Memorandum submitted by School-Home Support
Throughout our evidence School-Home
Support advocates the early identification, intervention and prevention
of problems. We illustrate the effectiveness of our approach with
evidence from our work in schools.
Our recommendations pertain to family
and parenting support, improving attendance and reducing exclusions.
We recommend that the most vulnerable
children, young people and parents/carers form a consistent and
trusting relationship with an un-timetabled, trained and independent
professional who liaises between the home and the school.
We recommend that a school home link
worker is essential for the Designated Teacher to deliver the
role in its entirety.
We recommend that the best practice
arises from a whole-school approach to improving attendance and
reducing exclusions in which the role of a school home link worker
supports the vulnerable young person and his/her parents/carers.
School-Home Support (SHS) works with disadvantaged,
vulnerable and disaffected children to help them overcome the
barriers that get in the way of their learning. We provide independent,
highly-trained workers in schools. Across SHS, specialist support
is provided in the following areas:
school attendance and punctuality;
curriculum support; and
supporting for families/carers.
SHS currently has workers in 150 schools in
13 London boroughs, five local authorities in Yorkshire and the
Humber, and new work starting in Darlington and Nottingham. We
were also commissioned by the London Borough of Barking &
Dagenham to deliver their Parent Support Advisers pilot in 28
Our workers regularly support children in care
in schools, and we also run a specialist pilot project funded
by the Department of Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) for
looked-after children in the London Borough of Southwark, City
of York and the East Riding of Yorkshire. This project, running
from July 2006 to July 2009, is delivering the following kinds
of support to looked after children across a local authority area:
Support with school organisation
and study skills.
Specific support with literacy or
Help to manage in the classroom and/or
Development of positive peer relations
Work on behaviour and anger management.
Support to attend and participate
in after-school activities.
The pilot project is being independently evaluated
and as well as measuring improved outcomes for looked after children
and their carers receiving support, the evaluation is also attempting
to measure the "added value" of a project led by a voluntary
organisation rather than by the local authority. Much of the evidence
provided in this submission is based on the interim evaluation
findings of this project.
1. Family and Parenting Support
1.1 One of the key recommendations of the
Care Matters: Time for Change strategy for local authorities
is that they should improve their support for parents and carers
in order to help children to stay with their families, which is
what they want. Early intervention is a fundamental part of this
strategy and a key principle of SHS's work. Our approach recognises
that children may experience a range of needs at different times
in their lives and all children require access to high quality
1.2 SHS endorses the recommendation that
support has to be sophisticated (Para 2.2) and include "intensive
interventions where family difficulties are complex and enduring".
In both our core work, developed over nearly 25 years of working
in schools, and in our specialist project we see some children
who are at higher risk of poor outcomes. These children with additional
needs receive targeted support from services such as education,
health, social services. It is at this point that the School-Home
Support worker (SHSw), in partnership with the school where they
are based, is able to offer interventions that can respond to
those additional needs. If this response takes places at an early
enough stage this prevents their situation deteriorating.
1.3 "Parents in the general population
with lower levels of difficulty wanted services to be accessible,
professional, responsive and respectful" (Para 2.17). These
are often the parents/carers that SHSws and Parent Support Advisers
(PSAs) often work with. Key to our approach is building a mutually
respectful relationshipa partnership. From this basis we
are able to work in a supportive, albeit challenging, way. We
focus on the strengths the parent/carer brings and on building
With a mutually respectful relationship in place
we can tackle difficult issues together, offering and supporting
parents in options and choices to resolve themdoing things
with them, not to them. We recognise that many parents have had
poor experiences of parenting themselves and do need to learn
strategies and skills to ensure their children have the opportunity
to achieve their potential. To get the best results we focus on
what is important to them, while making sure that the needs of
their children are being addressed.
1.4 We use a wide range of strategies and
models, selecting the most appropriate for the particular situation.
We concentrate on trying to find a favourable balance between
stressful life events and protective resources. Examples of our
Decreasing exposure to adversityrisk
orientated approaches: these can include keeping safe programmes;
how to deal with bullying; prevention of teenage pregnancy.
Augmenting protective factors using
asset based approaches eg school readiness programme; friendship
groups; breakfast clubs; parenting groups; transition programmes.
Our response to the needs of children and their
families is based on their needs, we can respond creatively and
flexibly because of our non-statutory role.
1.5 An outcome of our project is "for
carers of looked after children to be better able to support their
child's learning in a consistent and sustained way". The
evaluators have found after one year that:
"SHS workers can play an important role
in liaising between the carers and school and between the carers
and social services. One foster carer described the SHS worker
as acting as a `bridge' with both teachers and social services".
2.1 Typically, in our pilot project "the
children and young people are receiving one-to-one input from
SHSws either in school or at home. This is usually for one hour
per week or fortnight, occasionally twice a week" (Project
Evaluation, McNeish D and Percy-Smith J, 2007).
2.2 Schools valued the "consistency
and reliability" of the SHSws. The evaluators found that
effective communication is vital where the SHSw is only one of
many professionals involved with the child.
One case study noted that one of the children
in the project:
"|has made good progress in relation to
reading, one of the issues that the SHS intervention was designed
to address. His recent school report was very good with good scores
for effort and behaviour; he has not been excluded at all."
