This report presents findings from a pilot evaluation of Transition Support, an initiative designed and delivered by Hartlepool Borough Council. The pilot provided support to children who were on a Child in Need (CiN) or Child Protection plan during their transition from primary to secondary school. It supported children who were in Year 5 and Year 6, however, the evaluation only included children who were in Year 6.
This research builds on a report we 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 our collaboration with the Department for Education (DfE) to hold an open call for three school-based programmes with aim to increase educational attainment for children with a social worker. Transition Support is one of the chosen programmes.
The delivery involved:
- Training for schools and social workers
- Providing an administrative tool for schools known as the Transition Planning Profile Tool (TPPT)
- Person-Centred Planning (PCP) meetings involving parents/carers, pupils, social workers and primary and secondary school staff.
The pilot was designed in 2019 and took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a significant impact on delivery and the evaluation. This is an important caveat to the findings.
The evaluation was designed to answer the following key feasibility research questions:
- How is Transition Support implemented in practice, and what adaptations are made to delivery?
- What are the challenges and enablers to delivering the support as intended?
- What is the school staff and child reach and dosage?
- Is Transition Support acceptable to school staff and children? How engaged are school staff and children with the support provided?
Other early indicators of promise and readiness for trial research questions were also part of the evaluation design.
The pilot evaluation adopted a mixed methods approach, which involved:
- Observations of Teacher training and Person-centred Planning (PCP) meetings
- Interviews with HBC pilot leads, school staff, social workers and pupils in Year 7
- Analysis of a pupil survey
- Analysis of administrative data including the Transition Planning Profile Tool (TPPT).
Evidence of feasibility
- Pilot activities were generally delivered as intended, with some adjustments
- High number of PCP meetings for secondary school staff was a key delivery challenge
- School staff found the training and the TPPT acceptable, but primary and secondary school staff were divided in views about PCP meetings
- Participant responsiveness was generally good, but social worker engagement and attendance was mixed.
Evidence of promise
- Information sharing between schools improved
- Ways of working between schools, social care teams and families saw limited improvements
- Evidence of positive outcomes for children was also limited.
Readiness for trial
- Logic model refinements
- Outcome measures
The findings suggest a number of refinements to address issues of feasibility and scalability:
- Consider whether the needs and expectations of secondary schools in relation to transition support are currently met and find ways to secure their buy-in
- Consider reviewing the format of PCP meetings and having a smaller subset with greater needs, as well as alternatives to PCP review meetings
- Review training and guidance for schools
- Clarify the role of social workers in the pilot and find ways to secure their engagement and attendance. Ensure that training for social workers takes place
- Clarify expectations for secondary schools around the types of targeted support activities they are expected to deliver, including guidance on the ideal number of sessions/hours. This would be alongside meeting individual children’s needs
- Increase capacity in the delivery team to take on administrative burden from school staff and to develop relationships with local social care teams.