Children Have Options, Imagination, Challenge and Experience – CHOICE: a primary intervention programme, Wakefield
Themes this local practice example relates to:
- Schools and Communities
- General resources
Priorities this local practice example relates to:
Wakefield MBC in partnership with Carleton Community High School
The context and rationale
Background details to your example
Primary schools and a community high school in Wakefield are working together to identify children in years 4, 5 and 6 who are at risk of becoming NEET, and then target those children with a programme of NEET preventative activities. Wakefield MDC has developed a NEET tracker which contains key data relating to each child, including their NEET risk level. The impact of the programme on each child’s NEET risk level is recorded, and tracker data forwarded to the high school in preparation for entry in to year 7.
Carleton Community High School (CCHS) in Wakefield draws many of its pupils from a deprived area where unemployment is high. Some parents have not engaged in education themselves, and their children in turn can display a lack of enthusiasm for school and challenge authority.
The Local Authority chairs a NEET Implementation Group of key local partners who were determined to focus on the prevention of NEET (young people not in education, employment or training) which led to the development of a NEET tracker. This electronic tool enables schools to use the data they have on learners to assess their risk of becoming NEET and therefore to provide support where required. This has led to a range of intervention programmes for those at risk.
The primary NEET tracker is pre-populated by the local authority with learner data for years 4, 5 and 6 relating to their name, date of birth, super output area, free school meal status, and Key Stage 1 results. A Lead Officer then meets with the Head Teacher of each primary to demonstrate and explain the use of the NEET tracker. The Head Teacher then populates the rest of the tracker with data which includes attendance, SEN, expectation to make 2 levels of progress by the end of KS2, and vulnerable group category if applicable i.e. looked after children or young carers. Each data entry triggers a weighted score, which is totalled and then identifies the child as being at low risk, medium risk or high risk of becoming NEET.
CCHS has successfully trialled the NEET tracker and worked with the pyramid of primary schools within the CCHS district, and identified that younger siblings of the group of pupils involved in the prevention work at the high school were displaying similar, or in some cases worse, NEET risk factors. The schools, together with the LA, developed the primary CHOICE programme in 2010/2011.
CHOICE is a project which targets year 4 to year 6 children in three CCHS partner primary schools. The aim is to re-engage children in education, and improve their attendance and achievement through working to reduce anti-social behaviour in and around the community, build relationships with the police and other agencies such as the fire service and drugs education providers, and provide support for anger management to ensure a crime free lifestyle for participants in the programme. The programme is designed to support/re-engage pupils who:
- find it difficult to access the curriculum and are at risk of under-achieving or exclusion;
- are at risk of becoming NEET or who display poor life skills.
Further details about the practice
Carleton Community High School (CCHS) approached its feeder primary schools with plans for a programme which targeted approximately 12 children in each school between the ages of 9 and 11 who met the criteria provided above and were viewed as being at risk of becoming NEET at age 16.
All 3 primary schools were keen to become involved and a programme was developed for their participants. Risk assessments were carried out and cohorts identified.
The project is at the heart of the community and activities are led by people from within the community. Community buildings are used during the project, including schools, police and fire station facilities, as well as a community/adult education centre that is situated in the heart of this deprived area and acts as a beacon of opportunity for all age groups. Local, regional and nationally elected people have both supported and become involved in the project. A key organisation for the children, the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), sees this project as a way to access young people who would otherwise not be able to obtain help. Partners include:
• Wakefield College (a key provider of post-16 vocational training programmes)
• West Yorkshire Police Service
• West Yorkshire Fire Service
• British Transport Police
• Child and Adolescent and Mental Health Service
• Wakefield Authority
• St Mary’s Community Centre
• Primary Schools: Cobblers Lane Junior and Infants (J&I), De Lacy J&I, Rookeries J&I
• Carleton Community High School
• Parents and carers of the participants
• Pontefract Education Trust
• Castleford Tigers Professional Rugby League Club
• Wakefield Educational Psychology Service
Following a successful pilot, partners supported the continuation of the CHOICE project starting in January 2012. This agreement included the development of plans to roll out the project across the Wakefield District, to all secondary schools and their feeder primaries from April 2012. The Local Authority became a key partner in monitoring the project delivery and success, identifying further funding streams, and recommending the project for the 2012 Commonwealth Award.
From September 2011, CCHS and the LA invested a considerable amount of time developing a new 30 week programme for the 3 feeder schools. In order to engage children beyond the programme, a focus on a vision for what college was like, was created. This involved Wakefield College and as a consequence, the children became ‘College Cadets’. Work on this vision highlights what young people can achieve, and close interaction with Wakefield College staff helps to inspire future goals. It is planned that a record of achievement is given and a mini-graduation ceremony arranged at the end of the 30 week period.
