Child playing with Lego

Dr Emma Maynard discusses a new way of helping families in need through the Family Stories model

1 hour watch

In this edition of the University of Portsmouth's Interdisciplinary Webinar Series, Leïla Choukroune, Professor of International Law and Director of the University of Portsmouth Thematic Area in Democratic Citizenship is joined by Dr Emma Maynard, Senior Lecturer and Course Leader in the School of Education and Sociology at the University of Portsmouth.

When Dr Emma Maynard joined the University of Portsmouth in 2010, she was leaving behind a career in social care, working with children and parents with complex social and healthcare needs. Her teaching and research continues to be focussed in that area, and she has been working with early help services in Portsmouth over some years in the development of this project, from a small commission for Dr Wendy Sims-Schouten and herself, through her doctoral research, and onwards. Those services have been adopting some of her findings in their practice, and continued to support her research into developing the Family Stories Model -for empowering sustained change; a proposal to help reduce the "revolving door" of families referred back to services. As the parents in that study reported, schools were one of the pivotal places in which they negotiated challenge, needs, stigma, and acceptance, and so in 2021 Dr Maynard formed a team, and they extended the project to a nationwide (TRIF funded) project; Family Stories in Schools.

In this talk Dr Maynard will present the findings, highlighting the apparent discrepancies between stories of families and schools, the steps schools are taking in response to whole-family needs, and the many questions remaining.

Speaker's Bio 

Emma joined the University of Portsmouth in 2010 having left a career in social care, where she specialised in Early Help practice. Emma now applies theoretical and empirical research to practice, focused on children and families leading complex lives.

Now a Doctor of Education and a Chartered Psychologist her current research interests include: social complexity and health, change and transformation in complex families (Family Stories Project), researching with children and young people, mental health and wellbeing of children, young people and families

As a senior fellow of Advance HE she has held a number of course leadership roles. Her teaching is focused on children and families, safeguarding and psychology in practice settings. She takes a strong interest in building our academic community, and in the well-being of our students.

Research Futures: Family Stories in Communities and Schools

 Good afternoon, everyone.

My name is Leila Choukroune I'm professor of International Law and director of the University of Portsmouth Democratic Citizenship theme.

Today is a fantastic day because we're welcoming our colleague, Dr. Emma Maynard from the University of Portsmouth, precisely the faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and the School of Education and Sociology.

Emma is going to tell him to tell you more about her great research, she's research for many years now on family stories, the topic of today, she's done a lot of field work.

I've been pleased to support her work, her field work in particular, and she's come to a very unique set of data and conclusions.

I'm very much looking forward to your presentation.

And so without further ado, the floor is yours.

Thank you very much, Leila.

That's very kind of you.

I feel like that's all been said now and I can just go, but I better hang around and say hello properly.

And it's really lovely to notice these people on the call that I've never met before.

I do know that Katis is one of my collaborators here and so I'll explain.

What I want to do is give you the gist of the whole family stories project and really emphasise the links that we've been able to make to practise, which is quite dear to my heart.

The reason for that is that oh, and here we go because I can't click on the slides that's in.

There we are that's better.

The reason for it being so dear to my heart is that I came into academia after a social care career, so I was a practitioner and manager in early help.

Am I going to explain what that is in just a minute?

But it means that for me, I want my research to be accessible to people who might use theory and direct practise with families and accessible directly with families themselves and involve those families in the creation of research.

So what I've been trying to do is identify narratives and particularly differences in narratives between parents, help seeking and help receiving recovery and schools engagement with her whole family, working through qualitative methods, but specifically dialogic methods, where I'm having curious conversations through an interpretative framework.

And I just saw Helen said, Hi, so hi Helen, and it's kind of four phases of this because it started with my doctoral research.

I then started working more so with early help services and we developed a practise guide that we know as GEMs.

That was a thing that we came up with, with the team and that's involved in and current practise in Portsmouth.

But then there was a further research question for me, and that is about there being a distinction between families who repeatedly come around the system and families who actually have an episode or a couple of episodes of intervention and who are able to sustain change for the long term.

And I was really interested in what the difference is between those groups of people.

Why are some so successful long term and others really struggle?

And they said so much about schools that around Easter time I brought some colleagues together and we decided that we really needed to understand more about schools stories in working with families with very complex social needs.

So I just want to clarify who we mean, because we talk about complex families, but all of our families are complex, mine would be no exception to that rule.

