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The Educational Attainment of Looked After Children - Local Authority Pilot Projects: Final Research Report

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APPENDIX 2. Summaries of the 18 pilot projects

Appendix 2.1. Aberdeen City

Project Overview

Aberdeen City Council's pilot project aimed to raise the attainment of the looked after children within the authority, as well as to ensure that effective working practices were in place for looked after children in relation to education. The pilot focused on providing additional support for children looked after at home and developing personalised packages of support for those accommodated in two residential units. The project was partially able to meet its aims, and counts among its successful elements having on board motivated staff members, good sharing of information and good relationships between young people and staff, as well as raised attendance and an intervention package that offered young people the chance to engage with a wide range of learning opportunities.

How did the project come about?

The initial project ideas were based on the fact that the authority had identified children and young people looked after at home as attaining poorly, relative to their accommodated peers, and therefore the project leaders wanted to offer additional support to these children and young people and their families and schools. The project leaders also felt that they needed to involve those children and young people living in the city's children's homes. Barnardo's had also indicated to the project leaders that they had been concerned about the children and young people in their children's home who were not receiving a full time education, and they therefore wanted to be part of a partnership bid.

What was the project about?

The original proposal had three strands, but only two progressed. In Strand 1 the additional support for children looked after at home focused on family liaison work and linked with designated teachers to examine reasons for non-attendance and devise strategies to support attendance within the local authority. In Strand 2 personalised packages of support were created for children and young people living in two residential units. This strand was developed in conjunction with Barnardo's.

Who were the participants?

The Strand 1 participants were children and young people looked after at home who were pupils at one secondary school and three associated primaries. In Strand 2 the participants were young people identified from two medium-to-long term residential units within the authority.

How was the project staffed?

Strand 1 involved one full time project manager, one project strategist, one project assistant and one dedicated family liaison officer. There were also four designated teachers for looked after children and young people within the target schools who offered intermittent help. An educational researcher and an educational psychologist were also involved in this strand. Strand 2 involved two teachers and one principal support for learning worker on a full time basis. They worked with three support workers, two full-time and one part-time. As part of the partnership arrangement, a full time project co-ordinator and two teaching assistants were funded by Barnardo's. The staff involved in this strand had access (for advice) to a teacher of looked after children, a specialist looked after children's nurse and a counsellor.

What has the project judged to be the successful outcomes?

In relation to Strand 1, the staff members involved were said to be extremely motivated, a fact that came across clearly to all involved in the project. They played a key role in feeding back information to the project leaders about the barriers they faced in working within the education system in relation to looked after children and young people. The Family Liaison Officer was able to successfully engage with the families involved, and the project leaders believe that this was because she was based neither in social work nor education and was regarded as a 'neutral' point of contact who acted without a specific agenda. A postal scheme initiative whereby educational books were delivered to primary school aged looked after children, was also seen as successful. While these children were not deemed to be in need of significant support by the project, this initiative ensured that they were not left out of the wider plan to raise attainment (in this case focusing on reading levels). The initiative was welcomed by parents, carers and social workers and used as a basis for social workers to engage with the children.

In Strand 2 Barnardo's provided additional funding to employ a full time co-ordinator (the bid had assumed that a part time position would be feasible). The project leaders were also pleased that a teaching venue was identified that they hope will become a permanent commitment to this group of children. The project workers were valued because they were able to adapt to different roles and a large range of tasks.

You know we'd never ever hear from them, 'No that's not my job, that's not what I do'. Their job was 'looked after children', it was as broad as that…it comes down to specifically recruiting individuals who are motivated to work in this area and you know will make a difference, they will now change things for these children.

The number of children and young people involved in this strand was small. The project co-ordinator said that success was measured by changes for individuals, including improved attendance, reduction in exclusions, re-engagement with education, accessing further education, engaging with out of school activities and moving on to employment. An issue identified for future development relates to which professionals the young people feel comfortable talking to about their careers and future care.

In terms of meeting the initial aims of the project there was mixed success. In Strand 2 the successes achieved for individual children and young people appear to be connected with the involvement of the project workers, whereas the teaching aspect of the project is not regarded as having met the initial aims. The programme experienced low numbers of referrals as the children who were living in the residential units at the time were mostly managing to attend mainstream school. Overall the project leaders felt that while the initial aims were not fully met for this strand, other equally valuable successes were made.

Were there any difficulties which seriously impacted on the project?

The initial project proposal included three strands but one - an online learning scheme - was abandoned because of difficulties in providing staffing. There was also a considerable delay in setting up Strand 1, again because of staffing difficulties; once these were resolved the strand progressed as planned, but within a reduced time frame. In Strand 2 difficulties were experienced in relation to the teaching team assigned to the project. The team came from an existing project and it was felt that the team did not provide certain of the specific needs of the new project and that there should have been more prior consultation to ensure that the team and the project leaders were clear about their roles in working together. For example, it was felt that some of the teachers did not have had the specific skills required for working with the children involved, some of whom exhibited challenging behaviours. Also the teachers could be required to work with children in a different school stage from that which they were trained to teach. Staffing changes and long term illness severely impacted on the teaching resource. Management of this strand was also difficult because separate line managers for the teachers and project workers had been assigned.

What plans are there for sustainability?

Both of the strands are being continued until the end of July 2008 to take the young people through the exam period. Aberdeen City Council allocated funding for this extension. There are no plans for either of the pilots to be mainstreamed. There are however plans to disseminate within the Council messages of success, good practice and lessons learned, and to use these to inform and develop existing roles like those of the home-school liaison and family liaison officers. They are also interested in rolling out the postal book scheme on a wider basis using current resources available within the authority.

Appendix 2.2. Dumfries and Galloway

Project Overview

Dumfries and Galloway's pilot project aimed to raise educational attainment through a multi-agency approach to supporting children and young people who were looked after, and by taking a holistic approach to the child and their needs in order to engage them fully in learning. They looked at improving educational outcomes in the broadest sense, including achievement and participation, rather than attainment only through traditional education paths. Their holistic approach meant looking at such factors as personal growth, and nurturing the potential and talents of the children and young people. The aims of the project were partially met, and successes of the project include improved communication between multi-agency partners, and an intervention that allowed children and young people to engage with activities that they thrived in and would not otherwise have had the chance to enjoy.

How did the project come about?

The pilot grew out of previous work within the authority: interdisciplinary work; the development of authority guidelines on looked after children's education; and Learning with Care training that had been delivered - all of which suggested a need for both the multi-disciplinary and holistic approaches.

What was the project about?

The project leaders identified five strands to their project which were entirely interdependent: the involvement of a full-time project officer to drive the work; developing personal learning plans for looked after children; trialling the effectiveness of intervention models (e.g. developing and delivering flexible modules and approaches related to employability skills); staff training; and reducing barriers to learning at the level of the individual.

Who were the participants?

The personal learning plan strand was gradually rolled out across the authority (the original intention to pilot in two areas was abandoned, due to time pressure). The need to complete a My Learning Plan was an action from each child's LAC Review, so that most looked after children had at least an initial personal learning plan completed.

In addition, approximately 95 children and young people benefited from the individual funding available and from participation in the interventions trialled through schools.

The multi-agency training was attended by over 240 staff working in education, social work, health and the voluntary and independent sectors.

How was the project staffed?

A full-time project officer was appointed.

What has the project judged to be the successful outcomes?

The training strand which had a multi-agency focus was evaluated very positively by the participants. There have also been successful outcomes for individuals who have accessed the project fund to reduce 'barriers to learning', allowing children and young people to take part in activities that they would not otherwise have been able to access. The project leaders also believe that the pilot has encouraged different parties to work together to improve outcomes for looked after children and has increased understanding and communication between these parties. They are also pleased about an unexpected outcome of the project, which is that the resilience agenda within the authority was highlighted and developed. Out of the training element of the project, a resource booklet was created aimed at what helps in terms of resilience. The booklet was printed and disseminated to all schools and to the social work and voluntary sectors.

The personal learning planning continues to be rolled out, with adjustments made according to feedback. Overall these are regarded as a success, focusing on the holistic needs of the children and young people, and the project leaders hope to continue to share the message behind the holistic method, i.e. that what happens outside school can affect learning as much as what happens inside school.

Were there any difficulties which seriously impacted on the project?

Because of processes happening within the local authority, the project was without leadership for several months in the initial stages, which meant that time between the project proposal and the execution of the project was almost one year. This meant that by the time the project started staff involved had 'lost sight' of what they had signed up to, and the project officer had to spend time looking backwards instead of moving forwards. Based on these difficulties, the project officer would recommend making use of a 'year zero' strategy which would allow leaders time between receiving funding and delivery of the project. The project officer also raised concerns about the often short term nature of pilot schemes, which make it difficult to measure impact.

What plans are there for sustainability?

This project has allowed many agency processes involving looked after children to be reviewed, and positive changes to be made. The project leaders would encourage further training and support to ensure that the practices they recommend are executed successfully. The barriers to learning aspect of the project will continue for another year, funded by the authority. The project leaders plan to disseminate messages of good practice via the Corporate Parenting Agenda and related local authority conferences. My Learning Plan (personal learning planning) continues to be used and ensures the child's view is central in the learning aspect of their plan.

Appendix 2.3. Dundee City

Project Overview

Dundee City Council's original pilot project bid aimed to offer additional educational support for looked after young people in school, for young people who had been excluded from school, and where the young people were facing transitions or exams. It also aimed to deliver outreach activities through after-school clubs and weekend activities, as well as support during school holidays for children and young people in residential units. Support for parents and carers, relating to educational attainment, was also offered. The project planned to make improvements in provision of data relating to looked after children and young people. Overall, the aims of the project were met. A key element of the project regarded as successful related to the multi-agency approach, including the delivery of the Learning with Care training materials. The pilot steering group was pleased that the confidence and self-esteem of the young people involved in the project appeared to have increased.

How did the project come about?

The Pilot emerged as a direct response to known poor educational outcomes for looked after children. It aimed to build on existing provision such as Kick It Off ( KIKO), thus offering added value, and to utilise the work of the Social Work Department's Review Team and partnership working with colleagues from health.