As a further incentive, an accredited Fire-Fighter course was created for the programme by West Yorkshire Fire Service. Each child has a uniform and boots purchased in order to participate. The course covers all aspects of the consequences related to the misuse of fire; it highlights the impact that is inflicted on its victims and the time and cost to the Service and community. A percentage of the young people in the cohort are identified as high risk in this area and referred to the programme. The course is almost military in structure which instils order and highlights the need to care for others. A first aid certificate is achieved on this course with a focus on burns. The conclusion is by way of a ‘passing out’ parade. Parents are invited to the event to share the celebrations. All ‘passing out’ parades are scheduled for February 2012.
Plans are currently under way for the roll out of similar programmes across the district. The current 30 week programme with the 3 feeder primary schools ends in July but will commence again, funded by CCHS, in September 2012. Schools that choose to tap into or fully implement the CHOICE programme will be able to do so from April 2012, with their own staff and funding.
The 30 Week Course
The course is delivered once a week for thirty weeks, in the afternoon. The last hour of the school day is allocated for the delivery of the programme, and this scheduling at the end of the day has been proven to work well.
The course starts with the Vision. Children are able to access taster sessions at Wakefield College in the vocational areas of construction, mechanics, bricklaying, hair and beauty, and catering, and two further sessions in sporting activities. This essentially inspires children, giving them an insight into what College may be like, and the courses that are available to them. Throughout the time that is spent at College a record of achievement is created, and the programme concludes with a mini graduation ceremony. The sessions are built into the Actions and Consequences timetable, on five separate occasions throughout the year. The elements of the course include drugs education and awareness, railway safety, the criminal justice system, and health sessions which focus on relaxation. The health sessions are observed by CAMHS who provide an overall emotional assessment at the end. There is an additional assessment by the educational psychologist both pre- and post- programme, to measure the thought/behaviour change process.
Also included is a six week fire-fighting course led by Castleford Fire Station which links to the anger management and team work elements of the programme. The initial suggestion of working with the Fire Service generated excitement amongst the children. The course and the intended outcomes of the programme were explained to parents, and all parents and children were willing to become involved.
There is also an eight week Young Explorer course which is led by the Police. This course outlines what is involved in joining the Police service as a career, and looks in detail as to why entering the criminal justice system is not an option!
All children involved in the CHOICE programme are automatically eligible for the Children’s University passport to success. This is further supported by staff at the primary school, where learning destinations are arranged for the activities to be carried out. Support is available via the CHOICE co-ordinator as required.
In future, evenings are to be arranged for the general public to see the results of the work achieved by the young people.
Achievements so far
Further details on your achievements
Each child’s details appear on a primary NEET risk tracker which has been provided by the local authority. The participating schools have analysed the impact of the CHOICE project from the data which has been entered onto the NEET risk tracker on a regular basis. From achievement data provided by 2 of the schools for the period September to December 2011, the following has been attributed in part to engagement in the CHOICE programme. Of 20 participating children:
• 2 (10%) of participants have improved their mathematics by more than one sub level
• 10 (50%) of participants have improved their mathematics by one sub level
• 7 (35%) of participants have improved their writing by more than one sub level
• 5 (25%) of participants have improved their writing by one sub level
• 3 (15%) of participants have improved their reading by more than one sub level
• 7 (35%) of participants have improved their reading by one sub level
• 6 (30%) of participants have improved in all three i.e. maths, writing and reading
Student feedback on the 2010/11 CHOICE programme from one primary school was that all 12 participants:
• opted to have the programme continue
• have given positive answers to how it has helped them
• talked about what they enjoyed the most
• said that they would not change anything
In addition, behaviour in school and on the programme, and attendance at school, has improved for many.
Positive feedback has been received from head teachers.
NEET tracker information will be forwarded on to CCHS once it is confirmed by the admissions team that CCHS is the agreed destination for each individual. CCHS will use the information to plan and support with an appropriate secondary programme for each child, and ensure a successful transition from primary to secondary school.
The NEET risk tracker has also identified additional children that require the attention of school staff and other agencies, who were not otherwise viewed to be at risk. As a result of the success of the programme, the local authority is in the process of rolling out the NEET risk tracker to all primaries before the end of the 2011/2012 academic year.
There has been much interest in the CHOICE programme, including communications with the Prime Minister’s office and local MP’s office, the Department for Education and West Yorkshire Police for roll out across West Yorkshire.
North, South and West Yorkshire & Humberside Fire Services are also keen to hear more about the programme and Keighley Fire Station has asked if the Fire-Fighter programme can be rolled out over the whole of West Yorkshire.
• A submission has been made for the Commonwealth Education Good Practice Award and the programme was recently filmed by visitors from the Virgin Islands, with a view to implementing the programme abroad.
• District secondary schools are awaiting the roll out of the programme from April 2012 and the Behaviour Service Referral Team has expressed interest in working within the programme.
• An application for sponsorship by Network Rail has been submitted for £21,000 to create an after school programme with Castleford Tigers for the children, where direct contact with the players will serve to drive their continued success.
• There are plans to add a police cadet course to the programme pending notification of further funding.
The following challenges have been identified by the CHOICE project coordinator at Carleton Community High School.
