Partnership with Rees Centre, Oxford aims to address educational challenges of young people in care

The innovative project aims to better support young people with a history of childhood trauma, with a particular focus on those who are - or have been - in the care system. 
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For more than 100 years, Villiers Park Educational Trust has worked to improve social mobility by providing educational enhancement programmes for disadvantaged young people. Now, thanks to funding from the Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership (GUDTP), it will play a major role in a project which seeks to address the specific educational challenges faced by young people with experience of the care system.

The funding will support a DPhil studentship based at the Rees Centre within the University of Oxford’s Department of Education. 

Evidence from the British Birth Cohort Studies shows that progressing further on the educational ladder is linked to improvements in mental and physical health, employment, income, housing, family life, as well as absence of addiction, and lower risk of involvement in the criminal justice system.

Rae Tooth, CEO at Villiers Park, said:

“Young people in care have educational outcomes that are significantly below the national average. At the moment, just 12% of care-leavers attend university by age 19, compared to almost 42% of the general population. Villiers Park is committed to improving outcomes for these young people. This studentship will enable us to learn more about the complex challenges faced by young people in - or from - the care system, and create bespoke, high impact programmes which enable them succeed in realising their potential.”

The Rees Centre aims to improve the education, wellbeing and life outcomes of those who are, or have been, supported by children’s social care services.

Dr Neil Harrison, Deputy Director of the Rees Centre and one of the project’s supervisors, said:

“Traumatic experiences such as abuse or neglect can exercise a profound and lasting impact on engagement with schooling. We are delighted to have the opportunity to further our understanding of the neurobiological and psychosocial effects of trauma, and use this to inform the evolution of the programme by the education team at Villiers Park.”

The DPhil studentship will be funded by the GUDTP for four years from October 2020. The student will be based in the Rees Centre within the Department of Education at the University of Oxford. A year of research training will precede the doctoral study itself, after which they will spend two months per year working physically alongside Villiers Park staff.

To apply for the studentship, you must submit an application to study for a DPhil in Education at the University of Oxford by 28th February. Further details about the studentship - and the application process - can be found at:

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