I'm sure yours have their complexities as well.

But within social care and universal services, that's the whole of the children's workforce.

We have a 4 tier system and tiers.

One and two are within our kind of normal range that children have needs, but they're met with through their families and through their schools or their health visitor or their GP, so and so forth.

Tier three and tier four is where we start talking about real complexity, where there are multiple needs, multiple family members with multiple needs and a much higher chance at the social disadvantage.

Previous histories of abuse, violence, the kind if you're familiar with the Aces research, that will sort of fits.

And so two, three, we call early help to four, we call social services.

But early help does not mean early.

It might mean early in some circumstances.

But all the practise experience, but also the academic evidence says that these are the same group of families, very often moving between tier three and four.

And even officially locally early help is regarded as a step down service.

So families go into social services, but they very specifically go back through early help on the way down.

So same family scene at different point in time and a different level of acuteness of need.

The really big thing for me here, and there's a lot of theory and what I'm doing and I love the theoretical angle, but this is such a motivator for me in this work, and that is that 50 percent of the families seen in the social care system will come back again within five years, sometimes with multiple episodes as a former practitioner.

This explains to me why there was one family in Bognor taking up a whole shelf of our paper files on a bookcase because they never did leave the system.

And that was just one family that, you know, always sticks in my mind.

So I wanted to know more about that.

The 50 percent that keep coming back.

But also, what are the other 50 percent doing?

What's happening with them?

And the difference seems to me to be a self being able to make some changes and truly transforming, truly changing the way in which the family relates to each other, the way they feel secure in a new way of being.


The there are some real theoretical pillars that I consistently draw on and that surrounds as psychologist myself, that surrounds Festinger and Cooper, who wrote about cognitive dissonance, that basically means a real disconnect with what we experience and what we think should be happening.

We feel deeply unsettled.

Covid and cognitive dissonance are best friends because we've all felt a real sense of insecurity and threat in our daily lives, which we're unfamiliar with and frankly, we probably haven't enjoyed.

And so we are striving to reduce that in various ways.

You see lots of different behaviours where we're trying to normalise in order to cope.

It's the same thing.

It's a really simple human response to any feeling of dis-ease.

So this is not special to these families, which is looking at these families in the context of all human beings experiencing some strange and uncomfortable thing.

And the other one that I really drawn was Eisenberger.

Naomi Eisenberger did lots and lots of brain scans discovered that are neural response to social rejection is almost identical to physical pain.

So if we feel rejected socially, we might just as well have been physically assaulted.

And furthermore, that if we're able to process that and understand that rejection, the pain response lessens.

So I then put into context these families who've experienced a huge amount of stigma and judgement, and through their narratives, they're saying that sometimes that comes from schools, but it's also coming from media.

They very strongly associated it with family and friends and people recounting that they felt they had failed as a parent, embarrassed about their children's behaviour, about themselves as parents with very poor mental health and very low self-esteem and self identity.

Some of them in this research, and I would stress some,reported it receiving up to 20 texts a day reporting poor behaviour from school.

This was one of the things we wanted to know more about, particularly having previously worked in the sector thinking, OK, there are more stories to uncover here.

They also talked about their impact, feeling like they were the worst mom in the world, avoiding the school gates and so on.

When I looked at the two sides of these stories, the families that kept repeating the intervention, the need for intervention, and the families who seemed to be able to sustain change, I came up with four enablers and that centred around what people seem to need for recovery, which was about acceptance found in communities of practice such as peer support groups and being able to tell their story and no longer feeling like the worst mom in the world which was a quote, and also critically being able to reflect having the confidence to reflect on what they had done differently with their children, how things had been, how they were now and seeing the difference.

And in terms of sustainability, the development of what I've called a mastery narrative of self-worth, self efficacy, but also within that there was a really strong sense of a professionalised parent, parents who were talking about, I am trained, I'm a graduate parent and being equipped with this professional language that they used going into school and having a different kind of level of conversation.

And that seemed to them to be quite key.

I really did get quite excited about theory, but I get really excited when I see the theory and the empirical data.

And that seemed to be everywhere in these very rich stories we had.

And I should also acknowledge I thought having had the career I had, I probably had pretty much everything.

What a load of rubbish.

They spoke like I had never heard families tell their stories before.

It absolutely blew me away.

And it made me question whether, although there's a huge focus on the parent, whether we truly get the parents narrative without it being filtered and presented in a certain way.