What was the project about?

The project originally had three strands. The first involved study support and tutoring for young people taking Standard Grades and National Qualifications. The second strand was an outreach programme for children in residential units. The third strand was aimed at providing support for parents and carers. A further objective of the project was to be involved in developments to improve data collection by establishing a client data tracking system. The project evolved to include nurture group work with a small group of pupils who were failing to attain and also literacy and self-esteem work with a group on young women. The focus of the third strand moved towards multi-agency training, using the Learning with Care materials.

Who were the participants?

In Strand 1 looked after children excluded from school were involved, as well as pupils referred by schools as needing additional support for learning. Strand 2 involved children in residential units. Birth parents, foster carers and residential staff were involved in receiving support in Strand 3.

How was the project staffed?

A senior officer was appointed to manage the project and to organise data collection and analysis. Two link teachers were appointed. They also had responsibility for parent/carer support. Two resource workers were responsible for the outreach activities. The project received support from a clerical officer.

What has the project judged to be the successful outcomes?

The pilot steering group felt that the original aims of the project had been fulfilled. They thought that the multi-agency and co-located approach had proved to be very beneficial and were also pleased about the links formed with the schools, facilitated by the teachers seconded to the pilot. The external agencies involved, such as colleges and media organisations, also added to the strong partnership the project developed. Attainment levels and exam results for young people who received study support in 2007-08 will be available in the pilot project's own local evaluation report.

Within the young women's literacy group developed as part of the project, self-esteem and confidence levels increased to the point that some of the young people were able to take part in a theatre performance before an audience of over 100 people, during a corporate parenting event. The young people also made films about their experiences from their own perspective.

Were there any difficulties which seriously impacted on the project?

There were initial difficulties recruiting staff, delaying the start. The pilot steering group felt it was difficult to contribute to the national evaluation process because of the time lost. They found that the timing of their project didn't quite 'fit' with the timing of the official evaluations, and the project leaders have concerns about who will be available to complete the evaluation, since the posts will have ended because of the end of funding. The steering group had to find extra resources to maintain supports for the young people during their exams.

What plans are there for sustainability?

The authority has secured funding specifically for promoting education and increasing the achievement of looked after children. There will not be another project, but the funding will be used to provide additional support for existing services, e.g. extra teaching. The pilot steering group feel that it is important to develop existing provisions within the authority rather than tackling issues through the use of time-limited projects.

The authority will sustain the roles of the teaching staff involved in the project, as well as the after-school and holiday provisions. The steering group intends to share their internal project evaluation, including recommendations for practice, with the authority's Integrated Children Services Planning Group.

Appendix 2.4. East Ayrshire

Project Overview

East Ayrshire Council's project aimed to support looked after young people in S3/4 using IT provisions that would help with Standard Grade studies. These provisions meant that schools were able to offer pupils: the chance to work on lessons where they could also access interactive individual tutorials from teachers, online; one to one mentoring support from teachers; and supported study sessions. The project also aimed to involve training and support for parents, carers and residential staff. The aims of East Ayrshire's pilot project were regarded as having been partially met, and the project leaders believe that their project increased attendance, decreased exclusions and increased engagement with education. The project highlighted the value of individual mentoring in supporting looked after young people in their education.

How did the project come about?

The project arose as a result of awareness of the low attainment of looked after young people, locally and nationally, and the need to address this.

What was the project about?

The project software was developed by a commercial company, Learning Curve. Young people could make use of a series of mini-lessons covering different areas of the foundation and general levels of the Standard Grade curriculum in mathematics and English. On-line tutorial support was also offered. Access was provided at every secondary school in the authority. Schools were responsible for identifying young people who would benefit from participation. Young people disengaged from education were reached via social work. Each young person was provided with a log-on password and the website could be accessed at home or at school. Schools were awarded funding and operational and financial management. They were therefore able to purchase computers and educational software. They provided mentoring and supported study sessions. Training and support were also offered to parents, carers and residential staff.

Who were the participants?

The participants were all looked after young people in S3 and S4. Participation was based on an opt-in process. Parents, carers and residential staff were also involved in the training and support part of the pilot.

How was the project staffed?

The Quality Improvement Officer for the local authority co-ordinated and had overall responsibility for the project. There were approximately 30-40 other staff involved: from the education sector (school senior managers, class teachers/assistants, specialist teachers for looked after children); from the social work sector (managers and social workers); from the residential care and youth strategy sectors, corporate IT and central administration. Involvement in the project was added to everyone's remit and no role was created specifically for the project.

What has the project judged to be the successful outcomes?

The project improved attendance (cohort 1 (N=96), up 3.4%; cohort 2 (N=56), up 9.8%) and decreased exclusions (cohort 1, exclusion events down by 71%; cohort 2, exclusion events down by 82%). The pupils involved in the project are said to be more involved in their schooling. It is hoped that these improvements will translate to improvements in hard indicators (like exam results) in time. School staff involved in the project thought the mentoring aspect of the project was very successful as the young people valued having a professional interested in them as individuals.

Were there any difficulties which seriously impacted on the project?

The aims identified at the planning stage of the pilot have been partially met. Initially it was reported that pupils and teachers had difficulty accessing the online materials, both in school and at home. Access problems for the pupils were resolved. The software company had difficulty recruiting writers to create the mini-lessons for the pupils, although the project leaders say that this did not impact on the delivery of the lessons. In retrospect, more attention should have been given to the involvement of the people, rather than mainly to the software element. Although the software proved valuable for independent learners, the young people involved in this pilot required the support of mentors. The project leaders also see the short term nature of the pilot as a barrier to longer term success, as they feel that improvements in attainment can only be evidenced over a longer period of time.

What plans are there for sustainability?

The authority will continue to give S3 and S4 looked after pupils access to the software, until June 2009. They will also fund the continuance of the mentoring and tutorial support elements within schools. In terms of the dissemination of good practice, the looked after co-ordinators for secondary schools meet regularly and give each other updates on progress within their own establishments.

Appendix 2.5. East Lothian

Project Overview

East Lothian's project focused on raising attainment of looked after children by providing targeted support, mostly in English but also in maths of primary school-age children. A Reading Fair was organised for all looked after children, parents and carers. There was a programme of raising awareness within the authority. Training for designated teachers was held and this will continue. A corporate parent conference was held.

How did the project come about?

East Lothian approached the project from a position of relative strength, having been in a position where 100% of care leavers attained some qualifications and 71% had Standard Grades in both English and maths in 2004. The project had three aims: to raise the attainment of the most vulnerable and excluded looked after children; to define 'what works' in relation to raising attainment; and to offer a model of good practice for colleagues elsewhere.

What was the project about?

The main focus of the pilot project was to help young people to be interested and engaged in their learning, and to build their capacity to value learning, for example through emotional awareness, developing and experiencing restorative practices and also giving them tools to engage with their community. The project had three strands. Firstly, it aimed to provide 'holistic support and intervention packages', i.e. additional individualised teaching and behaviour support, with a view to raising attainment through the reduction of exclusions and improved attendance. Children will have individual learning plans. Secondly the project planned to work with parents and carers providing support on homework and school systems. Thirdly the project included an evaluation to identify 'what works' and proposed offering a model of good practice.

Who were the participants?

The original plan was to reach all children in residential care (23), about half of fostered children (50), and about a third of children on home supervision (25). The full age range of 5 to 18 was to be included. Schools would be asked to refer looked after children and young people that they felt would benefit from extra support, particularly in relation to English and maths. The parents and carers of the children who became involved in the project would be invited to participate in strand 2 and all participants would be included in the evaluation strand. The original focus on exclusion changed when the responsibility for excluded children within the authority became part of the duties of the mainstream behaviour support service. The target group became mainly primary school-aged children, including some who were not looked after but were regarded as being vulnerable, and there was a particular focus on developing literacy skills.

How was the project staffed?

Two full time teachers and a home-school link worker were appointed. Existing staff from the Inclusion Service, Educational Psychology Service, the Family Support Team and the OSHL/Study Support teams were available to support the project as required. The Children's Services Officer, the Family Support team supported by the link worker would take responsibility for working with parents and carers. Evaluation of the project including collating baseline data and ongoing research was included in the remit of an educational psychology assistant. During the project one of the teachers and the link worker resigned to take posts elsewhere. They were replaced by three part-time support for learning teachers; two were employed for a day and a half per week and the third was employed for two and a half days.

What has the project judged to be the successful outcomes?

The project leaders believe that the pilot met its aims in terms of raising reading attainment, and their internal evaluation of baseline and follow up data shows improvement. The project also aimed to meet the targets set out within We Can and Must Do Better: for example, they provided additional support for residential care workers so that they could support the young people they worked with; support sessions were also held for foster carers, and leaflets and other support materials were developed; teaching support was provided in maths; a series of training events based on We Can and Must Do Better for designated teaching staff was held. A corporate parent conference was also held by the authority, aimed at service managers and voluntary services, to look at corporate responsibility and the notion of children's champions. The project leaders believed that the profile of looked after children had been raised.

A Reading Fair, aimed at looked after children, parents and carers, was judged to have been particularly successful.

Were there any difficulties which seriously impacted on the project?

There were delays in appointing staff and then some full time staff left. Permanent staff were redeployed part time to assist the project. They found that high tariff cases, like young people at risk of exclusion, could leave little time for other cases. Also, the focus of the project broadened from being mostly about support for children excluded from school to reflect the findings of We Can and Must Do Better. This coincided with changes to authority policy. It was refocused on raising attainment of looked after children by providing targeted support mostly in English but also in maths. The priority became raising the attainment in terms of reading of primary school-age children.

What plans are there for sustainability?

The project in full will not be sustained, although it is hoped that key parts of it will be continued. The project leader hopes to carry on the role of the support for learning teachers who were working with the looked after children on reading and maths. The Reading Fair will be repeated next year, with the help of the Adviser in English. The authority plans to continue training designated teachers and to have follow-up meetings to discuss relevant issues. Data awareness and gathering will also continue, and action points for the authority to work on to increase the positive outcomes for looked after children will be identified. The project leaders will be highlighting the positive support that they have had from schools and the positive outcomes for the young people that they have seen, when disseminating good practice messages from the project.

