5: Key Findings and Recommendations
This chapter revisits the three main aims of the evaluation and highlights the key findings and issues to emerge from the study. Where appropriate, the researchers have suggested recommendations concerning the development of SSP/ OSHL in Scotland.
5.2 Planning SSP/ OSHL
Most local authorities increasingly expect schools to feature study support in their school development planning, particularly now that efforts are being made to fully integrate study support into school provision. Since 1999 schools have been encouraged to relate their SSP/ OSHL programmes to all five National Priorities.While the overall aim of SSP/ OSHL was seen by Lead Officers as helping pupils to reach higher standards of achievement, they stressed that this also took into account the needs of those who faced barriers to their learning. SSP/ OSHL has therefore increasingly included addressing core skills, self-confidence, health and relationships, developing aspirations, and a sense of achievement. Reducing exclusion rates and improving attendance and timekeeping were seen as further objectives for targeted groups.Increasingly SSP/ OSHL activities submitted by schools and partner organisations for approved funding have been required to cross-reference with the National Priorities, local objectives and the How Good Is Our School quality indicators. However, local authorities have devolved much control to schools concerning how the National Priorities are addressed through SSP/ OSHLWhere partnership working has occurred, SSP/ OSHL often features in joint planning. It is clear that social inclusion and community-wide priorities have increasingly featured in local authority have plans for SSP/ OSHL and therefore have required a multi-agency approach.Some key informants suggested that schools are increasingly putting in place coordinators to facilitate SSP, but that this is more typical of secondary and larger schools. This is seen as promoting the effective planning and implementation of SSP/ OSHL. These personnel have a key role in situations where there are numerous supporting partners and networks to negotiate with.Since 1999 there has been an increase in schools involving young people in the implementation of SSP activities, but less of an increase in their involvement with planning these activities. The SCRE Centre evaluation highlights that where consultation with pupils and parents in the design of SSP/ OSHL had occurred, pupils reported being particularly satisfied with the content and approaches of their SSP/ OSHL. Such consultation had also promoted greater rapport between staff and pupils of all abilities and dispositions, and more productive links with their parents. This then enhanced the overall ethos of the school and quality of school life.Key informants believed that changes in personnel, especially Lead Officers, and the limited time they can allocate to SSP/ OSHL-related duties could inhibit the development of SSP/ OSHL at local level. Often such personnel are on short-term secondments which limit longer-term planning, especially if there is a limited framework and planning for SSP/ OSHL in an authority.
- While it is important that such provision is embedded into schools' main provision for it to be sustained and have an impact, care should be taken to ensure that this does not restrict the spontaneity and voluntary nature of activities that attracts participation.Schools should be supported to put SSP/ OSHL co-ordinators in place. Primary schools have smaller numbers and arguably less complex SSP/ OSHL than secondary schools and it might seem they have less need for coordinators. However, primary teachers report they have more contact time than secondary teachers and find it difficult to organise SSP/ OSHL and prepare bids for funding.
- Planning for SSP/ OSHL should addresses key principles in line with current policy, such as equality of provision, local needs, social inclusion and the voice of the young person/community.
- There is a need to encourage schools to continue their efforts to consult young people about their SSP/ OSHL, to shape the nature and direction of such provision. However, it must also be recognised that pupils' suggestions might reflect a limited awareness of appropriate and innovative strategies.
- Ideally, officers should have greater time available to manage SSP/ OSHL, and have other duties that are complementary to this work. This would promote their knowledge base, time to plan, and opportunity to build networks that could enhance SSP/ OSHL provision.
5.2.1 Monitoring of SSP/ OSHL
Twenty-four (24) of the 30 participating local authorities reported that SSP had been monitored or evaluated in their schools. The school survey revealed that 80% of schools conducted monitoring of SSP/ OSHL. However, relatively few schools reported presenting data in annual reviews and in similar systematic planning documents. This raises the possibility that useful data and information are not being fully utilised to inform policy and practice at authority and school level.