And if we look at that theory, we could understand what the motivators might be for that to perform in a certain way.

We obviously have behind that disguised compliance those kind of issues, which doesn't even have to be that extreme.

It's just we all present a certain version of ourselves to feel accepted in context.

So I was really struck by how unguarded people's stories were and how much working through they seem to be doing in interviews as well.

So I just wanted to put this together because this is basically the two sets of themes from my doctoral research and then the second lot of parents who seem to have sustained change long term.

I'm just going to try and minimise that.

So hopefully you can say a little bit better.

So in the phase of it, in both phases, actually, they talked relentlessly about being a good parent.

It truly was incredibly important to them and incredibly prevalent in their data.

The second group talked very clearly about how they'd crossed over from feeling really judged very often from their families and school to really being accepted and confident in who they were.


I contrast with togetherness.

So the narratives in the first group, huge amounts of estrangement in the families, a lot of emotional separateness and not sharing.

There were several accounts where parents were describing how hard it was to share things with their children.

So parents referring to their own childhood, teddybears, they didn't want their children to touch them or their phone, didn't want their child to touch their phone.

So sharing was a big deal and a separateness even where where parents they were almost all mums had partners.

They still spoke about themselves in the in the singular.

In the second group that had sustained that there was a huge amount of togetherness.

So people talked about their current situation as laughing, happy cuddling, a real closeness of bond and lots of happiness talked about in contrast to how it had been.

And a pair is around threat.

So in the first in the first set threat was very, very apparent.

They talked a lot about abuse in their own childhood.

And maybe the reason for intervention had clustered around abuses as well.

Huge amount of domestic violence, but also community violence too.

Abuse of children, abuse of children, abuse of the parents as children, colossal amount of stigma, how they felt about intervention when it first arrived, although they were all incredibly positive about individual practitioners who'd supported them and individual schools who supported them.

So there was this shift from a macro level sense of threat to a micro warmness, I would say, between people.

In the more successful group that threat had been replaced by calm.

Calm was something that came up so much on that left hand side.

You can see I've got Lisa 31.

That's because Lisa was a participant when she said the word calm for the first time.

She then followed it with 30 more utterances, descriptions of calm, signalling that this was very new for her.

She had never really experienced calm before.

The detail that went around that was strikingly chaotic and frightening.

So calm for Lisa was a massive thing.

And in the second group, those threats seemed to have been replaced by calm.

They contrasted this themselves.

Learning and change was huge here.

As I said before, I think there's a difference between sort of learning, by rote learning to be able to reproduce expectations and learning in a way which is truly transformational.

So the first set, they talked a lot about blocks to learning how they struggle to understand their new perception of what a good parent was contrasted with their previous parenting approaches, shall we say, but also how their own parents are treated them as children, trying to reconcile all of that really complex.

In the second group, learning was very much in the context of others.

It was a huge amount of reflection here within themselves, within their family groups, also with their friends and with their support workers as well.

Calm, I've mentioned, but in the second group, we had a real calm mastery narrative, they portray themselves as ease with their mothering.

They were knowledgeable about their child, self-assured and self is expert.

So really striking kind of contrast between the two groups.

It's taking me again, I'm sorry, there we go.

OK, I'm just going to say this is slightly, slightly animated.

This is all the theoretical stuff, OK?

And I just wanted to sort of flag how these arrive.

I'm quite proud of my animation.

It's going remarkably well.

There we go.

So at the top.

I've got these these are the four enablers, so peers and allies and the peer group was this community of practise where parents were able to find acceptance.

They were engaging in reflection.

They were able to change their perspective.

So all of the parents, maybe one didn't, but virtually everybody said they weren't like me those other people, but at least I know now they've got it worse than me.

Or they'd say they won't like me, but I think, you know, I don't know how they coped, so they weren't unkind, but they'd use that peer forum and very specifically to gain a different perspective.

A few of them had made really close friends, but the majority had distanced themselves.

And even talking about their friends, they were still saying, well, you know, she's always like that.

She's not like me.

So there was some other thing going on.

But for a purpose, the allyship was where people hadn't just said, well done, you doing a great job.

They had literally joined with that parent and borrowed her strategies.

And this was a massively high compliment coming from a place where they been criticised, where members of their own family had literally said, well, you didn't behave like that when you were a child.

I don't know why.

You just don't sort it out.

To those same people saying, you know, actually, I don't this is great.

I think I can use this somewhere else.

