Registered charity number 1160947 Private Limited Company number 08991196


Written evidence submitted by West London Zone (WLZ)

West London Zone (WLZ) is a charity that exists to lead the provision of an innovative system of early intervention support for children and families. We work with children at risk of poor social and emotional and academic outcomes aged from 3-18 years old and are currently working with 1,700 children and families, in 54 school settings across four local authorities including Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham and Brent. 
 

Ultimately, our aim is to prevent negative outcomes like exclusion, poor attainment and mental health issues, all of which have a significant cost for the government – and are linked to worse outcomes for young people as they progress through life. Our support focuses on early intervention across a two-year period: working with children with multiple risks, but not yet severe enough for statutory provision or Early Help.

 

The children and young people WLZ works with are identified using a number of different measurements including:

 

1.     Attainment in maths      

2.     Attainment in English (secondary) or reading (primary)   

3.     School engagement (secondary) or attainment in Writing (primary)         

4.     Attendance (%)

5.     SDQ: Peer Relationships score

6.     SDQ: Emotional Symptoms score         

7.     Parental engagement

 

Our approach focuses on proactive identification, personalised support plans and working in collaboration with partners and schools to simultaneously address multiple needs including social, emotional and academic. The bedrock of the WLZ approach is the Link Worker, who is a consistent presence in the child’s life, in school every day for 2 years building a trusted relationship with both the child and family. The programme also provides a range of enrichment activities at school which can encourage young people’s enjoyment and therefore attendance.

 

Our Impact

 

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Drivers of absences

 

In the schools we operate in, the average attendance rate is 95% (96% primary, 94% secondary). At the outset of our programmes -

 

There are a range of factors which play a role in driving absences and the issues which WLZ have experienced include but are not limited to:

              Social/emotional and anxiety disorders

              Low confidence

              Poor parent/carer engagement and lack of home structures supportive of learning in school

              Breakdown in relationships between child and their parents and the school

              Other issues not picked up through standard school provision

              Contextual safeguarding

 

Barriers and solutions to improving attendance

 

The barriers to improving attendance are both complex and different for each individual child and as such WLZ advocates for personalised and tailored interventions which are rooted in the school and local community. However, there are a number of common key factors which WLZ consider crucial to overcoming existing barriers including:
 

-          Early intervention – waiting until challenges and risks have escalated make them harder to respond to and so early identification and support is vital

-          Additional resources - these need to be available to ensure schools can offer the necessary support in a consistent manner where it is required

-          Trusted relationshipsbrokering positive family/child relationships is vital, yet it can be challenging for schools to build and maintain a comprehensive picture of the home environment

-          Personalised support - providing the social, emotional mental health support tailored for each child’s needs is imperative to respond to the individual family and child’s challenges and circumstance

-          Early intervention - it is vital that the system can identify all children with underlying issues rather than focusing exclusively on those with the greatest levels of need/risk

 

The role education policy can play in improving attendance

 

When considering mechanisms to improve school attendance, West London Zone recommend adopting a long-term systemic approach which works across school, home and community settings and focuses on identifying and addressing the factors which are driving absences.

 

WLZ consider absences to be symptomatic of broader challenges. Given this, we consider the most effective approaches to improving school attendance to be those which seek to address the underlying causes and focus on constructing and building trusted relationships between children, the family and their school. In many cases this will be related to a young person’s engagement with school, their confidence and/or potential challenges in the home environment.   

 

WLZ advocate for a whole school approach to tackling absences and recommend that attendance is considered as part of a broader conversation surrounding a child’s wellbeing and engagement with school as opposed to an issue which is looked at in isolation from their interactions at school.

 

 

 

 

Impact of the Covid pandemic

 

While the challenges we have witnessed undoubtedly pre-date the Covid pandemic, they have since increased in both severity and volume following the initial lockdown period.

 

We have seen increases in absences and in particular persistent absences among the young people participating in WLZ programmes[1], for example:

 

Since the pandemic, WLZ has also seen a significant increase in the proportion of young people being identified as at risk in their confidence and wellbeing, and there are signs that parental engagement may also have been impacted.

 

For example, we saw heightened risk (scores outside the normal range) in SDQ scores - 20% up to 25% - with particular increases for secondary students, where risk increased from 12% to 26%. Confidence was also impacted, with the proportion of 62% of CYP starting at WLZ at risk post-covid compared to 47% pre-covid (though it’s important to note this might be impacted by variances in schools and selection criteria).

 

February 2023

 

Registered charity number 1160947 Private Limited Company number 08991196


[1] Including both authorised and non-authorised absences