- Monitoring of SSP/ OSHL should be flexible to reflect the various contexts in which it is provided. However, such monitoring and evaluation should take into account overarching national principles and criteria such as the How Good Is Our School quality indicators and the Code of Practice for study support and its associated evaluation criteria.
- Teachers stress that any monitoring of SSP/ OSHL must also be realistic, feasible and manageable within their school setting. At school level there is resistance to any monitoring system that might involve additional workload issues for staff. Therefore, the development and implementation of a code of practice, associated evaluation indicators and approaches should take this into account. There are also associated issues including providing guidance for schools on implementing such practices in a feasible and sustainable way.
5.3 The Extent and Nature of SSP/ OSHL Since 1999
The evaluation surveys of local authorities and schools reveal modest increases in the scope SSP/ OSHL activities since 1999. Those activities that have seen the greatest increase have addressed pupils' broader development and physical activity. This corresponds with an increasing policy emphasis on practice which addresses all five National Priorities and on developments to increase the profile of physical activity among young people and schools (for example the Active Schools Programme).
Almost all secondary schools and over three quarters of primary schools reported that they currently provide SSP/ OSHL. However, some key informants have suggested that the level of rigour of planning and diversity of provision at school level varies.
Teachers reported that priorities for SSP/ OSHL reflect local authority objectives, the National Priorities for education and local needs and context. However, primary schools are more likely than secondary schools to focus on developing pupils' broader skills, physical activity levels and promoting wellbeing. In secondary schools SSP/ OSHL includes a strong focus on developing academic abilities; although, as with primary schools, there has been an increase in activities that aim to promote physical activity.
The nature and scope of much SSP/ OSHL appears to reflect the local situation, available skills and resources, and priorities. Historical factors are also important, such as the existence of previous support for pupils and partnerships.
There are indications from local authority data and their policy documents of a move towards placing SSP/ OSHL within a more holistic model of education provision and the development of the young person. Some local authorities state their SSP/ OSHL is placing a greater emphasis on promoting generic learning skills, targeting pupils, and providing transition programmes rather than specific subject-focussed study support. However, the school survey data collected by this evaluation suggests that, while many secondary schools are sympathetic to these ideals, they maintain a strong focus on subject-specific study support tailored to helping pupils to do well in their SQA examinations. The pressure for schools to perform in terms of SQA examinations can inhibit schools from introducing more innovative SSP/ OSHL approaches, particularly when pupils and their parents see exam performance as being influenced by intensive subject specific support.
The qualitative component of the evaluation highlighted that sometimes moves towards more innovative study support approaches in secondary schools can be limited by a focus on subject specific activities at the expense of those that promote generic learning skills. Ironically, such innovation is often inhibited by consulting with pupils who want SSP to focus specifically on subjects to 'get them through their SQA examinations', a view usually shared by their parents.
- It seems appropriate that SSP/ OSHL provision should continue to be framed by the National Priorities for education and local authority objectives, yet be flexible in terms of content and focus in order to address pupils' needs and local context. However, it is recommended that schools and local authorities should be encouraged to assess whether their provision is meeting the needs of all pupils, including those that are usually difficult to attract, or who face barriers to participation. Again, this suggests the need for regular monitoring of provision and consultation with pupils and parents.
- There is a need to raise awareness among pupils and parents that learning and achievement can be promoted via a range of SSP/ OSHL approaches. This would help allay pupil and parent concerns over the usefulness of alternative approaches and allow more informed choice by pupils and parents when consulted about their needs.
- There is a need for continued communication of good and innovative practice in SSP/ OSHL across schools and Lead Officers. Indeed, the school surveys highlighted that primary and secondary school teachers would appreciate more information on innovative and effective SSP/ OSHL approaches and associated monitoring to assess their impact.
5.3.1 The role of funding in the scope of SSP/ OSHL
Central funding per annum for SSP/ OSHL has increased from £37 million over the years 1999-2003 (4 years) to £34 million over 2003-2006 (3 years). Over this period, schools have also used other sources of funding to provide SSP/ OSHL, particularly NOF/lottery funding. However, the NOF funding was not intended to be a continuing source of funding and has now ceased.