Appendix 2.6. Edinburgh City

Project Overview

Edinburgh City Council's pilot project aimed to support children through transitions from primary to secondary schools. The project leaders hoped that, as a result of the project, secondary schools would respond better to the needs of looked after children and young people. The project leaders felt that aims of the pilot had been met, that they were able to develop good relationships and to offer a consistent support network for the young people. They also felt that professional roles were developed in relation to understanding the needs of looked after children and young people. They believe there was evidence of increased attendance, re-engagement with education, and nurturing of talents.

How did the project come about?

Edinburgh City Council wanted to try a different approach to improving the education of looked after children. They had received some money from the Changing Children's Services Fund to work with children and young people living at home and wanted to expand this work.

What was the project about?

The project was about working with children at the stage of transition from primary to secondary school. The project leaders hoped to build better links between the schools and the homes of the young people, and to make the secondary school experience more like that of primary school, where teachers can often respond better to the needs of the children because they know more about the situation outside school. Another aim of the project was to raise awareness in schools of the issues looked after children face, primarily by training key members of school staff, and to have additional support plans for all the looked after children involved in the project.

Who were the participants?

The participants were P7 pupils being supported as they progressed into S1. This meant linking in with six secondary schools and approximately 28 primary schools within Edinburgh.

How was the project staffed?

One teacher (acting as team leader), and an Education Welfare Officer were seconded to the project full time. Four full time learning assistants were recruited to work within the schools identified.

What has the project judged to be the successful outcomes?

The project aimed to replicate a primary school-type setting which would be more 'nurturing' in nature, by having one person within the secondary school that the children could get to know. The learning assistants reported that this approach was effective. The learning assistants were seen as important people in the children's lives, who were consistently available. The training element of the project, which was delivered by the learning assistants, was also believed to have been successful. This aspect allowed the assistants to develop their role and become more confident in taking on new tasks. The project leaders said that the support of the learning assistants meant that a number of children are still in school who would otherwise not have been. Increased rates of attendance, re-engagement with education were also reported.

The project leaders also said that the pilot helped to raise awareness in schools about the obstacles looked after children face on a daily basis.

One of the comments that was made to me early on in the project which I thought actually typifies teachers' perceptions of these children was: 'Their problems are not in school, their problems are at home.' And we are trying to explain, 'No their problems come with them.' I think that a very common perception that has to be challenged is that children should be able to leave their emotional baggage at the school door and I think that anyone who works with these children knows that this is just not a possibility.

The project leaders found that by using money made available through the pilot scheme, they were able to engage children in activities that they otherwise could not have been involved in, for example, in educational excursions that nurtured the young people's talents. The close relationships that the learning assistants developed with the children allowed talents and interests to be identified.

Were there any difficulties which seriously impacted on the project?

The project suffered from significant delays because of staff recruitment, meaning that they were not able to work with children during the first term. The schools involved were disappointed that the project did not start on time. They did however manage to make up for lost time once staff were in post. Some of the learning assistants moved on during the life of the project, which meant that some children had to form new relationships.

One of the key aims of the project, to have clear planning and clear additional support plans for all the looked after children involved, was resisted by some schools, and was not developed as well as the project leaders would have liked. There was some adjustment and flexibility required on the part of the project team in order to be able to work with many different schools and some schools were more responsive to the project than others. The project leaders said that a 'settling in' period, in which they would form relationships with the schools before starting to work with them, would have been valuable. The schools had to get used to the project operating in their school and the learning assistants being employed by the project rather than the schools, which was not normal practice. In some cases, it seemed that while the schools were happy to receive the extra resources the project provided, they were less happy about adopting the ideas of the project leaders. Overall, it was felt that integrating the project into the structure of the schools was less successful than the project leaders had hoped.

What plans are there for sustainability?

There are no plans to sustain the project, a disappointment for the project leaders. They are keen to ensure that awareness raising, information exchange and training of relevant school staff continues. The project leaders feel that, as a result of the pilot, there is a much higher degree of understanding in the secondary schools about the issues affecting looked after children. Messages of good practice have also been disseminated by the project to service managers across the city, and have received a positive response.

Appendix 2.7.Falkirk

Project Overview

Falkirk Council's pilot project originally aimed to improve the education available to young people who are looked after or who are looked after and accommodated. The project leaders felt that dialogue between agencies had to be increased in order to provide better support to the young people, and that alternative packages of education should be put together to suit individual young people. Also, they wanted to improve data systems for information about looked after children and young people.

The aims set out by Falkirk's pilot scheme were regarded as having been partially met. Successes included:

  • improving the quality assurance procedures of residential schools;
  • putting personal education plans in place;
  • improving links with schools;
  • raising the profile of the needs of children and young people who are looked after;
  • improving on data systems holding information on looked after children and young people.

How did the project come about?

At the time the funding became available, Falkirk Council was discussing young people who were in crisis care and the fact that often these young people do not receive a coherent education. The authority was experiencing problems accessing education locally for these young people, and was aware that often crisis care placements do not have an educational component. Falkirk felt that they should be talking to schools more and obtaining packages of education for young people in crisis care, based on at least the core subjects. Also, they were concerned about a number of issues in residential schools, for example, the quality of education being delivered. There was also a need to make sure that information about the young people required by schools was easy to obtain, and that schools had access to a contact person.

What was the project about?

The first strand aimed to identify the educational needs of accommodated young people and improve positive working relationships between all Falkirk staff and the voluntary sector. The project aimed to develop educational programmes in the key areas of literacy, numeracy and personal and social development and which covered a broad and balanced curriculum, as defined in the 5-14 guidelines, or, where appropriate, qualifications such as Standard Grade, Access 1,2,3 or ASDAN modules. Strand 2 offered a specific service for young people accommodated in placements outwith the Falkirk Council area. This strand involved a quality assurance role - visiting schools, talking to the young people about their education, looking at what was being offered, and giving guidance and advice to the schools about options.

Who were the participants?

The looked after and looked after and accommodated pupils were at the centre of the pilot, especially the accommodated children. In Strand 1 the young people were living in various care facilities. Their locations were nationwide, and any child with parents living in Falkirk and therefore could be on a Falkirk authority school roll, had the potential to be involved.

How was the project staffed?

The day to day responsibility of the project lay with one looked after and accommodated education co-ordinator. The role involved liaising with crisis care providers and residential schools, identifying what curriculum could be offered, and ensuring the delivery of appropriate educational packages to the children to provide continuity. Educational psychologists were also consulted on an intermittent basis about individual cases. Some resources were deployed to support the integration of an accommodated child into a mainstream school.

What has the project judged to be the successful outcomes?

The looked after and accommodated co-ordinator was regarded as having been successful in the role:

  • advancing the quality assurance procedures of residential schools;
  • visiting all schools related to the project;
  • attending the reviews of the looked after children in these schools;
  • ensuring that the children had education plans; and
  • creating a bank of information on these children that had not previously been available.

The pilot also raised the profile of all looked after children in a number of ways. For example:

  • when Quality Inspection Officers visit schools they now include looked after children in their reviews and collect data about them, as well as asking questions about their education;
  • the looked after and accommodated co-ordinator ensures that continuity of education for looked after pupils is now part of the Joint Care Committee Resource Allocation Group's agenda;
  • the co-ordinator has liaised successfully with relevant parties about the education of those who return to Falkirk from external placements.

Were there any difficulties which seriously impacted on the project?

The timescale of the pilot project and a lack of flexibility in the bid were regarded as having impacted on the project. Initially the project leaders experienced difficulties in recruiting the co-ordinator and while the project bid detailed a desire to appoint 0.5 educational psychologist, this aspect was not fulfilled because of a reported shortage of educational psychologists in Scotland. They did, however, involve educational psychologists in several individual cases, and in consultancy on procedures. The project leaders felt that having an educational psychologist dedicated to the project would have added both quality and status to the learning plans being drawn up for the individual pupils in the residential schools.

The project leaders also experienced difficulties in establishing a reliable data system that could 'speak to' both the education and social work sectors. They also highlighted the need for staff in schools to be aware of the fact that private foster carers were taking children from other authorities, and that the right questions needed to be asked by the schools so that Falkirk City Council could monitor these children.

The project was not able to address the issue of children in crisis care. However, the Additional Support for Learning Adviser ( LAC Co-ordination) is furthering this concern at both authority (Falkirk Children's Commission) and national (the forum) levels.

What plans are there for sustainability?

A proposal to continue the post of the co-ordinator and the required administrative support has been made to the authority, and accepted. The authority hopes to develop the roles of other relevant parties who can assist in their goals, for example, educational psychologists, school-based looked after children co-ordinators who might take on the responsibility for liaising with schools from other authorities regarding continuity for those who return to Falkirk schools.

Good practice will be disseminated through a network of Looked After Children Co-ordinators working in schools. The project leaders are interested in the development of a national code of practice regarding procedures in relation to looked after children. This includes:

  • having a standard procedure for reporting and the transfer of documentation
  • addressing the issue of whether every looked after child should have a co-ordinated support plan
  • working with private providers to ensure that they are inspected according to national guidelines
  • addressing the question of why criteria for taking children into care are determined locally

They would also like to see the issue of crisis care addressed nationally.

Appendix 2.8. Fife

Project Overview

Fife Council aimed to develop more effective data systems for looked after children and young people than were already being used in the authority. The pilot project leaders also wished to enhance planning and monitoring of young people's education and to provide additional educational support at key transitional stages of the young people's lives. The aims of pilot were partially met. Improvement in data systems and the development of a resource pack about the needs of young people in relation to education were the main achievements. The project also had some success in identifying key activities and strategies which more effectively support young people in education at points of crisis or change in their care circumstances.

How did the project come about?

The funding for this project provided a timely opportunity to address, in a focused way, issues about which the services were aware and had wanted to address for some time.

What was the project about?