Stories of people using their strategies in their workplaces with other grandchildren and so on.

So really important in developing that mastery kind of competence narrative.

The Strategies themselves that I looked at were really simple.

They were visual and physical.

People talked about having them tattooed on them.

They were stuck on the fridge.

They were decreed as moments, family moments, drama surrounding these things like these are our rules.

It ends now and we start afresh.

So there was a real taking hold, which was possible because they were simple, reduced mantras.

And this all basically seemed to encourage a mastery narrative, which we can say around language of confidence and self efficacy and so on.

And we know that narrative is incredibly important and self identity.

It's how we kind of pivot, how we process and understand the world.

So I mentioned about questions about schools.

I felt this was really important because, yes, parents were saying some things that sounded very negative, on the other hand, they also said school was absolutely crucial and it seemed to represent a space, a really emotional space, in which they could feel accepted, supported, defensive, criticised, in opposition a whole range of emotions.

But what all of that that's so intense that all of that signalled the importance of school and families lives.

So we thought about this.

I got all my chummed in Katie and others got involved.

At this point.

We got some money from the TRIF.

Thank you very much, Leila.

And we got out there mainly by Zoom and spoke to 28 school leaders across England.

And we've had some really key findings here about how schools are perceiving their role with families.

It feels like quite a pivotal change and also some really specific things around covid.

We also asked some stuff around professional curiosity, which leads on from a paper that Katie Cramphorn and I have just got out, which is on its way as we speak, flying through cyberspace.

Any minute now they keep telling us.

So we wanted to know how do schools experience and respond to complex family needs.

What's accounts for those reports of high levels of text and has anything changed?

So we talk to a few early years people, but mainly secondary and primary head teachers and senior teachers, anyone and pastoral leads anyone with a key possible lead in the school.

We used a reflexive approach and we had four very clear narratives that came up from the schools.

First of all, schools, this teams within schools appear to be incredibly important.

There are things here that I don't really have time to go into today.

That's probably for another day, but it's around how much support and supervision is in schools where it comes from and the reliance and interdependency within school communities.

So on the plus side, absolutely wonderful.

The strength of relationships there is really apparent.

The downside is that everybody and this is also something Katie and I found in our paper, they all call it luck.

And you have to question, well, what happens when that luck runs out.

So there is a precariousness within that as well.

And a lot of insider outsider perspectives.

But in terms of the families, these are the things that I want to focus on a bit more.

Firstly, as one school said, we never close a case, and this sense of schools being very much a constant in children and family lives was really pivotal in what schools were telling us.

When we asked them what would they do for families given the budget, if their dreams no holds barred, what would you do?

What would you create?

Would you fund all those external agencies so you can just teach or would you bring those resources in yourself?

Only one of our participants schools said they would they would source externally, all of the others said, give us the stuff, we're here, we're constant.

We see them every day, we know what they need.

And schools have never been more needed than they are now in the current time.

They relate that to the drop in in services outside as well.

And there was this real sense that schools really know their families.

They keep meticulous details on their families and they have a knowledge of their families like no other service does, which is absolutely the case has reported that the vast majority or they describe 70 percent of their time as working with families.

And that class teaching was really the job of the class teachers.

And they did acknowledge that although family work was incredibly a huge priority, they also had what they described in some cases as an ulterior motive because it got the family into the school and therefore it got the children engaged in learning much more easily.

So it was a kind of I don't think anybody needs to feel embarrassed by that, though I think was a brilliant reason to get them into school.

But anyway, that was their philosophy, was that this is really worth our time.

Covid and the lost hidden curriculum, this was really about the school saying nobody talked about loss of learning.

So you listen to the government narrative, it's all about catching up and loss of learning and the exams fiasco.

You listen to the schools, none of them talked about loss of learning.

They all talked about mental health and wellbeing.

The younger children had lost a sense of how to play.

They were emotionally dysregulated coming back to school.

A lot of the primary said the children weren't ready to go up to their next class.

A lot of the secondary schools reported a real inversion in expectation.

I think this is really interesting.

And in connection with what the media reports have been around, widening the disadvantage gap.

Now, in no way am I saying that actually it's reduced in no way at all.

But there is some inversion.

So some of the children who had been previously very unsettled, of course, they've been brought into school.

They'd experienced school in a different way, perhaps more informally, with a different ratio with some of their peers missing.

And some of those children have settled down really well.

On the flip side, some of the most settled children had then been found crying in corridors, unable to articulate, just lacking the emotional literacy to explain their distress, completely overwhelmed.

