Monthly Archives: July 2015

BCU Education Conference

The BCU Education Conference took place on the 13th July 2015. The day was filled with talks, discussions and debates about the many issues and aspects of Education Research. Throughout the day many discussions continued over twitter. All the comments and thoughts posted on twitter have been collated into a story of the whole day. Click on the link below to view them:

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Independent Evaluation of Fosterline England

Research by Dr Carolyn Blackburn, Research Fellow in Early Childhood Studies, Centre for Research in Education, and Bharat Chauhan, Head of Department for Social Work, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work.foster

The number of children and young people in care is rising faster than the number of foster carers. This independent evaluation of Fosterline services aimed to identify the contribution that Fosterline makes to the important government function of recruiting and retaining foster carers in England.

Evaluation objectives
The objectives of this independent evaluation were as follows:

  • To identify the need and demand of the Fosterline services in supporting existing and potential foster carers in their caring role today and in the future;
  • To establish what impact and difference is made to foster carers and their signposting agencies as a result of Fosterline intervention;
  • To collate, analyse and synthesise qualitative and quantitative data to demonstrate the role of Fosterline in recruitment of new foster carers and retention of existing ones;
  • To utilise SROI (Social Return on Investment) as an impact mapping exercise to ascertain the cost: benefit savings that Fosterline creates for the state and society in real cash and in-kind terms.

Evaluation methodology
This independent evaluation was undertaken between January and March, 2015. The project had three strands, including desk research, a survey and case study interviews with foster carers.

  • Strand 1 involved a brief desk study of current published literature that focused on the social, educational and long-term outcomes for children in foster care, the impact of providing support for foster carers on their well-being and that of children and the effectiveness of helpline support such as that provided by Fosterline.
  • Strand 2 involved an initial survey to existing and prospective foster carers who had used Fosterline services and signposting agencies.
  • Strand 3 involved 12 case study telephone interviews with existing and prospective foster carers across England. Case study participants were selected to provide a maximal variation of foster carers utilising the services of Fosterline including diversity of social, cultural and geographical variables.

Key findings
Foster carers are motivated to foster by intrinsic and altruistic drivers such as a desire to improve children’s well-being and long-term outcomes as well as more practical drivers related to their own accommodation and financial resources. Some are motivated by personal life experiences and prior professional experiences.

Foster carers’ aspirations for children are concerned with children’s immediate social and emotional development as well as the influence of this on their future social inclusion, employment and family prospects. The main challenges reported by foster carers in their fostering role related to communication and relationships with Local Authorities, Independent Fostering Associations and social workers as well as the communication between professionals within these organisations.

Fosterline’s role in the recruitment and retention of foster carers as reported by participants in this evaluation is to provide impartial and independent advice about a range of sensitive concerns and issues when foster carers feel they have no-one else to turn to. Sometimes when foster carers contact Fosterline they are at crisis point in terms of their fostering career and their emotional resilience to cope with the situation. Fosterline responds by listening, encouraging, empowering and valuing foster carers’ perspectives and concerns in a way that enables them to act on the advice and support given.

Implications for policy and professional practice are discussed within the evaluation. Foster carers are calling for a ‘new deal’ in terms of working conditions and more effective communication between professionals, as well as a change in attitudes by professionals towards foster carers and children. A team around the foster carer approach is suggested within the evaluation as a way of working with foster carers in a more collaborative and respectful manner. The report and executive summary can be found on the Fosterline website.


Listen Imagine Compose

Written by Kirsty Devaney, PhD Student, School of Education – Music

Listen, Imagine, Compose (LIC) is a project designed to investigate pedagogies of composing in secondary schools. It was funded by the Esmée Fairbairn foundation and organised by Sound and Music (SAM), Birmilisten-imagine-compose-ngham Contemporary Music Group (BCMG), with Birmingham City University as the lead academic partner. The Listen Imagine Compose report, written by Professor Martin Fautley of Birmingham City University, is based on six action research projects designed to investigate how composing is taught and learned.  The results of the first phase can be found  on the SAM website. The second phase of the research includes delivering CPD to secondary school music teachers. I have written about some of the observations and comments witnessed from the CDP days in Birmingham.

The most recent session was led by Martin Fautley and composer David Horne along with intentionally renowned BCMG saxophonist Kyle Horch. The aim of the session was to explore and evaluate compositional pedagogy techniques for creating music for a specific instrument, in this case the alto saxophone.

Composition Consequences
The first task presented was a type of composition ‘consequences’ game. Every participant had 1 minute to compose one very short section of music (a bar). They could use any type of musical notation (graphic, standard western notation, text). This was then passed around to the person on the right and they had to add a new bar whilst you had to add a new bar to the music from the person on the right. This continued until 8 pieces of music had been created collaboratively by a group complete with dynamics, performance details and titles. These were then performed by Kyle on the saxophone and recorded.

Score 1Performace 1

What was fantastic about this activity was that it avoided any sense of worry about the ‘great’ musical idea as it focused on what you DO with an musical idea. Due to history heralding the ‘great‘ composers and their ‘great‘ musical masterworks there can be a perceived view that a ‘great‘ musical composition is something that can just magically appear, whether it be in a dream or in a spurt of creative inspiration. The truth is composing is a lot of hard work that involves revisions, deleting sections, starting again, reworking ideas, trying aspects out with musicians…The consequences activity did not allow the participants to have the time to worry about the ‘greatness’ of their musical idea. They had to rely on instinct!

Along with notational aspect being developed in the task, the inner ear has an important role to play. The 2009 Ofsted report Making More of Music (Ofsted, 2009) highlighted weaknesses in  ‘internalising sound as a basis for creative thinking’ in secondary school music. Gordan (1993) stressed the importance of developing the inner ear for music students, a term he phrased as ‘audition’. Composer David Horne required the participants to ‘half squint’ at the music and look at the shape to get an idea of the music. David told participants not worrying about the exact rhythms or intervals of the music, but rather to be able to imagine the general feel and understand the outline of the music. It was only after this were they then asked to try to develop the music further. The task integrated both the idea of ‘thinking in sound’ and how it directly related to the ‘symbol.’

‘Thinking in sound, imagining sound, constructing possible sounds in the head and improvising music all have to be established as skills before the symbols for these things to be learnt. When we eventually use the symbols we have already to know how they will sound.’ (Odam, 1995, p.4)

A question was raised about if composers write exactly what they hear in their heads. There can be a misconception that composers have complete pieces of music stored in their heads. David commented that only a small percentage of composers have perfect pitch and that composers often compose in a variety of ways including: on paper, improvisation, on an instrument, starting with a chord or rhythm.

Score 10 Score 9 Score 8 Score 7

Reactions from Teachers and Composers on the activity:

  • It is like the game ‘chinese whispers’ – how others interpret your first bar is nothing like your original intention
  • Shape is important in music
  • Performance is an important part of the composing process
  • Anonymising the process (no names) so students will be less worried about what they produce
  • I liked how dynamics were not an afterthought but were there from the first bar
  • It would be interesting to start this in year 7 (with graphics) and see how they are when they reach year 10. If they were just used to coming up with material quickly.
  • The ‘composer’ is now a ‘collective composer’
  • Lot of different ideas developed in different ways
  • Titles are important
  • What would happen if you had the title at the beginning rather at the end of the task?
  • Employing peripatetic staff an extra for 30 minutes to perform the final composition at the end of a lesson

To find out more please go to: