We were commissioned to provide an 18-month evaluation of the Better Together [BT] Project to understand whether it was an effective approach for equipping schools (and potentially other settings) to support the early help system and to understand likelihood of impact on family stability and educational outcomes.
The Better Together Project is part of the Opportunity Area Programme seeking to improve social mobility for children and young people, to break the link between social background and destination.
The multi-method evaluation comprised data analysis of over 500 tracked children and qualitative research with a range of stakeholders including leaders and ground staff in 40 schools (c40% of all schools in Stoke on Trent), four pilot Private Voluntary and Independent Sector (PVIs) , the Better Together team, a sample of wider Children’s Services teams (referral teams, family support team managers) and senior managers including the Assistant Director and Director of Children’s Services.
The evaluation contained the following stages:
Stage 1: Scoping and design – understanding the background and purpose of the evaluation, refining the method with stakeholder input.
Stage Two: Theory of Change- we developed a ‘theory of change’ with stakeholders to underpin the evaluation, identifying what changes were needed/expected to take place in order to achieve the expected impact.
Stage Three: Initial Stakeholder research - initial ‘formative’ phase of stakeholder research
Stage Four: Baseline Data Analysis
Reporting - Formative evaluation report
Stage Five: Stakeholder Research Phase Two
Final Research and Analysis
Final Report and presentations to various relevant boards
All the staff from Interface involved in managing and delivering this formal evaluation exercise have been constructive, highly supportive and responsive to us always offering practical helpful suggestions and prompts to the range of staff who are directly delivering the project along with colleagues within the authority and the wider Better Together Steering Gp (DfE senior staff, local Headteachers and other local leaders). Their supportive approach has always been a helpful blend of challenge, idea exploration and nudges leading into sensible decisions and practical ways forward. We genuinely value their knowledge and expertise.
Interface staff have always demonstrated their knowledge, expertise and understanding of national policies and challenges of education, children’s social care particularly with the local context of the recent challenges of a poor Ofsted inspection.
Carolyn Higgs Project Manager Lead for Better Together