The project had three aims and three strands. The aims were: to develop effective data systems for looked after children; to enhance planning and monitoring by developing existing personal learning planning models to take account of the particular needs of looked after children, taking account of family group conferencing and person centred planning techniques already being used; and to provide enhanced educational support at key transitional stages, in particular when a child is at the point of entry to care.

Who were the participants?

Strand 1 involved the development of a data system. Strand 2 (personal learning planning) was piloted in one school cluster. Children and young people who became involved in Strand 3 were included in the personal learning planning process. Strand 3 targeted all children referred to the Social Work Transitions Team. The team provided resources for children and families when an emergency admission to care was likely for a child living at home.

How was the project staffed?

A data management project officer and a project planning officer were appointed for strands 1 and 2. Two educational link workers and a manager were appointed for Strand 3, although this staffing was part time, and the target level of appointment was never achieved. All staff members had a teaching background. Additionally, existing staff from IT services, Psychological Services and Social Work supported the project.

What has the project judged to be the successful outcomes?

Strand 1 (data collection) in particular has delivered good outcomes, according to the project leader, and the data systems for looked after children and young people are considerably improved. The authority now has a much more robust system for processing Regulation 7 letters and a monthly monitoring system, which records attainment, attendance, and exclusions, as well as general progress, areas of concern and unresolved issues. As a result, the six joint action teams ( JATs) within the authority can identify specific areas of work requiring attention. The functionality means that staff from Fife Council, and independent residential houses, both Council and independent, are able to feed into the information database, providing information about a young person's educational progress. This helps to identify cases where a problem cannot be resolved within the houses, and where the intervention of a service manager may help. Schools have given positive feedback about the new system. Every month school liaison groups discuss all looked after pupils in the school and updated information is sent to the Joint Access Team.

Previously we'd given them a fairly open ended request: 'Will you monitor looked after children?', which is so vague as to be virtually meaningless. We assumed people would know what that meant, whereas now we are giving them explicit instructions. There is a strict way to record it…The first couple of forms, people were scratching their heads and asking questions, but when you get into the habit of doing it - it's very straightforward.

The outcome of Strand 2 is a resource pack for looked after children and young people which makes reference to Fife-based issues and is concerned with planning, helping schools understand the issues in relation to interrupted learning and attachment. The pack was developed in conjunction with one secondary school and three associated primary schools, and has been extensively piloted. Publication of the pack has not proceeded at this stage as much of the content has been overtaken by the LAC web site, developed as one recommendation of 'We Can and Must Do Better'. It is likely that the pack will be electronically published in an abbreviated form and act as a gateway to the Learning and Teaching Scotland Looked After Children website and other web based resources.

Were there any difficulties which seriously impacted on the project?

The third strand, providing enhanced educational support at key transitional stages, was less successful. A difficulty in recruiting staff members for this strand impacted on its development. The staff recruited covered primary education, secondary education, learning support and behaviour support, though the project work proved challenging to adapt to in the early stages. Once confidence grew, their roles began to develop. While the project leaders received positive feedback, the responses also raised wider concerns about the systems already in place between social work services and schools for discussing the progress of looked after children. For example, the quality of feedback from schools to social work staff should be addressed as part of the school improvement agenda, and this will be examined as part of the authority's looked after strategy.

Other difficulties were also identified. For example, the workers sometimes found it was difficult to gather meaningful information about the basic attainment and attendance of young people in schools, which was often due to periods of interrupted learning and crisis placements where no education provision had been available. These young people can become lost in the system which results in an associated loss of information. The project leaders would also like to see developments in the area of transitions. Therefore Strand 3, though less successful in terms of meetings the aims of the original bid, has been useful for identifying areas that need attention.

The management structure of the project, based on a matrix model of two education and two social work personnel, also created some difficulty. While it is important to have joint-agency working and commitment to projects, it would perhaps have been better if a simpler and more transparent model of management was employed.

What plans are there for sustainability?

The data system will be maintained, and information for primary school children and children in placements outwith Fife will be added to the database. There is consideration of developing an electronic form of the LAC resource pack, to be more accessible and available for regular updating and monitoring by schools, though as noted above this is subject to review in light of the new LAC website.

The posts of the educational transition workers have ended and will not be resumed, but key learning points can be taken forward from their work, and these will be shared with schools. These points include information, such as what schools should do when young people leave for another authority but remain the responsibility of the school in Fife (because they are still on the school roll).

The authority is drawing up a framework of best practice evidenced by the project, which they will use as part of their quality improvement agenda, both in schools and in residential houses. Opportunities to disseminate the project recommendations within the education and social work sectors of the authority will be seized.

Appendix 2.9. Glasgow City

Project Overview

Glasgow's project originally had three strands: direct tutorial support to assist where there have been gaps in learning or to give extra help for examination preparation; more indirect support to allow young people to participate in educational or cultural activities; development of a training pack for parents, carers and social workers to help them support young people working on folios for examinations. The third strand did not progress and the funding earmarked for the first two strands was used more generally to support a range of activities aimed at providing for looked after young people attending school, college and vocational education projects.

How did the project come about?

The project is an expansion of the current provision of out of school support for Glasgow's looked after children and young people.

What was the project about?

The overall aim was to improve the educational outcomes for the young people involved in the project by providing a flexible, needs-led package of inter-related education support. Originally, the three elements were considered as one strand. However, the Glasgow team indicated that they should be considered as three separate strands.

Strand 1: Expansion of existing tutorial support. Out of school support was initially offered only to those children and young people who were in foster care or in Children's Units. It is targeted in particular at children and young people who have either missed significant periods of learning at school or those who are preparing to sit examinations. The project plans to expand that provision to those children and young people looked after at home.

Strand 2: Development of a 'Flexible Education Support Scheme'. The 'Flexible Education Support Scheme' relates to providing support to remove barriers to learning that many children and young people face. It is directly linked to the child or young person's Education Support Plan. Examples are: supporting the child, and possibly family, to attend, for example, nursery school, further or higher education on a regular and sustained basis.

Strand 3: Development of a folio training pack. The proposed resource aimed to provide parents, carers and social work staff with guidance on how to support young people when preparing their folios for SQA examinations. The potential for peer mentoring between parents, carers and social work staff was also to be considered.

Who were the participants?

Strand 1: Children and young people who are looked after at home as well as those who are in foster care or in Children's Units. Strand 2: as Strand 1. Strand 3: as Strand 1; additionally involvement of the parents/carers and social work staff as a means of support.

How is the project staffed?

For the project overall, there is one full-time member of staff. In Strand 2 other agencies and providers (voluntary and private sector) were involved recruited as appropriate.

What has the project judged to be the successful outcomes?

The project began following a delay of six months. Strand 1 progressed as planned (taking account of the delay stated). Strand 2 began by setting criteria for access to the funds. Responsibility allocating funding was devolved to community planning partnerships. Unfortunately it was not possible to conduct fieldwork to discuss the operational aspects of the project.

Were there any difficulties which seriously impacted on the project?

The project faced significant difficulties in relation to overall co-ordination. The author of the original application for funding was seconded out of the authority. There was a significant delay in appointing a project co-ordinator who then set up the operational arrangements for the project. That person left the authority; a replacement was appointed but unfortunately sustained several periods of sick leave. The project suffered from a lack of co-ordination and reporting.

What plans are there for sustainability?

There has been a significant reorganisation of the infrastructure for the delivery of services for children and families, notably with a sub-division into five area community planning partnerships which coincide with the community health partnerships. The authority has made improving the wellbeing of looked after children and young people a particular priority. Provision of support aimed at improving school attendance and attainment, reducing exclusions and support to help with participation in educational, vocational and cultural activities will be sustained. An important outcome of the project is the recognition of the need to provide support for all looked after children and young people, not just those looked after away from home.

Appendix 2.10. Highland

Project Overview

The project comprised four separate strands which included enhancing the educational attainment of children, reintegrating looked after children into mainstream education, creating educationally rich environments in residential units and providing out of school study programmes. The project progressed in line with the original proposals with no major changes.

How did the project come about?

The project came about by identifying gaps in the education of looked after children in Highland. Overall, the project was committed to improving achievement and the opportunities for achievement for the young people involved.

What is the project about?

There were four separate strands to the project. Strand 1 aimed to promote the effective coordination of support for the education of looked after children (particularly those with home supervision requirements) and to secure full time education provisions to allow the young people to develop to their fullest potential. Strand 2 addressed the difficulties experienced by looked after and looked after and accommodated children whereby they are academically disadvantaged due to disruption in their lives. A group of young people attended the Highland Football Academy on a regular basis by way of assisting them to prepare for return to school, through physical, social and educational activities. Strand 3 involved an Educational Achievement Facilitator working with residential unit staff to have a focussed and intensive approach to the educational environment in residential care. Strand 4 was an out of school study programme involving homework clubs and individual tutoring.

Who were the participants?

Each strand had a different cohort, outlined below in the descriptions of the strands.

What has the project judged to be the successful outcomes?

In Strand 1, a teacher was appointed as the Education Link Worker for children looked after at home. The Link Worker was notified as soon as a child became looked after. He would receive a pack with information which detailed the reason for the child being referred. He would then start to work with the social worker, the child and the parents and would liaise with the school to put a plan in place, including additional support. He identified the barriers and how to overcome them in a way that was meaningful for the child or young person. This approach was well received and was judged to be '…hugely successful'. This strand was successful because it addressed the issues which cause children to have a poor attendance record and it identified ways of overcoming barriers which resulted in more children being back at school. It also ensured that children were picked up at a much earlier stage than before. Part of the success of this strand is attributed to the fact that the education link worker was a teacher and his skills and experience complemented those of the social workers. In addition, his personality was ideally suited for the role and he contributed well and as a member of a team. The project leader felt that it was too soon after the start of this strand to see concrete evidence of its effectiveness in improvement in attainment.

In Strand 2, the Goals 4 Us project was very successful with the P7 transition group. The staff found that this age group was particularly enjoyable to work with, and also more enthusiastic. This was because the S1s and S2s were more disengaged by the time they were referred to the project. Some of the children who coped well with the small and very supportive environment have managed to maintain attendance at an out of school tuition service. Some have engaged in education, even if they have not managed to reintegrate into full-time education. This strand has been successful because of the number of children that it has been able to reintegrate into mainstream education. It has also been flexible in being able to reintegrate children at a slower pace when there have been problems.

