Early Intervention is certainly in the news. The government has high hopes for the impact that adopting an Early Intervention approach will have on pupils and budgets. Our answer tries to summarise what it might mean for you.
What is Early Intervention?
C4EO describes Early Intervention as ‘intervening as early and as soon as possible to tackle problems emerging for children, young people and their families or with a population most at risk of developing problems.’ The idea is that by catching an emerging problem early enough this saves both personal difficulties and money.
‘Early Intervention: The Next Steps’ is an independent report by Graham Allen MP. It identifies the 19 ‘most promising’ intervention programmes with each one having a very high standard of evaluation, being clear about its aims and proven to have a positive impact on children’s health and development.
These programmes might be applied to help children and their families with mental and physical ill-health, learning difficulties, relationship difficulties, substance misuse, domestic violence, involvement in criminal activity and those generally disengaged with society.
Why is it all the rage?
Many of the Early Intervention programmes identified by Graham Allen deal with aspects of the child’s whole well-being. They often focus on issues within families and require the support of a multi-agency team. They are very focused and intense. They prioritise the needs of the family and are adapted to them. Having said that, they also have a very clear structure and it is expected that this is rigorously applied.
In some cases they do represent a shift in approach. Rather than tackling the behavioural need directly they may look for ways of helping families to deal with it. So, for example, instead of addressing a child’s need for attention they accept that that need is there and look for a way of meeting it that is less disruptive to the rest of the household. We might even call it ‘damage limitation’.
In most cases the programme relies very heavily on a close dialogue with the family as this is where barriers often begin. Programmes like this can only really work where families want them to. They are designed for those who recognise there is a problem and will respond to help. I am unclear what will happen to those less willing to engage.
What impact might it have?
This is the most difficult part of your question to answer. The idea is that there will be a greater range of providers offering services to schools to support them in intervening early with difficult and challenging families.
The government is currently inviting bids from LAs and partners to deliver some of the programmes that it has identified as being particularly well-evidenced and capable of making a difference. It’s still in the early stages, but we can assume that once these programmes are up and running they will be available to you, as a school, to buy into.
What isn’t clear is exactly to what extent it will be the school meeting the cost from such programmes out of pupil premium money or the LA from the Early Intervention Grant. The balance here is ill-defined, particularly with the expectation of large numbers of schools becoming independent as either Academies or Free schools.
What you should do?
For the time being my advice would be:
- Continue to be evaluative and gather evidence about any programmes that you are currently running
- Make sure you keep up-to-date with the needs of your most disadvantaged pupils and their families and keep careful records of these
- Update your staff on current developments and make sure they recognise that the old support networks will be changing and the need to be open to these changes
It’s an uncertain landscape, let’s hope these interventions do make the difference needed in our most challenging communities.