Local practice examples
This summary tells us what works in strengthening family wellbeing and community
cohesion through the role of schools and extended services. It is based on a rapid
review of the research literature involving systematic searching. It summarises
the best available evidence that will help service providers to improve services
and, ultimately, outcomes for children, young people and their families.
The Institute of Education carried out the review on behalf of the Centre for Excellence
and Outcomes in Children and Young People’s Services (C4EO). The National Foundation
for Educational Research (NFER) compiled the data.
Children and young people’s views are influenced by factors beyond school. Community
cohesion strategies need to operate at multiple levels, not just at school, and
children need to have time to explore and reflect on their experiences.
Children with deeper prejudiced attitudes before an intervention are least likely
to report a change in their views, and in some cases, their attitudes harden. It
is, therefore, important that the local situation is taken into account when developing
a cohesion strategy.
Local authorities need to develop and maintain trusting relationships between different
agencies and the communities they serve. Local authority community cohesion officers
have an important role in advising schools and other children’s services on how
best to make an effective contribution.
Schools and extended services can contribute to cohesion through linking projects
with other schools, using the curriculum to promote shared values and offering extended
services to parents and the wider local community so that parent and family engagement
is at the centre of their developmental activity. Successful approaches for engagement
with parents and families take into account the specific needs of the local community.
Schools should offer themselves as a base for community activities out of school
hours and during holidays to promote engagement with the wider community.
School leaders and teachers must develop good two-way communication with parents.
School staff need training so that they feel confident and communicate well with
all groups in the school’s local community.
Teachers need to be convinced of the value of cohesion projects, such as linking
projects with other schools, so that projects are integrated into wider classroom
work and are successful. It is also important that schools listen to young people,
for instance via feedback from school councils and from regular school questionnaires.
School governors need to be representative of the local population, in terms of
class and ethnicity. A range of strategies can increase participation, including
a dedicated governor recruitment officer, advertising in the local press and allowances
for childcare and other costs.
Parents and carers need to be involved with the school, for instance as mentors
and with the services on offer to feel that they have a valuable contribution to
make. Resistance from parents may be misunderstood as a lack of interest rather
than originating from a lack of time or of confidence.
Families most at risk from lack of engagement should work with one person who can
link them to the range of services on offer. A trusted point of contact helps those
families that are reluctant to engage due to previous experiences of services, especially
if they have found them fragmented. The use of parent support advisors by schools
has proved to be very successful for these reasons.
Children’s Trusts need to provide schools with good data about their local communities
so that decisions on which services to provide are not based only on schools’ limited
interactions with families.
The main data sources are the DCSF (on educational attainment and attendance and
progression outcomes) and a number of different national cohort studies and cross-sectional
ad hoc surveys (on attitudes and perceptions). The data provides indications of
the extent of community diversity (as represented by pupil backgrounds, disability
and mental health).
The cross-sectional and longitudinal surveys are sources of information on perceptions
of community cohesion and engagement. There is no clear measure of the national,
regional or local extent of parental involvement.
The evidence relating to family and parental support is wide ranging. However, there
are some weaknesses and there is a need for: