This study is an evaluation of the Back to School Programme, delivered by Worcestershire Children First (WFC). This programme was developed to support families who were struggling with the return to school in September 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The key elements of this programme were a return to school assessment and planning tool, intensive personalised support, support to attend education, health and wellbeing sessions, and peer mentoring.
The aim of this evaluation was to understand if the programme worked in the way WCF expected it to, and to understand what helped and hindered the delivery of the programme.
How We Went About It
What Works for Children’s Social Care carried out an online survey with parents and young people. Telephone interviews were also conducted with Back to School Family Support Workers, school staff and parents. Administrative data was also collected from WCF and some schools.
- Back to School Family Support Workers supported families with strategies tailored to their individual needs, and signposted resources. They also gave advice to schools and supported multi-agency relationships and made referrals to other services where appropriate.
- Parents and schools appreciated the intensity of the support provided by the Family Support Workers. Parents also liked the positive nature of the plans, and having strategies to use and goals to work towards.
- Only a small proportion of families made use of the virtual workshops and only a small number of pupils were able to access peer mentoring due to being introduced late in the programme.
- Building good relationships with families and school staff, and providing enough information were particularly important for the success of the programme. Appropriate training and supervision for Back to School Family Support Workers was also important.
- If the Back to School Programme is implemented in another local authority, they would need to increase school attendance by an additional day per child to make the intervention cost effective for children in secondary school.
Future delivery of Back to School should continue to offer a high intensity, flexible and family-driven intervention, and work closely with multi-agency partners. Delivery may be improved by more in-depth initial training for Back to School Family Support Workers, and more information and support for school staff. Mentoring should be available from the outset, and the quality, suitability and accessibility of virtual workshops should be reviewed.
Next Steps/What Next?
Future evaluation should consider the impact of Back to School on school attendance, and whether Back to School can be delivered in Local Authorities other than the one in which it was developed.