Integration and community cohesion national pilot improves children’s attitudes and behaviour at local level
31st March 2011
Schools have a crucial role to play in strengthening integration and community cohesion and helping all children to develop a mutual respect for and understanding of others. The Schools Linking Network (SLN) was set up with the explicit aim to assist in this process by facilitating links between schools in England at local authority (LA) and national level. The SLN programme establishes and encourages links between schools in order to allow children and young people to explore their identity, celebrate diversity and develop a dialogue with other young people in their communities. The belief is that such increased contact between pupils can have a positive impact on their attitudes to others and so help to strengthen integration and cohesion at the local level. The NFER’s recent evaluation of the SLN national pilot programme found that, overall, it was having a positive impact on the pupils and school and LA staff involved at local level.
What is the Schools Linking Network (SLN)?
With close involvement from local authorities (LAs), SLN provides opportunities for children and young people from different schools to meet and to build new relationships; working together and contributing to the wider community. It also gives adults who work with children and young people the chance to share good practice and increase their understanding of the issues of identity, diversity and community.
Key findings from NFER's evaluation
- The key determinant of the impact and outcomes of school linking for pupils is the intensity of the school linking experience. Linking had the greatest positive impact when the children at the linked schools met two or more times a year.
- The programme’s success was also enhanced when the recommended preparation and follow up work was carried out.
- School linking can have a positive impact on many aspects of pupil’s skills, attitudes, perceptions and behaviours, particularly their respect for others, their self-confidence and their self-efficacy, as well as broadening the social groups with whom they interact.
- LAs have a critical role to play in supporting the SLN programme in schools through partnership working with SLN and schools at local level.
- School and LA staff also benefit from the programme in terms of CPD, opportunities for self reflection and learning about their pupils.
- The majority of schools and LAs who took part in the SLN programme planned to continue their involvement.
- The SLN programme was considered to be highly cost effective in relation to the impacts and outcomes it achieved.
- The sustainability of school linking is improved where conscious attempts are made to embed the learning across the school curriculum.
Recommendations Moving Forward
In order to develop further the benefits the programme is showing as SLN expands beyond the national pilot phase, the report’s main recommendations include:
- Reviewing the different ways in which school linking is managed and addressing the issues of recruiting more schools.
- Developing the methods for evaluating the outcomes of the process and using these to create greater impact.
- Give more thought to the impacts and outcomes of school linking
- Further explore the cost effectiveness of the programme and consider its sustainability going forward.
Project Director, Professor David Kerr said, 'That the evaluation has shown that school linking can have a positive impact on pupils' attitudes and behaviour toward others is good news for efforts to strengthen integration and community cohesion through schools at local level. The findings are helpful in moving school linking forward at national, LA and school level and I hope that they will be considered and acted upon.'
Angie Kotler, Chief Executive, Schools Linking Network commented, 'We are very pleased with the findings of the NFER evaluation. The impact the Schools Linking Network programme has had on Local Authorities, schools, teachers and students alike is clearly identified. Evaluation is very important to us. It helps us to establish which parts of the programme work most effectively, which need to be strengthened and which need to be adapted to meet the needs of our ever-changing environment. Most importantly evaluation is a means by which to measure success. Evaluation always has and will continue to be built into our work so that we continue to be a learning organisation.'
The report Evaluation of the Schools Linking Network is available via: /publications/SNOZ01
For more information contact Allie Chownsmith, Media and Communications Executive on 01753 637155 / email@example.com
Notes to editors:
NFER was commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE, formerly the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF)) to conduct an independent evaluation of the national pilot of the Schools Linking Network (SLN). The evaluation was focused on three key objectives:
To collect data on the types of school linking activities taking place in LAs and to evaluate the processes (at LA and school level) that are administering and supporting the school linking.
To measure the impact and outcomes of school linking at different levels (i.e. on pupils, schools, staff, and local communities).
To consider the sustainability and cost-effectiveness of school linking beyond the pilot phase.
For earlier evaluations and further information about SLN, visit
Previous work from NFER on Citizenship and young people’s attitudes to civic engagement is available at: /publications/CEE11/