So and to some extent, inversion.

And the other thing that we're going to draw out of this is that wherever you work in practise, you know, there's somebody more seasoned than you who's seen family breakdown or bereavement and self-harm and teenage pregnancy and mental health issues.

Somebody has already been there.

So if you're a young inexperienced practitioner, there is a wealth of knowledge with covid.

There is no master narrative.

There is no way in which we collectively have learnt to handle this.

So the evolution of these participants own understanding of what was going on in both personal and professional spaces whilst leading families through it was really key.

They also talked massively about their relationship with home and school.

In most accounts, they said that it was a benefit, that covid had meant they went to people's doors on equal terms.

They were offering food.

They weren't chasing people up on homework, they were taking resources.

And everybody had the same kind of relationship with school.

So they didn't feel or the schools felt the parents no longer felt stigmatised and that that seemed to have really benefited their relationships.

And the last one here, before you will lose the will to live me wobbling on, the emotional labour of teaching and school leadership, I'm sure there will be no surprise to anybody.

But the participants were so passionate about their role in their profession, their importance in school family lives, and that's amazing and commendable.

But they are carrying such a phenomenal amount of emotional labour and care for their children.

And whilst this constant presence in family lives is often seen as a positive, it also means that there is no switch off when other services close the case.

School is still there and there are huge issues about when those cases are are closed, only becoming a bigger issue, of course, with the cuts and so on strains.

So there's just some quotes for you.

If you want to have a think about any questions that you have.

I seem to remember I put something on here.

Oh yeah.

So that in a minute.

So we've got four from these sort of four areas, Sarah, a primary head.

These are not their real names of course saying'I think school is more crucial in the community now than ever before, they'll come to us for all sorts of things.' A parent, Lisa, this is the lady who talks about calm so much, she talked about a roundabout and this was referring to violence.

She refers to that as a motorway pile up.

'You just get over one and then you'd have another one and another one.' And I and I just think it's such a powerful way to understand what was happening for her.

A parent here, saying, yeah, 'I'm in a completely different place now and I could fix it.'  And this one here, which really conceptualises the difference in her life for intervention and after it.

So 'I nicknamed her [that's her daughter] the Devil in a sundress, because she was horrible.

We were absolutely petrified.

I was scared.

I thought she would go off her nut, it was really, really tough, really tough.

But our home life now is we laugh.

We laugh so much and she will cuddle me and she confide to me and she's like my mini best mate.

And if anyone had said to me four years ago, things are going to turn around and you're going to be so close, I'd have gone, you're lying.' So this wonderful move from a real disbelief and how much better things have been.

So where do we go from here?

I don't know.

I've got too many choices.

We have not yet got the voices of children and young people.

We have not we have not got enough voices from black and brown communities they are really underrepresented.

And so with the dads, this is predominantly stories of white women.

And we do need to think about that and also social care and help.

They have been in here in different ways, but they haven't been captured as a data set yet.

So there is also potential, I think, to shape these findings into practise in ways.

But I would say please do ask lots of questions, get in touch.

It's all about good chats and I'll give myself a break and you.

thank you so much.

We really don't need a break.

That was very interesting, very well presented.

And yes, everything you've prepared, all the slides were very clear.

So I often say that, you know, it requires a lot of work to present things in a simple way.

Well done for that.

Well done.

Also for your quite impressive set of data and all the interviews conducted with your colleagues during the pandemic.

That was not an easy time.

And still you managed to do that.

That's really very good.

Questions are coming into the chatbox but I have a first question for you, which is actually a very simple one.

It might matter what's a family, how do you how do you define a family?

That's a brilliant question.

So because of how we were going to get hold of these families, I say we that was me actually, at that point, I had a relationship with early help, they were gatekeeper's.

So they had a letter from me that they could send to anybody identified as having the case had had to be not going to social care because of the possibilities around safeguarding and getting messy around proceedings.

So they had to have been closed in that way.

And so basically it was their choice.

And I know that there are issues there.

So there's a whole thing about gatekeepers and who is selected.

And that might also have some bearing on the fact that these were all predominantly white British families.

There were a couple of European parents, but they were virtually all white.

There was one dad.

So there were other things to uncover.

And I think that notion of family basically came down to who was the primary care of the child.

But I know it's not that simple.

Yeah, surely it's very complicated, especially in a city like Portsmouth.