In Strand 3, the Educational Achievement Facilitator did a lot of work on resources for residential units, working with staff on materials and packs for children in school on a part-time basis, out of school, or as homework. The facilitator also liaised with FE colleges and arranged for college staff to meet the young people and staff from the children's units to hear about the types of courses available, the level of these courses and the type of support available at the colleges, and how to access this support. Staff at units spoke very highly of this aspect of the strand and felt it was both beneficial and enjoyable. The facilitator also arranged to get computing equipment into the units and for appropriate security, like firewalls. She also organised an IT trainer to work with unit staff so that they could deal with day to day issues like ensuring that the firewall was operational and that the children were not accessing certain web sites. Some staff were also trained to a higher level so that they could do troubleshooting and reset the system if necessary. The facilitator also worked directly with individual staff in the units to coach them. This strand has been successful because it has helped to sustain an educationally rich environment in most of the units. Also, some units where children did not go to school now have all children attending school. The units are keeping their resources up to date and are proactively seeking assistance to ensure this happens. Some units have also reorganised to create learning rooms.

In Strand 4, a number of initiatives were started. Originally nine children started on the Kuman Maths and English scheme. The maths seems to have been very successful with some of the children still doing it for 20 minutes every night, although this is onerous for foster carers. The children involved in the Kuman scheme improved in 5-14 levels and the schools reported that there was a marked improvement in the children's confidence to tackle work on their own and in their approach to school work.

All young people in S4 were offered a tutor in English, maths or any other subject they were doing at Standard Grade. Some children had more than one tutor. Every looked after child in S4 was contacted via their school and social worker. The tutoring worked well for the children in foster care but did not work so well with children in residential care or those looked after at home. All of the fostered children achieved Standard Grade English and maths in 2007, in addition to other standard grades.

Were there any difficulties which seriously impacted on the project?

In Strand 1, the Education Link Worker was given the opportunity to stay in post when the initial secondment ended but elected to return to classroom teaching because of the amount of travelling involved. It has subsequently proved difficult to get a replacement member of staff to fill this role.

In Strand 2, it was realised that having a mixed cohort with different age groups and different attendance regimes was difficult to manage and made group work and relationship building challenging. This meant that it was more difficult to settle the group down.

In Strand 3 the biggest obstacle to overcome was that the unit workers wanted the Educational Achievement Facilitator to come in and work directly with the children, rather than to coach them and help them to establish good learning facilities and practices and be able to support and encourage the young people. There was a lot of resistance as care staff did not see education as part of their remit. They felt that education was the responsibility of schools and the care of the children was their responsibility. Also, the start of this strand was delayed by three months as the school that the facilitator was employed in was not prepared to release her until they had a replacement. This meant the there was insufficient time to bed in some of the initiatives like the liaison work with colleges, the units and the young people.

In Strand 4, offering a tutor to children who are looked after at home did not work particularly well. This was judged to be because the children tend to be living in rather chaotic circumstances. The success of putting homework tutors into the residential units was variable but two of the units are still using the tutors.

The amount of time and effort required to manage and run the four separate strands was underestimated. With hindsight, a co-ordinator should have been appointed to manage the project. If the project was running in future then the lessons learned would be: (1) Ensure that there is senior management responsibility for the project and do not allow the responsibility to be delegated. (2) Recognise the amount of work that is required to support a project of this nature in terms of management, coordination and reporting and ensure that this is included in the budget. (3) Be realistic about the number of strands that you can support and run. If the project was to start again then there would not be four separate strands. Be realistic about the lead-time required to recruit staff and factor this into the project.

What plans are there for sustainability?

A budget has been allocated to allow a replacement Education Link Worker to be appointed although this post has still to be filled as Highland Council is currently redeploying staff. A budget will also be made available for the out of school specialist tutoring programme.

Appendix 2.11. Midlothian

Project Overview

The project comprised three strands which aimed to increase the number of looked after young people who were successful in further education and training by providing a flexible and needs-led responsive service, and to provide a rapid response to children in crisis by bringing education to them within residential units. Following the experience of the first six months of the project, the scope was narrowed to concentrate on developing a better service for young people in two residential units and only two of the original three strands made progress.

How did the project come about?

Before the project Midlothian had very little resource or special provisions for the education of looked after children. The authority wanted to highlight the issue of looked after children's education so they could be more in line with larger authorities with dedicated staff supporting looked after children. In addition, achievement and attainment levels among Midlothian looked after children were fairly low. They therefore wanted to design a project that would raise both levels for the specific population of looked after children.

What was the project about?

The project focused on work within residential units and schools to provide individualised education plans for all looked after children and young people, according to their needs. There were three strands to the project. The first focused on improving the learning opportunities within residential units. The aim was to motivate and engage those young people who were disaffected with education and who, despite flexible plans from schools, still did not attend. They wished to develop a rapid response to children in crisis by bringing education to them, within the units. The second strand was about developing an inclusive tutoring programme. The aim was to provide robust support earlier to increase the number of looked after young people who were successful in further education and training. There was particular focus on those young people in mainstream education who had missed periods of education or who had under-performed but were 'catching up'. Strand 3 aimed to focus on mentoring for young people and the authority collaborated with the voluntary organisation Children 1st but this strand did not progress with as many young people as was hoped.

Who were the participants?

The participants were nearly all children or young people living within two residential units. There was smaller provision made for some young people who were in foster care in Midlothian. All of the provisions in the project were available to each participant, according to their own needs.

How was the project staffed?

The project employed a full time principal teacher who was responsible for the day to day running of the project. The tutors for Strand 2 were existing teachers who were prepared to do additional work. The project also used teachers from the Outreach Team, an existing authority provision, for small amounts of tutoring, and employed some youth worker time on a sessional basis.

What has the project judged to be the successful outcomes?

A principal teacher was appointed to take the lead role in supporting the young people in the two residential units. She had her base in one of the residential units which meant that she was on hand and could work with the staff. She also had a base in one of the secondary schools and was able to develop good links with them from the start of the project. She was also available when young people were received into care to work with them from the outset and to ensure continuity of education. She was able to make clear the expectation that the young people would be planning and thinking about their education.

The project team judged that they had been very successful at getting young people back into mainstream education. At one point during the project all accommodated young people who were of school age were in mainstream education. This was regarded as a major achievement considering the difficulties experienced by the residential units to get the accommodated young people into school and to maintain them there.

Having the principal teacher on hand to harangue and cajole the young people was helpful. She was also very persistent when things went wrong and was able to advocate on behalf of the young people with head teachers. The principal teacher post worked well because the person appointed was confident and was able to deal with people at a senior level. She was very comfortable in dealing with head teachers and was able to insist that they complied strictly with the exclusion guidelines. She was able to advise the residential units of the expectations that the authority places on individual educational establishments and this led to the residential workers being more confident about the demands they could place on schools. The teacher also understood how to access support for young people with special needs or additional needs and the processes and protocols to be followed when a young person is being excluded or is in danger of being excluded. Training was provided to the residential workers and to staff in schools with a particular emphasis on developing resilience in young people and what teachers and care workers could do. The principal teacher worked closely with the unit manager and developed a checklist for care staff regarding thinking about young people's needs. The principal teacher established close links with the secondary schools. She was able to work with young people in the classroom when the young person was being reintegrated into mainstream education.

Were there any difficulties which seriously impacted the project?

The mentoring and befriending strand was subcontracted to Children 1st but it did not progress with as many young people as was hoped. There were difficulties with communication in relation to organising individual education packages but these were offset by the close involvement of the principal teacher. Schools sometime felt that there were timetabling difficulties which could not be overcome and also questioned whether it was appropriate for young people to be studying or doing certain things. The principal teacher was able to encourage the schools to agree to the individual packages. If the project was being run again, more thought would be put into how to purchase youth worker time and befriending support.

What plans are there for sustainability?

The Principal Teacher for looked after children has now been confirmed as a permanent post, supported by a steering group which will provide strategic direction for the development of the post. Midlothian will continue to build on the work that has been done with young people in shared placements. There is offsite provision for secondary pupils and youth workers have been recruited. The youth workers have an outreach role in all the main secondary schools. Young people now have an individual assessment of what they can sustain in school, where the weakness is and what can be provided in another form or elsewhere. This assessment is done either when a young person is received into care or at the point when they are flagged as being at risk of exclusion and a proposal for a package that is jointly shared by social work and the school is agreed.

Appendix 2.12. North Ayrshire

Project Overview

The project aimed to raise the educational attainment of looked after children and young people by creating Personal Learning Plans which were designed to help young people to become engaged in their education, become more confident and resilient and have a sense of control over their lives. The Personal Learning Plans were developed by maintaining core academic subjects like English and maths but were flexible enough to include college modules or work placements. The project progressed in line with the original plans but it was able to take on young people with more complex needs as the team's skills developed and grew.

How did the project come about?

The proposal was prompted by a desire to respond to the fact that a lot of pupils do not cope at secondary school because the curriculum just is not appropriate for them.

What was the project about?

The project centred on developing the concept of personal learning planning: talking to young people about their goals and then working back to look at what they would have to start doing to be able to achieve them. This involved individual tutoring and behaviour support and also providing alternative curricular routes to re-engage the young person.

Who were the participants?

The participants were young people in S3 and S4 who were beginning to enter the Children's Panel system radar. They had all been through a Joint Support Team process, many had exhibited fairly high levels of truancy, and all had been failing to thrive within the current secondary school curriculum.

How was the project staffed?

Two teachers and a project officer were seconded to the project, full time. The team worked well together and has been able to build a good rapport with each of the participants. By the end of the project three teachers and four project officers had been seconded to work in the project.

What has the project judged to be the successful outcomes?

Schools started to identify the children who would benefit from the project at a much earlier stage, i.e. at the point when the school was beginning to have concerns about attendance or attainment. As a result, there was a waiting list of children who met the criteria to be included in the project but the project did not have the capacity to accommodate them.

