Children’s Services research interests
Our study asked Children's Services interviewees about their priority areas for research, now or in the future. Their responses are listed below.
Schools, learning and education
- School improvement
Evaluating the impact of school improvement on learning and development outcomes for pupils was assigned importance by LA officers. Provision of extended services in schools was a key element of this.
- Effective teaching and learning
Strategies aimed at fostering optimum conditions for teaching and learning were significant areas of research need. Examples included the use of self and peer evaluation in CPD, encouraging pupil and ‘whole-school’ motivation, language support handwriting skills, and pedagogy or ‘learning how pupils learn’.
- Raising achievement
LA officers were especially concerned about certain underachieving groups such as ethnic minorities, pupils from low socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds, looked after children (LAC) and travellers. ‘Narrowing the gap’ between the attainment of boys and girls was also mentioned. Interest was expressed in the evaluation of targeted initiatives such as Sure Start, Children’s Centres and Nurture Groups.
- Inclusion issues
Further guidance was requested by LA staff concerning inclusion issues. Specifically mentioned were the effects of increased inclusion on pupil outcomes; strategies and developing practise for increasing pupil retention and attendance; the inclusion of challenging pupils and measuring outcomes from Pupil Referral Units (PRUs).
- Meeting the needs of SEN pupils
Developing best practise in inclusive provision for pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN) was seen as a priority for research, as was the successful management of these pupils in mainstream and special school settings. There was interest in how best to meet the needs of pupils with certain kinds of SEN such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The process of engaging with parents of SEN pupils was also highlighted as a potential topic for future research.
Some further areas nominated for research were the effects of closing small schools on pupil’s achievement and development, issues around school transport, and the development of provision for 14 to 19 year olds.
The integration of Children’s Services departments following the Children’s Act 2004
Models of good practise across local authorities
Interviewees emphasised the importance of conducting comparative research to gather information about how other LAs had approached and reacted to integration. Models of good practise could then be developed from this information, which would be used to assist in making the integration process ‘smoother and more successful’.
Effective partnership and multi-agency working
The impact of multi-agency working in terms of measurable outcomes for children and young people was also included under the topic area of integration. Related to this was the need to identify and resolve any workforce remodelling issues prior to them affecting the quality of service delivery.
Issues highlighted included the need to ascertain objectively whether outcomes for children and young people had or would improve, and the need to re-consider and re-structure needs assessment frameworks, as direct consequences of the integration.
Fulfilling the five core aims of Every Child Matters
Significance was assigned to evaluating how far the core aims of the Every Child Matters agenda were being fulfilled, with particular emphasis on quantifying the influence of partnership working and innovative practice. Promoting positive mental health in children and young people was also an area of importance for Local Authority officers.
Service oriented and structural priorities
Interviewees were interested in the development of Children’s Services staff as a research focus. Emphasis was placed on gathering information about changes in staff skill sets, in order to facilitate good practise and effective service delivery following service redesign.
Officers also wanted to be able to use valid objective research to make comparisons between their own and other Local Authorities in terms of planning and developing service provision, and for evaluating the effectiveness of various initiatives.
Measuring outcomes for Children’s Services
In particular, more research was thought to be needed into assessing the quality of service provision, and obtaining the views and opinions of children and young people and their parents.
Interviewees wished to explore the factors involved in effective leadership in Children’s Services departments. Other service-oriented and structural research priorities included the successful management of finances and role management Looked-after children (LAC)
Improving outcomes for LAC
Interviewees wished to find out how services for LAC could be designed and delivered to improve educational, social and psychological outcomes for LAC.
Impact of care
The short and long term effects of care, attachment to carers, and neglect were topics seen to require further research.
Impact of services and legislation
The performance of Local Safeguarding Children Boards, and the effects of legislation on LAC and their families were identified as future research foci.
Adoption and fostering
Specific aspects within these areas emphasised by Local Authority officers were focused around the effects of selective placement and placement stability, building resilience among foster carers, young carers and successful ways of attracting foster carers.
Local Authority officers emphasised their wish to have more research conducted into the field of child protection. Successful methods of improving practise and early intervention were highlighted as areas of particular need. Local Authority officers also required further guidance on reducing the numbers of LAC and preventing their initial move into the care system.
Social, societal and interpersonal factors
A number of issues which affect the wellbeing of children and young people were viewed as requiring research:
Drug and alcohol misuse
Measuring and addressing multiple deprivation
Young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs)
The ‘gang culture’
Social and economic impact of inward migration
Evaluating the impact of initiatives aimed at promoting effective parenting was considered to be an area of significant research need. Constructing models of best practise in supporting the parents of children and young people with problem behaviour was also seen as important within this topic area.
Pupil health and welfare
Successful targeting of services, initiatives and education aimed at promoting positive physical and mental health to pupils was identified as an area of research need or interest by LA officers. Specifically mentioned were: tackling obesity, improving wellbeing and happiness and strategies for obtaining the pupil’s voice in relation to their health and welfare.