Well the fact that it's very white, and again, tell me if you if you agree or not, it's also the demographic of the city isn't it?


Yeah, absolutely.

And about accessibility issues as well.

And who is so they could only give me people who access their service, the very, very narrow parameters.

So there are definite gaps, but also we're not the most multicultural city.

So, you know, something to investigate.



Thank you very much.

We have a question from our colleague Sarah Atkins.

Sarah's done a lot of work on child and children, you know, wellbeing, so I'm sure she has a great question.

Sarah the floor is yours.

Hi thank you for that Emma That was really interesting.

I noticed that at the start of the presentation, there was more of an emphasis on how these different families, in varying degrees of need, would be viewed by social workers.

And then we moved on to how schools engage with them.

And I was just thinking about that for different tiers you were talking about and how maybe tier three was less early help, more early intervention kind of the terminology is kind of not there.

But what I thought was interesting was I don't know if you came across this, but there was a piece on BBC Radio 4 Women's Hour, I think it was early September, talking about parent blame and.

Oh, yeah, I don't know if you've come across.

but what they were, it was pretty much from the perspective of the parents, it was talking about perceptions of the social work sector in that and this kind of when you talked about the four different tiers that chimed with me and it reminded me of this piece from the radio because they were interviewing certain parents of children with either behavioural challenges or very bad learning challenges and how a lot of the time pleas for help or requests for support early on were either not available or the mechanism, the structure was not there legally, so it was either care order or nothing at all.

It was quite zero sum.

And in terms of the four tiers, I just I thought to myself, maybe the reason the relationships between schools and parents is so much better that perhaps the and in this covid period, perhaps because social with amongst some parents, the social work sector might perhaps be perceived as more of a threat than the schools would that chime with your experiences?


I mean, schools talked a lot about that.

And also the thing about early help is that it's technically voluntary.

So if you offered help at early help stage and the thresholds are incredibly high, so, you know, it's early help is what they're called in Portsmouth.

There is some variation in terminology.

And personally, I think that's a political statement.

It doesn't reflect the level of need, but it's at a voluntary level.

It's before it's the bit before.

Social services have no option but to get involved because a child's life is at risk.

You know, so we're talking about a very high level of need.

But because it's non-statutory, they do still have to get parents consent.

And so a lot of the work that's going on with schools is building up that trust in order that if there is a service on offer, that it might be accepted because parents can technically turn it down.

I still think that that is really shrouded in this sort of presentation.

And parents who know the system might well be fearful that if they turn that down, then then things are only going to escalate.

And, you know, and it it would be the case that it would be recorded on the file as a service not taken up.

And there is a chronology that's built up.

So over time, if professionals are worried and families consistently turn down support, that does become more of an issue and not less of an issue.

So the voluntary nature and quite what early help is, I think is a it's a massive project all of its own.

But your point about schools being more accessible and less stigmatised, I think is very pertinent.

And it's part of what the schools were saying was, you know, we're here.

People understand what we stand for.

We can communicate who we are.

They know us.

We can build it up over time.

So they are in a brilliant position.

Just they're not they don't have the resources they deserve in order to do that work.

So, yeah, thank you.

I agree.


So Emma, another question for me.

Do you have international comparisons?

Have you worked with colleagues internationally?

Do you see similar situation or do you find that relatively specific?

Not not yet Leila, any invitations out there.

That would be great.

A lot of the practise that's regarded as being very good is from Australia, such as triple P parenting.

But one of the criticisms is always it sort of set in these big open plan Australian houses where they seem to have a lot more space than if you have a bed flat in Portsmouth.

And so some of the kind of transferability might be a little bit questionable sometimes.

So it would be really interesting to actually do some work around that.

But so far it's just very much UK and most of it has been local, actually.

So I will work to that extent that Portsmouth is actually a very good laboratory of the UK.

Yeah, very good.

Another question, because when I was hearing you talking about how the schools have somehow reclaim, you know, their sort of functions and nature.

What about the online?

You say that a little bit during the presentation, but all the online schooling etc.

How is it approached by these parents and these children actually?

Well, one of the other things the school said was were attendance figures had improved since coming out of lockdown.

So the same parents who struggle to get their children to school before covid couldn't wait to get them to school after they had to homeschool them.

So that's kind of interesting.

And I think, you know, people did heads did talk about real massive stress on families and being really worried about how parents were coping at home.

Huge overcrowding issues at home.