The attendance, exclusion and truancy rates of the young people on the project were tracked and these apparently decreased significantly. Also, if a child was in the process of being resettled with parents the project worker was aware of the issues and pressures that the young person was experiencing and could liaise with school guidance staff or the looked after children/young people co-ordinator in the school, to alert them that there may be problems and ask them to be more tolerant and sympathetic with the child. Although young people were still excluded, the rates were reduced.

The project maintained contact with young people who were going on to college to ensure that they had support to help them overcome the stresses of settling into college work. This also meant that they had someone to go to if they needed help with things like structuring essays. All of the young people who were included in the project performed much better than the schools would have predicted, with children who were working at access level now working at credit level. Attainment in English and maths was raised for the full cohort of young people, according to the project manager. An unexpected benefit of the project was that the schools changed their attitude to the young people. They became more sympathetic and supportive towards the children and were more aware of the issues that the young people were coping with. Information was shared with the looked after children/young people coordinator and with the child's guidance teacher to ensure that someone in the school really understood what was going on with the child. This was done with the child's permission and the child was usually at the meetings. Also, the school was only told sufficient information to allow them to manage the child's difficulties. The school would be alerted if something was happening in the child's life which might result in an educational issue and staff were asked to be more sensitive towards the child. The social work database was being amended to include information for schools and all schools were given access to Care First, the social work assessment database.

The young people who were included on the project changed their attitudes toward education. They completed evaluations which were all positive. Some of the features mentioned included the extra support from the team, how much more focused they were in education and how they enjoyed work placements. They also mentioned the fact that they could make choices that they had a better chance in life. The project leader felt it was clear from the evaluations that the young people had been empowered by being involved in the project. The children were able to have eye contact and engage in conversations with confidence.

The attitude of staff in children's units also changed. At the start of the project there was 'no educational climate' in the children's units but by the end there were homework clubs in four of the five units. The reason that the fifth unit did not have a club was that it caters for young people who have left school and are doing things like apprenticeships. The key workers in the children's units were encouraging the children to do homework and also to get to school. The attitude of the children's unit workers completely changed from being somewhat antagonistic towards education to being enthusiastic and very accepting of input from education.

Were there any difficulties which seriously impacted on the project?

There was a lack of informed understanding between the different professional groups: social workers had little regard for the education staff and what they were trying to achieve and vice versa. At the start of the project, when trying to identify young people to be included, schools would not agree to withdraw pupils from subject areas, even although the young people were not working at Access level. They were being forced to take subjects that they had no desire to learn. Eventually there were young people on the project who were taking four academic subjects like English, maths and biology and complementing this by doing college modules like beauty therapy or building practice. Young people were undertaking a wide range of college based modules which were studied either in college or at an outreach base. They were also all on work placements where they were learning skills like the importance of punctuality and taking responsibility.

The project tried to identify a half day when they young person did not have any of the core academic subjects at school and arranged the work placement for that time. Provision was made for a member of the project team to cover the work missed where there was an overlap. It took nearly three months before the schools started to identify the young people that the project had been established to help. In one school, they thought that they had seven looked after children when they had nearly 90. They had not been getting up to date information from social work so now processes have been put in place to ensure that schools have up-to-date information. Information was not disseminated for five months while issues related to data protection were resolved. The social work databases were altered to include a school field. This allowed information to be sorted by school and for that information to be sent to the relevant schools at the end of each month. This overcame the problem of missing young people because they were being transported to the school from another area in order to maintain their educational placement. This still does not ensure that all looked after children and young people who are placed in North Ayrshire by other authorities are identified.

If a similar project were to be started in future, much more time would be spent working with schools, social work services and the children's unit workers to clarify the aims of the project and to get a wider range of people on board before appointing a team to deliver the agreed agenda. More consultation would be done with field staff to ensure that they understood what the project was setting out to achieve. This would ensure that time was not wasted in the early months of the project.

What plans are there for sustainability?

There are now three teachers and four project officers who are engaged on the project on a full-time basis. The savings that have been made by preventing the children who were included on the project from ending up in residential placements or external day placements amounted to over £850,000, after taking into account the total running costs of the project which include salaries, transport, books, materials and paying tutors.

Appendix 2.13. Renfrewshire35

Project Overview

Renfrewshire Council has responsibility for around 600 looked after children, of whom about 15% are looked after away from home. The Council wished to extend already existing good practice within the authority, in the area of looked after children's education. The project, comprising three strands, focused on: extending the provision of the team of specialist looked after children's teachers by employing additional staff to provide support to children at the early stages who are looked after at home; extending the provision of the home link service by targeting a group of pupils who are at risk of underachieving; and providing cultural and leisure opportunities for children living in residential units. A number of aspects of the project were regarded as having been particularly successful, including: the individual support provided for parents/carers and for children and young people by the LAC teacher and home link workers; developing good relationships among key stakeholders; the increased level of support seen at transitions; improvements in the young people's social skills and increased confidence in and enthusiasm for schoolwork.

How did the project come about?

Renfrewshire's pilot project work was based on developing and extending current good practice within the authority. It was based on one of the key actions identified in the Children's Services Plan for Renfrewshire 2005-2008 which requires that social, emotional and educational needs of children are met and that partner agencies should work together to deliver an integrated service.

What is the project about?

There were three strands. Strand 1 focused on: providing additional individualised support for looked after children in order to develop their core skills; working with staff in pre-5 establishments and the early years of primary school to help support educational achievement and behaviour of children looked after at home. Strand 2 aimed to extend the provision of the home link service by employing a full-time home link worker and a team of sessional support workers for children looked after at home and at risk of under-achievement. The strand made use of goal setting and opportunities for family learning opportunities. Strand 3 was about providing cultural and leisure experiences and other learning opportunities, linked to school curricula, for children in residential units. Initially the project leaders proposed a further strand to look at funding and training to support foster carers, though this strand did not receive funding.

Who were the participants?

Children aged 3-6, looked after at home (Strand 1), children looked after at home and their families (Strand 2), and children living in residential units (Strand 3). Participants were identified by the Social Work Department.

How was the project staffed?

The project was staffed by increasing the LAC teacher service by one full-time teacher (Strand 1) and by increasing the home link service by one home link worker and by sessional support workers (Strand 2). In Strand 3 a residential unit manager and residential worker from each unit acted as links to the project team.

What has the project judged to be the successful outcomes?

According to the project team, all the aims of Strand 1 had been successfully achieved by the end of year 1 and the Strand 2 aims had been partially achieved. An internal evaluation of the project reported that it was the strong leadership skills and motivation of the project leaders that had allowed progress to be made. In terms of the impact of the project, the evaluation reported that the social and communication skills of the children involved in the project improved, which the project's formal evaluation team attributed in particular to the work of the looked after children teacher. It was also reported that parents and carers felt that their children's confidence and enthusiasm for schoolwork had increased since becoming involved in the project. Parents and carers also reported feeling more comfortable in working with agencies in supporting their children.

In Strand 1 a particular strength identified was the role of the teacher of looked after children. Most parents/carers felt that the one-to-one support provided had a positive impact on their child, socially and academically. In Strand 2 parents/carers felt positively about the support provided by the home link worker and attributed positive changes in their child to this contact. Teachers were similarly positive about the support provided by the home link worker, identifying improved relationships between home and school as a direct consequence. In Strand 3 a total of 38 young people from four units participated in cultural outings, including short-stay trips. Residential unit managers were very positive about the benefits, identifying increased confidence among young people as a direct result of involvement in planning and participating in trips. Young people were able to identify cultural and educational benefits from involvement in the trips.

The internal evaluation indicated that the project had made a positive impact on all the stakeholders involved, highlighting the support provided by the LAC teacher and home link worker, increased knowledge and confidence of parents and direct benefits to children, particularly in relation to the cultural outings.

Were there any difficulties which seriously impacted on the project?

No serious difficulties were encountered. The interim evaluation identified a need for improved communication with parents/carers, particularly in relation to the provision of regular feedback about children's progress. Keyworkers and teachers also said that they would like more regular, formal feedback to allow them to monitor a child's progress. Teachers reported that they were unsure of the home school worker's role within school and the work carried out with children. The unit managers made a number of suggestions aimed at improving the administration of the cultural activities in Strand 3.

What plans are there for sustainability?

The pilot was independently evaluated in both years by a team from the local authority's educational psychology service. The evaluators made seven recommendations at the end of year 1. In addressing these recommendations, the pilot project not only ensured that the aims were addressed in year 2, but also provided the basis for more general improvements in practice. For example, the project managers established accurate record keeping in year 2, including interval planners and evaluation sheets. Head teachers were more involved in decisions and there was evidence of young people working in collaboration with staff members in selecting and designing trips. The evaluation indicated that some stakeholders did not receive feedback on work being done with the young people, and recommended better levels of communication - ideally by deciding on ways in which communication will be relayed at the stage of planning an activity or intervention. Another important point highlighted in the evaluation was that parents/carers reported that they would have liked to receive more regular feedback from the LAC teacher and home link worker on the work done with their child, allowing parents/carers to feel more involved in their child's education. An important finding arising from Strand 3 was that basing trips around social outcomes yielded greater benefits than trying to fit them explicitly to educational outcomes.

Appendix 2.14. South Ayrshire

Project Overview

The pilot funding provided South Ayrshire Council with the opportunity to refine personal education planning and develop an action plan to create a culture which promoted educational achievement in residential and foster care placements. The project aims were partially met and successful elements of the pilot included consulting with the young people about their educational needs, the multi-agency approach to needs, and the personal education plans created. The young people showed improved communication levels and social skills, and improved self esteem after being involved with the project.

How did the project come about?

Although educational outcomes were generally improving for looked after children within South Ayrshire Council, the authority felt that extra input to some of their services would accelerate these improvements.

What was the project about?

The Taking Time to Talk Project was split into two strands: the first focused on personal education planning and involved consultation with young people and staff to develop the young people's plans; the second focused on residential staff, carers and parents and aimed to increase the capacity to develop and maintain a care environment that would promote and celebrate achievement.

Who were the participants?

