Evaluation of the Schools Linking Network: Final Report

David Kerr, Avril Keating, Joana Lopes, Thomas Spielhofer, Ellie Mundy, Helen Poet

31 March 2011

Research report available to download from DfE

Research brief available to download from DfE

In 2007, to support the implementation of the duty on schools to promote community cohesion, funding was provided by the then Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF, now the Department for Education, DfE), in partnership with the Pears Foundation, to launch a national school linking programme in England, overseen by the Schools Linking Network (SLN). SLN developed from a model of local school linking which was originally established in Bradford in 2001 and Tower Hamlets in 2006, and aims to 'facilitate links between schools in England to help children and young people explore their identity, celebrate diversity and develop dialogue'.

This report sets out the findings from NFER’s evaluation of the national pilot which was designed to extend the linking programme beyond in Bradford and Tower Hamlets. The evaluation was commissioned by the then DCSF (now DfE) and included both a qualitative strand and a quantitative strand based on a two-stage, quasi-experimental research design.

Further information on the School Linking Network is available at: http://www.schoolslinkingnetwork.org.uk/

Key Findings

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.