You know, you've got no space and your home schooling children in the middle of covid, you know, the stress was was, you know, off its head.

So, you know, I think they were realistic about some families just not being able to access that in the way that they wanted them to be able to.

But a lot of vulnerable children were brought into school.

We know some schools that I can't think that what the figure was around a third or more children coming in in the as we went through the year, you know, less so in the first lockdown.

But by the time things got going, there were more and more children coming in.

You know, significantly more than that by the last one.

I've lost count of how many we've had.

Yeah, sure, I see a number of participants smiling, so I'm sure you know why.

Well, we couldn't wait for the children to go back to school.

So tell me, what is next then?

What's the next project to expand your study?

Yeah, so there is a huge amount of data to write up.

So I think in order to get some traction, that needs to happen first.

But then it is about designing the onward journey really and looking for suitable funding for that can help.

Well, I would really love to see happiness get some some further data behind this that will, you know, evidence, whether it's something a way of thinking that would actually help families and services.

And again and again, what families are talking about is not costly resources.

It's people it's people relating and and helping those families feel that it's all right to to need help and ask for help.

And it is all right as long as the help is there.

Of course that's a bit of a dichotomy as well, that the people are anxious about what services will be there.

And that's a very, very real daily occurrence for schools.

So, yeah, I don't know really some of the planning to There's plenty to do and it's going
to be my last question, unless we have more questions, because I'm obviously conscious of time as well.

But you had a slide on the sort of theoretical underpinning of your work and you're very much into theory as well.

So to what extent your data questions certain theoretical approaches that you've read and maybe you adopted in the past?

Yeah, so I think there's a real there's a real tension, which is quite an exciting one to explore.

I think that there's an argument to say that the stigma that families experience is, it's a massive obstacle and a lot of this stuff around social rejection, I think really bears that out, that it has a very deep psychological impact and that it's going to relook at theories of transformative learning.

You know, that is that is going to get in the way of people's ability to engage and transform through that.

And we're going to get stuck at that superficial level.

And then there's this other narrative which is about children's rights, and that actually, if parents aren't able to provide for their children, the state does have to intervene and doesn't always have the time to nurture the relationships in that idealistic way, because children are growing up all the time and are all vulnerable or at risk in some of these situations.

And it's not about imparting blame, but there are sometimes those judgements have to be called.

And so I think there's a real tension between some of the theory and the practise.

There's a reality check, I suppose, in what has to be a priority and how we reconcile some of those things in that context which is urgent.

And it's only getting more urgent in terms of our contemporary the contemporary strain.

So there's sort of neo liberalism in one corner in the critique of neo liberalism and in the other corner there's a kind of yes, but children growing up in families in some cases, which are highly risky and are causing a lot of damage.

And some of the stories, although they were historic in today's context, were really alarming about what had happened.

So there is a tension there.

I think that we need to wrestle with and I think we need to have some more conversations about the experiences of schools and perceptions of schools versus social care and early help and vice versa, and still reconcile these issues of levels of text and criticism that have put families in a position of wanting to hide from the school gates.

So there are some real kind of moral issues probably and value based judgements about who we are as a society and those people that act within it.

Mm hmm.

That's fascinating.

So you see, you have a lot for your next research.


I know I know, I do! And this is certainly something we're very interested to hear with the sort of tension between what we are, who we are as a citizens, the right, the ethics around the society and the democracy we live in.


And I know a number of colleagues in the laws school in particular, but not only are working on that on children's rights in particular.

So thank you so much, Emma.

That was really, really interesting.

Everybody, you know how to reach out.

Emma has a number of publications in preparation.

A lot more to come, I'm sure.

So feel free to reach out.

Again very much thank you for the great presentation and I hope to see you very, very soon.

I'd like to thank the team as well for supporting me to prepare these webinars as usual, I'm thinking about Olga Barnaby He and Claudia in particular.

I'll see you very soon.

I want to say that next week we have the first Culture and Heritage Week of the University of Portsmouth with plenty of events online and physical.

You will receive the programme.

It's going to be out today.

A lot of communication from us on social media, on the website of the university.

So try to join us because a number of the events we organised very much relate to the conversation we have today, how to engage with them while the people of the city and beyond, obviously the country and internationally.

Thank you so much, everyone, and hope to see you very soon then.

Thank you.

Thanks a lot, Emma.

Thanks for coming.

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Early years education

In this area of expertise, we're exploring the experiences and opportunities that play a role in the development of young children.

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