The participants in Strand 1 were children looked after away from home in residential schools, secure accommodation, local authority units and local authority schools. In Strand 2 participants included residential staff, carers and parents, related to children looked after away from home in local authority residential unit/s and foster care placements, and children looked after at home involved in transitions in school or placements.

How was the project staffed?

Responsibility for the project fell jointly with the authority's Quality Improvement Officer and the Assistant Manager for Children and Families. Each strand involved a development worker, one employed by education (Strand 1) and the other employed by social work (Strand 2). Other personnel involved in the overall project included the Looked After Children Review Officer, the Care and Learning Steering Group, teachers, and administrative support. Residential school staff were also involved.

What has the project judged to be the successful outcomes?

According to the project leaders, Strand 1, which focussed on creating personal education plans, was very successful. They feel that the young people appreciated being highly involved in the process through the consultation sessions. The leaders were also pleased with the personal education planning aspect. Strand 2, which aimed to build capacity with staff in units, was also successful, mainly because the development officer involved in this strand was resourceful and proactive.

Outcomes developed from the project that were not necessarily expected or part of the original plan. For example, a resource booklet was created using data gathered by the young people about local amenities, youth activities, places of interest etc. This was produced to be used when the young people were being consulted on their personal education plans, in terms of interests, hobbies and holidays. Copies of this booklet were made available to the outreach team, the support team, the fostering and adoption team, the community safety partnership, and social work.

Young people were involved in focus groups which the project leaders say improved their communication and negotiating skills, and their self-esteem. The relationships that were developed as a result of the project were said by the project leader to be extremely powerful and positive.

The development workers in the project were very resourceful and managed to develop a number of smaller ventures under the umbrella of the pilot project. Although these ventures were funded by sources other than the original pilot funding, it was the work of the development workers employed through the pilot that made these ventures possible. Work included a library project that involved storytelling, guided library tours, free books, author signings, and magazine subscriptions and novels for the children's units. The interagency network the project was built upon worked very successfully, and the project leaders highlighted particularly the link between social work and education.

Were there any difficulties which seriously impacted on the project?

The project faced a delay in recruiting staff and also a loss and changeover of staff during the project. The original pilot aim in relation to children and young people in transition was difficult to fulfil, due to the constantly changing situation of the children and young people.

…the movement of young people, it happens so quickly that it was difficult to put in the transition work that needed to be done, and that has been highlighted as something that needs to be taken forward…it wasn't as effective as it could've been…[but] a lot of work has been done on it.

What plans are there for sustainability?

Strand 1 of the project will be maintained entirely by the Social Care and Learning Team. The work on transitions will also be taken forward. In terms of disseminating messages of good practice, the two development workers have already raised the profile of the project and, more significantly, that of looked after children and young people in general. The resources booklet developed alongside the young people will continue to be made available to relevant agencies.

Appendix 2.15. South Lanarkshire

Project Overview

The project was split into four separate strands which aimed to improve inter-agency working and provide accommodated children and young people with more flexible home-school links, roll out the literacy programme and Seasons for Growth, further enhance specialist learning/ behaviour support for looked after children and young people within school and home and provide further opportunities for extra-curricular involvement and citizenship.

How did the project come about?

The pilot grew out of existing work by a joint agencies forum specifically set up to improve the attainment of looked after and accommodated children, and from a resilience steering group which had begun to promote activities designed to improve literacy within children's units.

What was the project about?

The project aimed to develop resilience among children and young people living in residential units, through activities related to literacy, reductions in exclusion, the use of ICT and the delivery of Learning with Care training for staff.

Who were the participants?

The participants were approximately 65 young people resident in eight (now 10) children's units (though only five units have so far been involved in pilot work). The training participants were residential care staff, designated teachers, foster carers and educational psychologists.

How was the project staffed?

Two home-link workers were appointed and two teachers seconded to the project, all full-time a full time psychologist was appointed with a specific remit for attachment. There was a part-time administrator (10hpw) and the part-time involvement of two educational psychologists, a principal teacher and an external residential unit manager, reporting to the inclusive education manager. Two workers from the voluntary organisation Children 1st, engaged on a sub-contract basis, helped to develop story-telling activities.

What has the project judged to be the successful outcomes?

The storytelling and literacy strands of the project were very successful. HMIE were very impressed with this aspect. It was particularly well organised by Children 1st. who took responsibility for developing and running this strand, with South Lanarkshire staff monitoring it in the background.

The original idea for the storytellers came from a unit worker who was very good at telling stories. Staff in the unit had noticed that it was only on the evening when he was on duty that no children or young people would disappear because he would engage them by telling stories. Storytelling was flexible enough to be able to adapt to what was happening in the houses and in the children's or young people's lives. All of the children and young people in each unit were invited to participate in the storytelling. They were able to opt in, choose to observe from a distance or opt out. They always had the choice.

The children and young people in the residential units were found to be reading more. There was better awareness that reading can be pleasurable. This helped to improved resilience as the more children and young people read, the better they got at it, so the frustrations encountered at school where reading was involved in a subject were lessened.

The introduction of ICT in the residential houses was judged successful. An external consultant was engaged to provide a report. Computers and software were installed in the residential houses in an extension to the network used in the authority's schools. Staff members encourage the young people to use them for educational purposes like homework and projects.

The Learning with Care training was regarded as successful. Four members of staff delivered the training across the four localities and there was a good uptake from residential and teaching staff. The feedback was very positive. The teachers reported a greater understanding of what it was like for children to be accommodated. Similarly, the feedback from the residential staff included a greater awareness of the expectations in schools, the folio work required for English Standard Grade, how they should be completed and how young people could be supported to complete them. The residential staff also felt more confident about contacting schools and the training improved the relationship between schools and the residential workers. Four foster parents also participated in the training. The feedback from the sessions was also useful to help with re-writing the Learning with Care materials used locally.

The number of exclusions from school was reduced. The home-link workers contacted the residential units every morning to check if there had been any exclusions or problems at school. They developed very close contacts and good working relationships with the residential staff. They were also working in the classroom with young people who were either at risk of being excluded or were returning following a period of exclusion. The home-link workers were able to be flexible because they did not have set timetables. They could also work with the children in the residential units when required. The feedback from schools and residential units about the work done by the home-link workers was very positive.

The improved relationships between education and social work staff also resulted in meetings being more constructive and a more collaborative approach being taken. There was support for the project from directorate level and this gave the project credibility. The staff were allowed to get on with running the project without having people looking over their shoulders all the time.

Were there any difficulties which seriously impacted on the project?

The introduction of ICT was not as successful as hoped. Staff in the residential units were very wary of using the internet with the young people who were more skilled and were able to override some of the [security] arrangements. The residential workers were unsure about using IT, as were the teachers who were supposed to be driving this aspect forward. As ICT was introduced into the residential units, the number of visits to the library by the children and young people went down. They had been using the library to get access to the net.

Education support plans existed for a very high proportion of children and young people but when these were examined there were gaps, for example, in relation to identifying educational needs or being specific about their strengths. There was a lack of understanding about the terms like 'looked after' and the figures provided by schools were inaccurate.

There were occasionally problems in residential units when staff changed and had not been informed about the storytellers. The storytellers would have to start again from the beginning, particularly if the changed staff did not want them.

What plans are there for sustainability?

There were over 30 members of staff involved in the storytelling training so they will continue to provide storytelling. The concern is that the staff who participated in the storytelling were particularly enthusiastic and if they move on to other posts it will not be possible to keep delivering the training.

The two remaining home-link workers are continuing to provide support for excluded children and support between the residential units and schools. These posts are confirmed on a yearly basis. Both the Learning with Care training and the IT developments are continuing.

Appendix 2.16. Stirling

Project Overview

The funding Stirling received provided gave the opportunity to devise and implement a programme to work with looked after young people disengaged from education in order to raise educational attainment. The aims of Stirling's project were realised, and the project leaders are pleased about the good relationships developed between the young people and the project workers, and that there was evidence of increased attainment, more positive attitudes to education, and increased accessing of further training and education by the young people.

How did the project come about?

The authority was having limited success working with children and young people disengaged with education, compared to their work with other looked after children and young people. They took the opportunity to try to re-engage these young people with education.

What was the project about?

Stirling's project (known as the Real project) worked with young people who had difficulty engaging with education, using education packages of the young people's choice. The young people were consulted about timetables which could be a mixture of academic and outdoor activities, and individual or group teaching sessions. It was also regarded as important that activities should take place in a non-threatening, nurturing environment and that they should be designed to also help the young people with their social skills.

Who were the participants?

The pilot was aimed at looked after young people of secondary school age who have disengaged from education, primarily, but not exclusively, in S3 or S4.

How was the project staffed?

An education officer from the authority had responsibility for the project, and the project was further staffed by a principal teacher, two teachers, two inclusion support workers and two support for learning assistants. Administrative support was included, and there was a project management group. None of the staff members worked exclusively for the project. External agency staff (e.g. ArtLink, Careers Scotland, local FE colleges) were also available to the project.

What has the project judged to be the successful outcomes?

The pilot project leaders feel that it is too soon to know whether the longer-term target of positive post-18 outcomes has been successful, though indications are that this is likely to show a mix of success and failure. In their report to Scottish Government they say: 'For example one young person dropped out of a college course but then, with some support and encouragement from project staff, decided to return to undertake higher courses. Another young man has recently completed an army preparation course and is very positive about the future. On the other hand some of the young people remain known to the youth justice service and one has had a prison sentence. Although all had a post- school destination in place on leaving some did not remain engaged for very long in what were, on the face of it, very appropriate post school programmes such as 'Get ready for work.' Some of the young people continued to have very difficult problems to deal with in terms of lack of support and interest from home and in some cases homelessness.'

The young people became comfortable with the workers in the project, so they returned for advice even after their time in the project had ended. Some of the young people who were involved in the Real project became mentors for young people in other projects.

Were there any difficulties which seriously impacted on the project?

Initially the project leaders thought that the young people would want to work on a small amount of education and a lot of alternative learning activities, such as outdoor education. However, they found that the young people bought in to the educational aspects of the programme and had to employ more teaching staff and make more time available for educational aspects.

