A social pedagogical intervention to support children in care: Back on Track


  • Angie Hart University of Brighton
  • Buket Kara University of Brighton https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4424-240X
  • Rochelle Morris Blackpool Council
  • Barbara Mezes University of Brighton
  • Sharon Butler Blackpool Council
  • Craig McKenzie Blackpool Council
  • Rosie Gordon University of Brighton
  • Josh Cameron University of Brighton
  • Suna Eryigit-Madzwamuse University of Brighton




children in care, resilience, intervention, school exclusion, social pedagogy


This paper focuses on an intervention project, Back on Track (BoT), implement­ed as a part of the Resilience Revolution: HeadStart Blackpool (RR:HS) programme in the UK. Whilst it is a famous family holiday resort, Blackpool is also one of the most deprived towns in England. This makes life challenging for young people (YP) to maintain wellbeing and reach their potential. Blackpool also has an above average and growing proportion of children in care. They are at a higher risk of developing mental health difficulties and of being permanently excluded from school. BoT aimed to support fostered children who have been referred by schools or social workers to the project for having emotional and behavioural struggles. As a consequence of their difficulties, they were at risk of permanent exclusion from the school. The intervention was grounded in a social pedagogical approach and Resil­ient Therapy. Resilience Coaches (i.e., wellbeing practitioners) had the role of enhancing com­munication between YP, family, social care, and school, whilst working with YP to co-produce coping strategies. Between November 2016 and June 2021, 39 YP (61.5% male) aged 10 to 15 (M = 12.74, SD = 1.60) received BoT support over a period lasting between 4 months to 2.5 years (M = 14 months, SD = 6.8 months). Using a mixed-methods design, this paper explored the BoT implementation. YP completed questionnaires before and after BoT. Triangulation interviews were conducted with a randomly selected YP, foster parent and the Resilience Coach. Results showed the benefit of equipping YP with ‘resilient moves’ and joining up sys­tems to work together and better support YP and families. YP reported reduced difficulties, improved strengths (i.e., prosocial behaviour) and educational outcomes. This helped build resilience and reduce the risk of permanent exclusions from school. Policy and practice impli­cations for children in care are discussed.

Author Biographies

Angie Hart, University of Brighton

Professor Angie Hart is an academic and practitioner passionate about co-productive resilience research and practice, working with and alongside children, young people, families, and adults failed by wider systems. She is a Professor at the University of Brighton, Director of the Centre of Resilience for Social Justice and Director of Boingboing, She comes from a disadvantaged background herself and is also the adoptive parent of three children with complex needs adopted from foster care. She co-leads the development of the ‘whole town’ Resilience Revolution approach in Blackpool, which puts young people at the heart of things.

Buket Kara, University of Brighton

BUKET KARA is a Senior Research Fellow at the School of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Brighton, where she is currently evaluating the Resilience Revolution: Blackpool HeadStart programme. Her research interests include individual, familial, and contextual risk and protective factors for children’s development and well-being, and evidence-based intervention programs and policies to promote resilience in children and adolescents at risk. She is a member of the Centre of Resilience for Social Justice and a volunteer at Boingboing.

Rochelle Morris, Blackpool Council

ROCHELLE MORRIS works in HeadStart Blackpool’s research team, looking at different ways that resilience and social justice theories influence training and development in local government and community organisations. Rochelle is passionate about supporting and enabling young people to cope with transitional periods; new schools, new homes and new opportunities. She is proud to be an Independent Visitor for one of ‘Our Children’, the name given to young people in the care of Blackpool Local Authority. Rochelle has previously worked in Higher Education across North West UK, as a pastoral welfare officer, academic development tutor and an employability adviser.

Barbara Mezes, University of Brighton

BARBARA MEZES is a Senior Research Fellow at the School of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Brighton. Her current work focuses on evaluating the HeadStart programme in Blackpool. Dr. Mezes completed her PhD at the Spectrum Centre for Mental Health Research, Lancaster University in 2018. Her PhD project focused on understanding the personal recovery concept and recovery experiences of people with bipolar disorder. Previously, Dr. Mezes worked in clinical and community mental health settings and in voluntary capacity with children, adolescents and adults with caring responsibilities and/or mental health problems.

Sharon Butler, Blackpool Council

Sharon Butler is an Advanced Practitioner for The Resilience Coach Team in HeadStart Blackpool. She was born and bred in Blackpool and is passionate about making Blackpool a more Resilient Community. She has over 30 years of experience in working alongside young people and their families in a range of settings.

Craig McKenzie, Blackpool Council

Craig McKenzie is an Apprentice for HeadStart Blackpool, working closely with the Resilience Coaches (i.e., wellbeing practitioners) supporting young people and families. Before becoming an apprentice in the programme, he received targeted support as one of ‘Our Children’ (this is the name Blackpool Council give for children in care) offered by HeadStart Blackpool.

Rosie Gordon, University of Brighton

Rosie Gordon is a PhD student working with HeadStart’s Research and Evaluation Team to evidence the effectiveness and sustainability of the Resilience Revolution. She is proud to say that she went to school in Blackpool; now, she wants to be able to give back to the town that nurtured her love for learning.

Josh Cameron, University of Brighton

JOSH CAMERON is an academic at the University of Brighton. His job title is Reader in occupational therapy, health, and rehabilitation. He is passionate about getting involved with people to research and change things that matter to them. He leads the adult strand of the University of Brighton’s Centre of Resilience for Social Justice. He is also a member of ‘Boingboing’ the resilience research and practice network. He was a co-developer of the Building Resilience for Wellbeing and Recovery course at the Sussex Recovery College. Dr. Cameron is co-leading the research evaluation of the Blackpool’s Resilience Revolution.

Suna Eryigit-Madzwamuse, University of Brighton

SUNA ERYIGIT-MADZWAMUSE is a social scientist and resilience researcher with social justice orientation; works across disciplines (education, psychology, public health) and levels of a system (individual, family, school, community, and culture). She is the Deputy Director of the Centre of Resilience for Social Justice and leads CRSJ’s work on/with children, families and schools. She is a co-leader of the Resilience Revolution, co-leading its research and evaluation in Blackpool.


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