Ninety percent (90%) of responding teachers believed that the funding from the Scottish Executive for SSP/ OSHL had enabled them to offer activities that otherwise would not have been provided. However, a smaller number of respondents (60%) thought that the funding was sufficient to meet all of their school's priorities for SSP/ OSHL.
Lead Officers and teachers in rural and remote authorities stressed that a considerable amount of funding for SSP/ OSHL had to be used for transport costs to access opportunities. However, our analysis indicates that in rural areas, while the number of SSP/ OSHL activities has increased proportionately more than in urban areas, the diversity of provision has not increased. This could also be due to the range of available partners being more limited in rural areas.
Teachers and Lead officers indicate that the funding for SSP/ OSHL has meant SSP/ OSHL provision has increasingly become embedded in schools' overall provision, including strategies for addressing social inclusion. The majority of those surveyed argued that funding would have to continue, at least at current levels, to avoid any detrimental impact on the sustainability of their SSP/ OSHL systems and their overall capacity to address their educational and social priorities.
In recent years, more local authorities have stressed to schools that bids for SSP/ OSHL programmes should involve whole community, multi-agency approaches, and sources of funding other than the authority itself (for example, The Prince's Trust, business sponsorships and local associations). This is seen as both addressing the need to involve the wider community, and the need to increase the sustainability of SSP/ OSHL programmes.
- With SSP/ OSHL now embedded in schools, it is important that there is continued and adequate funding from the SEED for this provision, in order to maintain activities that are now mainstream to achieving schools' overall aims and objectives. Funding levels provided by the SEED should at least match those currently in place.
- In addition to funding from the SEED, the current scope and nature of SSP/ OSHL has been made possible by numerous sources of funding (eg NOF). The effect of an absence of NOF funding for OSHL has yet to become evident. Such funding has been extremely important in facilitating SSP/ OSHL that had a broad focus and addressed the needs of disaffected young people. Therefore, local authorities, schools and partner organisations should continue to explore other sources of funding that could supplement that available from the Scottish Executive. The role of informed local coordinators and partners in this process is crucial; however, some are likely to require support to identify funding sources. Such advice and support could be provided from government and national organisations such as SSSN.
- Teachers, particularly primary school headteachers, stress that the bidding process for funding SSP/ OSHL can be time consuming. Therefore, some thought should be given to how the bidding process could be simplified and made more accessible for teachers.
5.3.2 The degree of partnership working in study support activities
Since 1999 there has been an increase in schools working in partnership to plan and implement SSP/ OSHL activities. Partnerships have often involved culture/leisure/recreation departments and this possibly reflects the increased emphasis from government for SSP to address all five National Priorities and efforts to promote physical activity of school-aged children. Most Lead Officers reported that their partnerships with other organisations and departments have been productive.
This evaluation has shown the importance of supporting partnerships for the provision of effective SSP/ OSHL. In particular, the qualitative strand of the evaluation revealed the importance of partnership networks in enhancing the capabilities of schools' SSP/ OSHL especially in addressing the need of disaffected pupils. Such partnerships can include social work services, community education services, charitable organisations, local businesses, community organisations, parents, have increased schools' access to funding, resources, specialist personnel and services.
- Schools should be encouraged and assisted to explore potential partnerships with agencies, organisations and providers that can help the school address their identified SSP/ OSHL priorities. Guidance and support for schools at local authority level may be necessary to help schools identify such partners.
- Lead Officers should continue to assess which departments and contacts within their councils are most likely to assist schools in the planning and implementation of their SSP/ OSHL.
- While partnerships have enhanced schools' SSP/ OSHL provision, this requires effective co-ordination by an appointed person. Often teachers have limited time to liaise with relevant agencies. Therefore, there is a need to continue to support the provision of skilled and enthusiastic personnel who can fulfil the role of coordinator, located within schools or a partner organisation.
