This report presents findings from a pilot evaluation of Placing an Advisory Teacher in Children’s Social Care. This research builds on a report What Works for Children’s Social Care (WWCSC) released in February 2020 which revisited 63 trials funded by the Education Endowment Foundation to determine what works in education for children who have had social workers. It resulted in WWCSC in collaboration with the Department for Education (DfE) to hold an open call for three school-based programmes which aim to increase educational attainment for children with a social worker, one of which being Placing an Advisory Teacher in Children’s Social Care.
Placing an Advisory Teacher in Children’s Social Care was designed and delivered by Bath and North East Somerset local authority. The project aimed to raise attainment, attendance, and pupil confidence and decrease school exclusions of a targeted cohort of children on a Children in Need (CiN) or Child Protection (CP) plan in schools across the local authority. The pilot was delivered to a targetted cohort of 70 CiN and CP pupils, from nursery to Year 11 across 35 education settings in the academic year 2020/21.
The delivery involved:
- Two part-time advisory teachers (one primary and one secondary specialist) with experience in trauma-informed practice and leadership experience in educational settings, were appointed to provide support to individual schools and social care teams
- An educational psychologist was recruited to deliver 22 hours of training and support across all schools
- £1,000 per pupil to deliver bespoke interventions where needed, often led by external organisations, such as one-to-one maths tuition or outdoor activities. The funds could also be used for technology or resources to support learning
- Additional support from the LA’s Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) team.
The evaluation was designed to answer the following key feasibility research questions:
- How is the programme implemented in practice?
- How does the programme complement or replicate existing provisions for this group of pupils?
- What are the challenges and enablers to intended delivery?
- Are all participating schools reached?
- What adaptations are made to delivery?
- Is the support acceptable to teachers and pupils, and how responsive are they?
Other Early indicators of promise, Readiness for trial and Costs research questions were also part of the evaluation design.
The evaluation combined qualitative methods with analysis of quantitative administrative data. Qualitative methods included interviews with advisory teachers, school staff, social workers and LA stakeholders. Administrative data was collected by the BANES Virtual Schools and included data on pupils’ academic progress, school attendance and exclusions.
- The independent role of advisory teachers as operating outside the school and social care teams facilitated the delivery and enabled them to sufficiently challenge schools. Barriers to delivery included a lack of capacity for schools to commit to the programme and communication challenges between social workers and schools.
- School staff believed that the support met pupils’ needs. Interventions were highly targeted and personalised and provided a ‘safe space’ outside of the normal classroom and the pupils’ home environments.
- School staff perceived pupils to be highly engaged with the bespoke interventions, particularly with therapeutic interventions. They thought this was because the interventions were designed to suit pupils’ individual needs and interests.
- Social workers found that families were generally happy with the additional support being made available to their children but only a few families engaged with the programme. Advisory teachers found it easier to engage parents when they were already acquainted through their previous roles or through a third party (e.g. through Child in Need (CIN) meetings).
- School staff, social workers and advisory teachers identified progress in children’s confidence and emotional resilience. They believed that the extra support, coupled with tailored provision, contributed to these positive outcomes.
- This was a small-scale programme which ran for one academic year and the evaluation was not designed to measure impact of the project compared with business-as-usual. However, descriptive analysis of the data was undertaken to look at data from the target cohort to establish trends on three key outcomes over the period of delivery.
- Average attendance improved among pilot pupils. While on average 74.4% pupils attended during the autumn term 2020/21, this increased to 86.7% in the summer term 2020/21. It increased to a greater extent for secondary school pupils (65.8% on average to 81.3%) than Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)/primary pupils (82.7% to 91.9%), although remained higher for the younger group.
- Unauthorised absences did not reduce for all groups across the pilot period. While they decreased substantially for secondary pupils from 14.9% in the autumn term to 7.8% in the summer term 2020/21, they rose slightly for primary pupils, from 3.1% to 4.0% in the same period.
- At the aggregate level, improvements to academic attainment occurred across all age groups and subject areas over the trial period. Interviews with school staff suggest that some pupils have exceeded academic expectations in various domains, including some older pupils with more complex needs.
- According to additional teacher assessments, nearly all pilot pupils made at least expected progress in English and maths. In English, more than half (52%) made expected progress over the period, while only one in four pupils (25%) made below expected progress.
- Scale-up for a full efficacy trial may be possible within a single LA by increasing the sample to incorporate a larger proportion of CIN and CP pupils within the LA. However, it may be desirable to implement and evaluate the trial across multiple LAs to benefit from an increased sample size and higher confidence in the generalisability of findings.
Conclusion and recommendations
Findings from the pilot evaluation suggest that the programme offers feasibility and initial evidence of promise. There are several refinements that could be made to the programme in order to optimise delivery:
- Refining pupil selection by strengthening the process of identifying pupils likely to most benefit from the programme. This would helpfully include a ‘deep dive’ into pupils’ circumstances based on a wider set of background data
- Creating closer collaboration between agencies around the child, including a greater emphasis on engaging families
- Clear communication of roles and responsibilities ensuring key stakeholders/ agencies are aware of programme requirements
- Providing school staff with guidance on bespoke interventions identifying suitable options for schools, especially for those pupils with the most complex needs.