Another case study, about twin boys, notes:
"(the) boys have made good progress and,
if the current rate of progress continues, they should be on track
to achieve level 4 in all subjects at key stage 2. Perhaps more
significantly is the fact that when they arrived at the school
they were at risk of exclusion; now that is not the case. The
SHS worker has worked to find solutions to particular problems.
For example a number of behavioural issues arose because the boys
found it hard to behave appropriately when faced with unstructured
time such as school lunch break. As a result the SHS worker organised
for them to attend a lunch club. The SHS worker has actively supported
the foster carers both in their dealings with the school and with
the social worker especially over contact arrangements with the
2.3 Our evaluators have identified the problem
of multiple professional involvement in the care of looked after
children and SHS believes that when the role of Designated Teacher
put onto a statutory footing this may help to address the problem
(see point 2.2).
The SHSw could have an important role in supporting
the Designated Teacher. This could include carrying out some of
the suggested duties (eg Home-school links) as recommended by
Dame Pat Collarbone's working group.
The SHSw is well placed to be the member of
staff recommended in Para 4.41 "who is able to coordinate
a package of support that best helps that pupil" because
he/she may well have the best relationship with both the child
and the parent or foster carer. Our evaluation report found that:
"a number of case study children commented on how much they
enjoyed their time with their SHS worker" however the evaluation
also noted "it takes time to build up the trusting relationships
needed for the work to make a difference to outcomes".
2.4 Our evaluation report found that "where
the relationship between the School Home Support worker (and the
school) is effective then the feedback from the school has been
extremely positive". In one of the case studies the input
from the SHSw was described as "invaluable". The report
says: "Effective communication is often easier within the
primary school setting; in the larger and more complex environment
of the secondary school this can be more of a challenge but can
be facilitated where there is a specific liaison teacher|with
whom the SHS worker can liaise".
3. Attendance and Exclusions
3.1 Increasing attendance and reducing exclusions
are areas of specific expertise for SHS. Our experience shows
that strategies for addressing these issues are at their most
effective when they a part of a whole-school policy with whole
school (all staff) commitment, rather than targeting specific
groups of vulnerable children (ie looked after children). Some
of the whole-school strategies our SHSws use are:
Ongoing monitoring of registers,
"meeting and greeting" in the playground, and tackling
1st day of absence home contact.
Talking directly to older children
about issues of attendance.
Running attendance clubs for younger
children, including the use of certificates, cups and other rewards
given at assemblies for improvement.
Congratulations letters to parents
and carers, no matter how small the progress.
3.2 SHS is working in partnership with the
London Borough of Islington, where the primary schools in 2005-06
had the highest rate of absenteeism in the country: 7.3%, compared
to an average of 5.6% in inner London. The Head of Education Welfare
and Social Work, Ian Norman-Bruce says, "It has a team approach.
The EWOs take on the hard core cases, while the SHSw is seen as
more approachable, building trust with a family."
3.3 Activities have included a conference,
to which primary head teachers were invited where SHSws explained
the strategies for boosting attendance that did and did not work
and the establishment of a primary accountability board. This
includes professionals from education welfare, learning mentors,
extended schools, the police, the school improvement team and
SHS staff. The board meets regularly and provides an opportunity
to compare experiences among different services, looking at what
each is doing to support attendance. No more than five schools
are discussed at each meeting.
3.4 Exclusions can be averted via a number
of early intervention strategies that can prevent situations developing
that might lead to behaviour that warrants exclusion (see 1.4
above). Children in care in mainstream education are not picked
out but are with a range of children or young people who are thought
by their teachers and/or their parents/carers or themselves to
be likely to benefit from these sorts of groups.
4.1 SHS work has been independently evaluated
and, as well as successfully encouraging young people's aspirations,
was found to make sound economic sense. New Philanthropy Capital's
report, (Brookes M, Goodall E, Heady L, (2007) Misspent Youth)
says, "School-Home Support's ... approach is tailored to
the needs of children but can include addressing problems at home
such as domestic violence or substance abuse, tackling behavioural
problems and improving self-esteem. Research shows that this type
of work can reduce exclusions by 25%. It is not possible to identify
with certainty which pupils will go on to be excluded, so School-Home
Support works with a broad range of children. The cost of successfully
preventing exclusion works out at £28,555. For every £1
spent on School-Home Support, there is a net saving of £1.24.
For all preventable exclusions, this represents a net saving of
£90 million per annum".
4.2 Our holistic, child-centred approach
works to support the most disadvantaged children and their families.
In particular, the forming of a relationship with an adult (who
is not a teacher) in school is recommended as helpful for all
vulnerable children and particularly for children in care. It
is this that delivers the practical and emotional support that
external evaluation has found to be so effective.
5. Recommendations for action
5.1 A known, trusted adult is a vital conduit
between school and home for children in care and their foster
5.2 We recommend that government ensure
that untimetabled school home link workers are available to support
all vulnerable children, including children in care and their
5.3 We also recommend that all such school
home link workers receive appropriate professional training that
meets the national occupational standards set by the Children's
Workforce Development Council, Parenting UK and the TDA (Training
Development Agency). For example, SHS provides training to a wide
range of school staff from teaching assistants and office staff,
to head teachers and extended schools coordinators.
5.4 We recommend that school home link workers
can support the Designated Teacher in providing a link between
the children, foster carers, social workers and schools.
5.5 We recommend that whole-school, multi-agency
approaches to improving attendance and reducing exclusions will
work for all children and young people.
1 Working in Partnership with Parents, Hilton et
al 2002. Back