…we got a huge buy-in for these youngsters, but it was because the programme was explained to them as: 'This is your programme, you tell us what you want and we will try and supply it.'

The project leaders found that holiday periods could be quite difficult for the young people as they became used to the support that the project offered them. Without the daily structure provided by the project, the young people were more likely to slip back to habits of the past, including offending.

What plans are there for sustainability?

The ethos of the project will be continued as it will be embedded in to the work of the Secondary Support Service (Stirling's service for children with social and emotional needs). The internal evaluation will recommend that attempts are made to work with young people in a more empathetic manner and to help them choose life paths to which that they are more suited.

Appendix 2.17. West Dunbartonshire

Project Overview

West Dunbartonshire's pilot project focused on young people looked after at home who were working towards Standard Grade qualifications. As well as improvements in attainment, the project leaders also hoped to see improvement in softer measures. The aims of the project were partially met, and the project leaders are pleased that young people were helped to prepare for exams and that there were positive shifts in the soft indicators measured. They believe the intensive support given to the young people was effective and the work of their project staff was valued by the young people.

How did the project come about?

Within the authority there were already specialist teachers with responsibility for supporting children and young people who were accommodated. The authority also saw that young people living at home were not attaining as well as their accommodated peers. Efforts were therefore targeted at young people looked after at home, specifically those preparing for Standard Grade exams.

What was the project about?

The project was designed to improve educational attainment and also softer measures like the young people's self esteem, and to support the families of the young people.

Who were the participants?

The target group was all young people in the authority in S3 and S4 and their families. The project also aimed to provide support for secondary schools.

How was the project staffed?

The project team included a co-ordinator and an advisory group. Other staff involved included also an outreach teacher for looked after children, an educational coordinator, support workers for looked after children and an educational psychologist.

What has the project judged to be the successful outcomes?

The project leaders were pleased that they were able to support young people who would not otherwise have been presented for Standard Grade exams. Some of the young people apparently also attained more highly than was predicted. The measures of softer indicators improved for all the young people involved as their work with the project team progressed. The role of the support workers and the relationships they built with the participants were reported as being particularly valued by the young people, their families and by other professionals. Where the team were not able to get those young people who were out of school to re-engage, they were able to develop alternative educational provisions to help young people out of school to sit exams. The project leaders believe that it was the intensity of the work that managed to reengage them with education, where others had failed. Where appropriate, the project also managed to link young people to positive post-school destinations.

Were there any difficulties which seriously impacted on the project?

The initial project proposal was less focussed and included some aims that were not taken forward. The project leaders decided that, by narrowing their efforts, they would be more likely to make an impact; therefore, they reduced the target group.

There was a significant time gap between receiving the money for the project and recruitment of staff. Individuals who were already part of the authority's staff were seconded to the project and there was a subsequent 'knock-on' effect for further recruitment. The delays resulted in less time being spent with the first cohort of young people. They also reported that they had a limited number of young people to work with.

One aspect that had to be addressed early related to identifying the role of the project in the authority's wider support structures, such as the Joint Assessment Team and the looked after children support workers and teachers. Ultimately, this provided the impetus to help the authority re-define some of its support strategies.

What plans are there for sustainability?

The project leaders have a desire to carry on the project, but the availability of funding remains a concern. They had secured funding to extend the project through the 2008 examination period to support their second cohort of young people. They are awaiting exam results for these young people and believe that the true evaluation of the project will arise from discussion of these results. In terms of disseminating the ideas that have arisen from the project, the advisory group members and those who have worked within the project (representatives from the social work and education sectors, as well as educational psychology) have been discussing the project and its impact with their colleagues.

Appendix 2.18. West Lothian

Project Overview

The project had four separate strands which aimed to: provide a supported setting within mainstream primary schools (the nurture groups) and deliver the 5-14 flexible curriculum for specific looked after children; provide agreed programmes of inter-agency support in secondary schools for looked after young people (some of whom were offending in the community); provide support for looked after children in the transition period from primary to secondary school; and to help improve confidence and self-esteem of looked after children and young people through regular physical activity. Both the nurture groups and the flexible programmes have now become mainstream and have expanded since the start of the project. The buddy strand (transition from P7 to S1) is now incorporated as part of the 'having your say' forum.

How did the project come about?

Improving services for looked after children was a target area in the Children Services Plan and a multi-agency team was established to take this forward. The project provided an opportunity to build on earlier work and also to respond to the support issues identified in consultation with young people themselves, through the forum for looked after children.

What was the project about?

Firstly, nurture groups were being promoted in two primary schools where there were significant numbers of looked after children; this was part of a wider development of nurture groups in the authority. Secondly, personalised programmes with a flexible curriculum were being offered to young people in one pilot secondary school to assist them to remain in education, or to access training or employment. The third strand was the development of a buddy scheme whereby older looked after children supported other looked after children as they entered secondary school (this was developed in response to suggestions from the young people themselves). The fourth strand was an extension of an existing programme - Physical Activity for Confidence and Esteem ( PACE) which was run in collaboration with West Lothian Leisure Services and provided the resources and opportunities to enable young people to use sports and leisure facilities.

Who were the participants?

All categories of looked after children were included in all of the strands. The nurture groups were being piloted in two schools: in one school the pupils were from P1 and P2 only; in the other school there was an opportunity for P5 to P7 to take part in a supportive setting with a motivating, flexible curriculum. Six to eight children were involved each time. By the end of the project, nurture groups had been established in nine schools. The personalised programmes involved a group of six to eight pupils from S3 and S4 from one secondary school; they were selected on the basis of being at risk of becoming looked after. The buddy scheme was piloted in two secondary schools and their associated primary schools; young people became volunteer buddies and there was a recruitment target of up to 30 children. Children were referred to take part in the PACE programme from a wide range of partnership agencies, with over 16s being allowed to 'refer' themselves. There were about 80 young people involved.

How was the project staffed?

All strands drew on a wide range of existing staff. The following were appointed specifically for the project: nurture groups - two full-time teachers and two part-time support assistants; personalised programmes for S3 to S6 - one part-time teacher, one part-time key worker and one part-time support assistant; the buddy scheme and the PACE programme were supported by one full-time development worker.

What has the project judged to be the successful outcomes?

The nurture groups proved to be very beneficial in the schools where they were piloted. The early intervention focus helped young children to access school in a more positive way. A further benefit was that the enhanced contact with parents enabled those who did not have good personal associations with their own school life, to establish more positive connections. The schools that took part in the project all had nurseries attached to them and the parent / staff relationships in nursery schools were very strong.

The benefits of the nurture groups were identified by the head teachers in the pilot schools and they communicated these benefits to their colleagues in other schools. As a result, other head teachers approached the project for funding to start their own nurture groups.

There were noticeably fewer referrals to the senior officer review group from the schools with nurture groups. These schools were in the areas of greatest challenge and had a high level of success in supporting the children in mainstream education.

A school which had a nurture group received very positive comments from HMIE which recognised the impact that the group was having on the school and the way in which it was promoting positive learning. The nurture groups were flexible enough to provide support for children who were not looked after but were experiencing a chaotic home background. One of the schools which was not part of the project but had established a nurture group, reported that the proportion of looked after children was lower than those not looked after.

The school where the flexible curriculum was piloted managed to ensure that the young people were more successful at accessing courses, attended school on a more regular basis and were more successful in gaining basic qualifications. The results in standard grade English and maths had improved every year, indicating that the flexible curriculum packages had been successful.

The buddy scheme evolved to become an issues forum to overcome problems experience with the original model. This has now merged with the youth participation network in West Lothian and is no longer regarded as a separate buddy scheme.

Information was available from West Lothian Leisure showing every looked after young person who had a pass for leisure centres and how often these passes were used. West Lothian Leisure dedicated a member of staff to administer the PACE project and to provide statistics on the level of use. Children who were looked after at home were using the swimming facilities three times per week and going swimming with a parent because the PACE passes allowed them to do this as a family.

The success of this project was due to the multi-agency approach. There is now a well established, multi-disciplinary team established for looked after children dealing with teaching, health, educational psychology and the confidence and mental well-being aspects of PACE. All of these strands would be involved if a future project was being established.

Were there any difficulties which seriously impacted on the project?

The success and the way in which this success was communicated among the head teachers resulted in requests for funding to support nurture groups elsewhere in the authority.

The young people involved in the flexible curriculum strand of the project were the more challenging looked after young people. They often came from families which did not regard education as a priority so were unlikely to cooperate with daily activities such as getting the young people out of bed and off to school. There were also difficulties in agreeing how flexible the package could be and how much the young people's wishes should be taken into account when creating the package.

Many of the young people who were included in the flexible curriculum strand had attachment issues, so it was sometimes better to reduce the staff involved to one or two people. This meant that the package could be very limited because a single teacher could not address all subjects at secondary school level.

The PACE strand experienced staff changes resulting in some delays in implementation. It was difficult to make suitable pairings of the older children with the younger ones. Both sets of looked after children had personal issues which required a level of 'crowd control' and resolving of inter-personal difficulties. This was managed by changing the approach and establishing an issue-based forum (having your say) based on the West Lothian youth forum model.

There was some difficulty in accessing data required for the project because of the IT systems. There are now two separate databases available which can be shared.

What plans are there for sustainability?

It is not possible to create additional funds for setting up nurture groups as in West Lothian, 92% of funding is devolved to schools. The main focus will be on promoting the nurture group techniques and training with head teachers. Also, it is likely that children who required support from the nurture groups at an early stage may require further support again at later stages in their lives as the demands on them increase ( for example, in P3 where they have more written work or P5 when they are expected to work more independently).

Over the next year, training for the nurture groups will be rolled out so that by the end of session 08-09, one person will be trained in each school. This will ensure that children throughout the school will benefit from this approach.

The use of flexible packages has proved to be successful with the standard grade results providing the evidence.

The young people are committed to the continuation of the 'having your say' forum.

In addition, an application has been made to the local action fund to allow the PACE passes and vouchers to be funded for next year. The plan is to continue to target PACE as there is a large waiting list already.