Social Workers in School Scale-up

An evaluation which explores the impact of placing social workers in schools on children's social care outcomes and educational outcomes


Randomised controlled trial / In progress

Estimated completion

March 2023



Evaluated by

CASCADE, Cardiff University

Key Figures

Local authorities 21

Please note that the Trial Protocol has been updated twice to reflect the first extension of the Social Workers in School Scale-up programme from July 2022 to March 2023 and the second extension from March 2023 to January 2024. You can access the original and version 2 of the Trial Protocol from the Open Science Framework.

This study is an intervention which bases social workers in schools (SWIS) with the aim they work more effectively with education colleagues and with children and families. Education and Children’s Social Care (CSC) play a vital role in keeping children safe and promoting their wellbeing and the central idea is that having a social worker in a school can lead to better outcomes for children.
The study builds on three smaller feasibility studies (in Lambeth, Southampton, and Stockport in 2019) which found SWIS to be a promising approach and recommended it is explored further. The results of these pilots are published here. The scale-up has involved placing social workers in 21 local authorities across England.
The research design for the impact evaluation is a pragmatic cluster randomised controlled trial (RCT), which addresses the following primary and secondary research questions:

  • Primary research question: what is the impact of SWIS in reducing rates of Section 47 enquiries?
  • Secondary research questions –  what is the impact of SWIS on:
  • the rates of referral to Children’s Social Care and Section 17 assessments?
  • the number of days children spend in care?
  • educational attendance?

The study also includes an implementation and process evaluation which will explore how the scale-up is implemented across the participating local authorities and the extent to which this is as intended. The following questions will be addressed:

  • Is SWIS implemented as intended?
  • What evidence is there for the mechanisms of change identified in the logic model?
  • How does SWIS impact the wider social care system?

There will also be an economic evaluation, which will compare the cost-effectiveness of SWIS versus usual practice.