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Gary Walker

Abstract

Educational outcomes of Looked After Children in England are lower compared to their non-Looked After peers, contributing to the reproduction of social inequality. The dominant research and policy discourse locates responsibility for this within the care system, including the attitudes and behaviour of staff. The Bourdieusian concepts of capital, field and institutional habitus provide a relevant theoretical framework for deepening understanding of mechanisms behind social reproduction. This paper explores the extent to which educational outcomes might be better understood using these theoretical lenses. Simultaneously, the study reflects upon the concept of a homogeneous institutional habitus. Twenty-eight education and social care professionals and two young people who had been in care took part in interviews. The findings indicate that a complex set of factors help explain educational outcomes of Looked After Children. The data also suggest that the concept of a uniform institutional habitus fails to fully reflect the reality of the social relations within the research sites. Instead, it is more accurate to speak of institutional nexus, characterised by a combination of consensus and contrast between the imperatives of the organisation and the disposition of individuals. Lessons for teachers of the findings are discussed.

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