The first challenge was getting the content of the programme correct for a younger audience. The agencies involved had previously supported other programmes for older learners and discussion was required to focus on the needs of younger learners. This type of project had never been tried before with children as young as 10. Through these meetings, a commitment to this programme was secured over a long-term basis. The agencies were all willing and fought on the CCHS’s behalf with their managers to be able to give the commitment.
Secondly, many parents of the children had failed to achieve at school themselves. As a consequence, they had little confidence in the school system. Some had little confidence in the programme and initial meetings had to be dealt with sensitively and positively. CCHS has also linked with a Strengthening Families parenting course at the local Outreach Centre where children and parents work together and parents can discuss the barriers they have in supporting their children. The offer of literacy and numeracy classes was also made available and two parents so far have signed up for these.
An obvious challenge was funding for the project. Because of the levels of NEET in the north east of the district and the LA work on tracking those at risk of becoming NEET, partners agreed to contribute resources. Participating primary schools currently pay £1000 towards covering programme costs. Resources will obviously continue to be a barrier to further development of the CHOICE programme.
Identifying suitable facilities was also a challenge as it was important that the children had the opportunity to experience different environments. In this partners were supportive. Wakefield College provided the venue for sessions in Construction, Mechanics, Hair and Beauty, Catering and Sports. The Outreach Centre was used for the after school events where both children and parents attend holistic therapy and Castleford Tigers Rugby Ground was used to deliver an alternative approach to basic literacy and numeracy.
Approximate costs for one term programme delivery and for planning roll out from April 2012:
Total staffing £21150
Third Party £2950
A pack of information, guidance and support will be produced by CCHS for all Wakefield Secondary schools so that they may implement the CHOICE programme within their own localities. CCHS will continue to fund the programme for their own primary schools. It is expected that economies of scale will eventually be achieved.
Much has been learnt in this time:
1. parents will engage when an empathic approach is applied and support is available with regards to literacy and transport;
2. barriers to learning can be removed by creating an alternative provision that provides targeted interventions that meet the needs of vulnerable children and their families;
3. organisations that do not usually have an active involvement in long-term education projects will become active participants when shown their relevance and value;
4. when the community is asked to look towards itself to solve a problem, it has far greater capacity than its members often realise.
The CHOICE programme has been shown to improve the attendance and behaviour of its participants, support improvement in their mathematics, reading and writing, engage their parents in supporting their children, prepare Year 6 participants for transition to secondary school, and support secondary schools in planning their transition and successful engagement in secondary education.
Key leadership behaviour characteristics
The following core behaviours have been identified as part of successful elements of leadership (see National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services/C4EO (2011). Resourceful leadership: how directors of children’s services improve outcomes for children. Full report. Nottingham: NCSL. http://www.nationalcollege.org.uk/docinfo?id=144732&filename=resourceful-leadership-dcs.pdf).
Wakefield identified the following behaviours as key to the transformation of its service:
Openness to possibilities
We explored the issues surrounding the poor engagement of some primary children in education, and in partnership created a solution that incorporated new initiatives and new contacts, and drew down funding from appropriate budgets.
The ability to collaborate
Consensus for the solution was secured through strong partnership working between the LA and wider partners at the highest level, and fed down to operational groups who supported the use of the NEET trackers and utilised the resources available.
Demonstrating a belief in team and people
In Wakefield we have a shared drive and commitment to meeting the needs of the children in our care. These shared values ensured that there was secure and productive team working, with support provided to a range of partners by the LA. The enthusiasm of the CHOICE team was infectious and contributed directly to the success of the programme.
Personal resilience and tenacity
Persuading busy primary Head teachers to populate and use the Primary NEET tracker in addition to their existing systems required tenacity and resolve.
The ability to create and sustain commitment across a system
The work was initiated by strategic leaders in the LA and commitment to the CHOICE programme was created as plans were disseminated and discussed. The CHOICE vision, shared by all stakeholders, became a reality and there are plans to continue into another year as more partners commit to the programme.
Focusing on results
The desired outcome was to ensure that the young people involved in the programme made a successful transition to secondary school and engaged and achieved in secondary education. However, there was a need for some outcomes to be short term, and these had to be linked back to the direct impact that the project had on attainment in maths, reading and writing, and the NEET risk level of the participant. The LA took a rigorous monitoring role to assure the success of the project, and positively challenged any inaccuracies in pupil data with a supportive but pragmatic attitude.
The ability to simplify
The project was developed to fit with district priorities, with schools targeted by the LA for enhanced support. Its aims and objectives were therefore clear and understood by all stakeholders.
The ability to learn continuously
From the outset the project involved a new way of working to address the needs of primary school children who were viewed to be at risk of not engaging in education during their secondary school years, and of becoming NEET. We learnt of and accessed more providers in the district, and built strong operational relationships with the fire, rail and police services amongst others, allowing us to understand and utilise knowledge from the front line. The project has been the trail blazer for the use of the NEET tracker by primary and secondary schools – we have engaged directly with senior staff in both settings and have learnt much in relation to what more needs to be done, and how, to ensure all schools use the tracker to monitor NEET risk levels and apply appropriate interventions.
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