

The scope of the special issue is conspicuously global. While most of the research attention on care-experienced people to date has come from the ‘global north’, there is a growing interest from countries in the ‘global south’ as they work to strengthen the support they can offer. Submissions are also welcome from all phases and forms of education, including mainstream, special and alternative provision, as well as from further, higher and lifelong education.

Given the marked under-theorisation to date, the special issue offers scope for contributions across a wide theoretical palette. The editors therefore welcome contributions from disciplinary traditions across the social sciences and beyond, including interdisciplinary spaces. Potential examples include – but are not limited to – the following:

  • social capital or hysteresis (Bourdieu)
  • internal conversations and reflexivity (Archer)
  • figured worlds (Holland et al.)
  • possible selves (Markus & Nurius)
  • intersectionality, especially with respect to race and gender (Crenshaw)
  • capabilities (Sen & Nussbaum)
  • pedagogy of the oppressed (Freire)
  • attachment (Bowlby & Ainsworth)

The editors are particularly keen to receive submissions that emphasise care-experienced people who exceed the limited educational expectations of those around them, and they invite authors to challenge the stigma generated by academic enquiry that focuses solely on ‘poor outcomes’.


This special issue currently has provisional approval from the BERJ editorial board. The editors are therefore currently seeking expressions of interest from potential authors in the form of 350-word abstracts. These can be empirical, literature-driven or theoretical in nature, but must engage with the development or application of theory as it relates to education for care-experienced people. The abstract should explain the context being explored (by country or educational phase, for example) and make clear the theoretical contribution that will be made in the full paper.

The deadline for abstracts is Monday 21 February, and they should be sent by e-mail to

From these submissions the editors will select approximately eight articles for inclusion in the special issue, subject to the final approval of the journal’s editorial board. It is anticipated that full papers will be submitted for peer review in November 2022, with final versions being agreed by April 2023.