Attainment Scotland Fund evaluation - families and communities: thematic evaluation report 2024

This report presents evidence from the evaluation of the Attainment Scotland Fund (ASF) to show how approaches to family and community support and engagement have developed and been embedded in schools and local authorities as a result of funding.

Executive Summary

Learning does not start nor stop at the school gates, and some of the factors that can influence the outcomes of children and young people are in the family and community.

In recognition of this, school engagement with families and communities has been a key feature of the Scottish Attainment Challenge. Evaluation evidence shows a developing picture of engagement with and support for families and communities over the years of the Evaluation. From an early focus on interventions to the development of local authority wide approaches, there is an evolving picture of support.

This report presents evidence from the Evaluation of the Attainment Scotland Fund (ASF) to show how approaches to family and community engagement have developed and been embedded in schools and local authorities as a result of funding.

A thematic approach to evaluation

The Evaluation of the Attainment Scotland Fund (ASF) was established to provide learning about the overall implementation of the Fund and the extent to which progress has been made towards the outcomes of the Scottish Attainment Challenge.

A refreshed approach to the Evaluation was developed in 2022, which included a thematic strand of evaluation, designed to respond to emerging system priorities and to consider ‘what works, for whom and in what circumstances’. Based on input from the ASF Evaluation Advisory Panel, three initial thematic areas were prioritised: Families & Communities; Readiness to Learn; and, Children and Young People’s Voice.

The evaluation of ASF approaches to family and community engagement

From the early stages of the Scottish Attainment Challenge, we have highlighted that interventions to support families and communities and engagement strategies have increased over the years to a point where they are considered a priority for schools. This includes the provision of targeted support for families, the role of school/family development workers focusing on wider support for children and families, improving attendance, engagement and participation, and supporting family learning. Over time a shift from a range of individual school level interventions to wider and more systematically planned ‘approaches’ at the local authority level was apparent.

The impact of the pandemic, and subsequent school building closures, widened and intensified the need for and provision of family and community engagement and support, at the same time as evolving the ways in which it was delivered. There is considerable evidence of an expansion of some services and a pivot towards increased direct contact and support for families during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly the two periods of school building closures and remote learning. Themes which emerged in this period include:

  • Increased partnership working with families, parent’s groups, the third sector and with other local authority services.
  • Schools working directly to facilitate increased contact with families, with provision of food, materials to support home-learning, and face to face ‘welfare’ visits etc.
  • The role of family/link workers, often funded through PEF, were highlighted. For a number of local authorities, existing family link worker roles enabled a rapid response to the challenges facing families, often working in partnership with third sector organisations to respond to changing circumstances of families.

Current initiatives and approaches to family and community engagement

A survey of Scottish Attainment Challenge Leads in local authorities was undertaken by Scottish Government analysts in 2023 which included a focus on families and communities, while Education Scotland Attainment Advisors collected evidence around families and communities for a National Summary Report that was published in early 2024. The combined evidence from these sources shows:

  • Nearly all local authorities which responded to the SAC Leads Survey considered families and communities a strategic priority for their local authority in relation to their approach to the Scottish Attainment Challenge.
  • Most local authorities currently have strategic approaches in place to support engagement with parents and families, often driven by parental involvement and engagement strategies.
  • The important role of family link workers, particularly their ability to reach families and engage meaningfully with them.

Summary of evidence

Based on the Evaluation evidence, it is apparent that local authorities have utilised the Attainment Scotland Fund to support approaches to engaging with and supporting families and communities to the extent that we can evidence an embedding of these approaches. This evidence includes strategic approaches that most local authorities have put in place to support engagement with parents/carers and families. There is evidence that family link workers and similar roles and teams have had considerable impact universally and on those who have been targeted for example in terms of strengthened relationships between schools and with families and communities and the resultant increased awareness within schools of poverty and its impact on pupils (and their families). Local authorities and schools recognise that close relationships and tailored, meaningful suport is critical in their work to close the poverty related attainment gap.



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