Family Support – The Benjamin Foundation (Primary and Secondary)
A wrap-around approach of advice and guidance for schools and families of children at risk of exclusion. Whilst always keeping the child as the central focus, exploring ways to engage with and encourage healthy engagement in school life
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Local Authorities, Pastoral and Support Staff, Trusts
KS1, KS2, KS3, KS4
Why was the project needed?
Many Family Support worker roles in schools had been cut due to budget constraints which left a significant gap for many families struggling, especially in relation to children engaging with school life. Local services had lengthy referral times.
The Norwich Opportunity Area team sought a solution via a short term (typically six week) external intervention and wrap around support for families of children at risk of exclusion to be delivered in a timely manner. We hoped that this would reduce the number of both fixed term and permanent exclusions
What happened and what was the impact?
The Benjamin Foundation employed a team of experienced Parent Support Advisers (PSA’s) dedicated to the Norwich Opportunity Area schools to enable both the Primary and Secondaries to make referrals.
PSA’s used a balanced approach between support and challenge, bridging the gap between home and school, advising ona wide variety of issues and supporting the family support process and other multi-agency interventions. PSA’s empowered parents to make positive life choices by building on their strengths, increasing their confidence, developing their parenting skills and improving their access to other services. All parents were offered places on The Nurtured Heart Approach® – The Benjamin Foundation course.
Data captured from school returns have demonstrated an increase in attendance post intervention at both primary and secondary levels.
In spring term 2022 all children who had more than one fixed term exclusion in the previous term saw a reduction of by at least 50% post referral.
What did and didn't work?
Families valued the additional support offered to them and were also being informed and signed posted to additional services that they were not originally aware of. Some families have felt it easier to talk through challenges with someone not linked to school and valued the impartiality.
The take up of the Nurtured Heart courses was fairly low with some families being hesitant to attend (even when courses were changed to being delivered remotely during the pandemic). This could be down to several reasons – the time to be able to attend due to work commitments and a perceived stigma of needing support with their child’s behaviour.
How did you measure success?
Success was measured by a combination of data returns from the Benjamin Foundation on a half termly basis and termly basis from schools.
A needs analysis after Year one of the intervention was completed lead to two contract extensions in order that families continued to benefit and especially following the pandemic when there was an increase in need for services such as these identified.
Ingredients For Success
Ensure that the intervention is matched to the need – open early dialogue with contacts in schools to establish the non-negotiables. Choose the provider via a commissioning process that is fair and equitable, and sense checked by professionals at moderation level. This also gives clarity to expenditure by “block booking” services over a contract period for schools to refer to on an as and when needed and rolling basis. No resources were needed apart from provider designed e- pamphlets and master referral forms. Devising a user-friendly method of periodic evaluation for contractors and end-users is best planned at an early stage as to the exact information that needs to be captured. Schools were coached in completing the returns. Be aware of procurement rules and regulations – we took advice from Norfolk County Council.
The service was commissioned and provided by an external provider. The sustainability of this approach is limited to knowledge passed on from provider to key staff in school and of course to the advice and guidance imparted to parents and families of children from the schools.
What are the Long Term Impacts
Families and children ill feel better informed, advised and adults more confident in their approaches to parenting. Attendance will continue to be improved and the instances of fixed term or permanent exclusion will be reduced.
“L is like a different child to last year! We have had no incidents of behaviour so far this term. He has settled into year 6 really well and is working hard”
“It was really nice seeing you. I feel a lot more confident than before about school and the work. I don’t worry about them anymore”.
“I couldn’t have done it without your support. Everything has been a great help. C has improved so much and the course has made me see things that I have forgotten about. Life is much calmer and happier at home now.”
Next steps to do something similar yourself
These are a list of Big Idea resources that you can use to implement in your setting:
The Benjamin Foundation. The Nurtured Heart Approach®:
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