5.4 The Outcomes of SSP/ OSHL
Previous UK research has demonstrated a clear association between study support and academic performance, increased motivation to learn, and self-esteem. Given that the SCRE Centre evaluation was commissioned well after the introduction of the Study Support Programme, it was not possible to conduct an evaluation informed by baseline data or to include control group schools. By this stage in the programme, almost all schools reported providing SSP/ OSHL.
Nevertheless, the majority of teachers and local authority Lead Officers who were surveyed believed SSP/ OSHL provision had positively influenced pupils' attainment, self-confidence, study skills, motivation to learn and wellbeing. Qualitative accounts from teachers and pupils also strongly indicated that SSP/ OSHL had contributed to pupils' attainment and promoted their key skills. According to local officers, one of the clearest outcomes appears to have been on promoting pupils' level of physical activity.
Lead Officers and schools were generally able to provide examples of effective SSP/ OSHL, stating that these examples were highlighted by the authority's and schools' own monitoring and evaluation systems. However, the SCRE research suggests that there is variation in how schools and their authorities monitor and evaluate SSP/ OSHL and what criteria are used to assess effective provision. Therefore, it is difficult to establish an overview of effective practice and outcomes.
In addition, while most Lead Officers and many teachers stated that systematic monitoring data had informed their comments on the positive impact of SSP/ OSHL on attainment, their attribution of SSP/ OSHL on affective outcomes such as motivation to learn, positive behaviours etc was based on 'softer' measures. These included verbal and written feedback and accounts. Such measures can be very useful at individual school level but do not permit generalisations across schools. Teachers and Lead Officers also stressed that even where SSP/ OSHL was thought to have been instrumental in influencing positive outcomes, it was likely that there were also other factors involved, thus highlighting the complexity of such processes.
With these caveats in mind, the frequency and consistency of accounts of positive outcomes, together with the wider research literature do seem to indicate that SSP/ OSHL can contribute to improvements in pupils' attainment, attendance, and study and social skills.
Finally, teachers' qualitative comments highlight the need for appropriate and targeted SSP/ OSHL for disaffected and vulnerable young people. Pupils' and teachers' comments stress the value of such provision and its positive outcomes. However, a strong theme in the evaluation findings is the difficulty facing many schools in attracting such young people into SSP/ OSHL programmes and activities. Often these pupils are more likely to be subject to peer pressure not to attend after school activities, and there may be other competing factors such as part-time employment.
Schools have, therefore, demonstrated creativity and adaptability in exploring strategies to encourage targeted young people to participate. For example, the use of lunchtime study support where pupils are encouraged to attend sessions in comfortable, informal settings that are conducive to learning, where they have access to ICT equipment and appropriate staff and other resources. While such provision might involve certain resource implications, for the young people the appeal of getting help with work during the day rather than struggling on their own at home appears strong. Other strategies have involved one-to-one approaches, multi-agency work, residential and outdoor activities and incentives.
- While information gathered by the SCRE Centre evaluation indicates that SSP/ OSHL can have a positive impact on pupils' attainment, skills and attitudes to learning, there is a need for more focused studies to examine the impact of various SSP/ OSHL approaches on pupils who usually do not participate.
- Key informants suggest that wider benefits and impacts may now be emerging as a result of the broadening of SSP/ OSHL priorities (eg positive impact on the local community and parents). However, such diverse and complex outcomes pose challenges for evaluating the impact of SSP/ OSHL. Therefore, there is a need to identify and measure such complex outcomes. This will require detailed and suitably sophisticated evaluation approaches that use appropriate evaluation indicators. Such indicators could be based on those in the How Good Is Our School materials and the Code of Practice, for SSP/ OSHL and should be piloted in further evaluations at national and local level.
- Flexible and targeted SSP/ OSHL approaches appear necessary if those most in need of support are to be encouraged to participate. However, these approaches can have resource implications and/or require particular skills. Therefore, Lead Officers, the SEED, and relevant organisations such as SSSN have a role to play in promoting awareness of such practice, providing guidance on how these approaches can be implemented, resourced and sustained in different contexts, and providing resources where required.