On April 30th, Children’s Neighbourhood Scotland (CNS) hosted an exciting seminar on Improving Outcomes for Children and Young People: Using Research and Evidence to Make Change Happen at St Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life and Art in Glasgow.
The seminar aimed to create a space where practice and learning could be shared, alongside the challenges and successes of place-based working and where networks and alliances could be built.
The day brought together more than 60 delegates from all over the UK – from academics to education, health and community practitioners to local and national government colleagues working on similar initiatives to support better outcomes for children and young people and reduce childhood poverty at a neighbourhood level.
The seminar included perspectives from those involved in delivering and evaluating place-based approaches in Wales, Northern Ireland, England and Scotland.
Alison Drever, the National Programme Director at CNS, opened the event by speaking about the vision and ambition of CNS. She explained why place-based initiatives led by the children and young people who will be affected by can be an effective mechanism to tackle poverty and systemic disadvantage.
Following Alison’s introduction, Dr Claire Bynner, the Research Team Leader and a former Research Fellow for What Works Scotland, shared insights from research and evidence about why places matter to people and how the local context of each community can contribute to poverty and inequality.
Claire shared her knowledge of the lessons learned from What Works Scotland and her work with CNS about the links between local democracy, participation, and inequality, and how we can all learn to “do democracy” differently. By empowering local people to be activists and agents of change, they can have an impact on their own communities and increase local democracy.
Later in the day, two CNS researchers, Dr Maureen McBride and Dr Sarah Ward explained how they’ve been carrying out research using the Capabilities Approach for CNS. Maureen and Sarah spoke about how they are committed to making sure that children’s voices are heard and involved in leading the discussions about the decisions that affect them.
Working with children and young people from a local primary school Sarah and Maureen asked, ‘What do YOU want from life now, and in the future?’ The top five answers children and young people gave were:
- good health, including positive relationships
- education and learning
- a good standard of living
- safe and appropriate places to play
- a long lifespan.
Building on this work, and with the aim of extending the research’s reach and developing the children’s own research and enquiry skills, Sarah explained that the children plan to ask their classmates what is important to them. The children have created a list of questions and will survey others at school. Once this is done, they will work with Maureen and Sarah to analyse the data they gather.
The children and young people joined delegates at the seminar to hear Sarah and Maureen speak about the work that they have been doing together, Over lunch, delegates spoke to the children and young people about what it was like to take part in the research and the young people asked delegates about their jobs and interests.
Presenting on initiatives in Wales, Dan Bristow, Director of Policy and Practice at the Wales Centre for Public Policy (WCPP), spoke to delegates about the five Welsh Children First areas. These areas are where the Welsh Government is committed to integrating early years’ systems and services to support better health and education outcomes for children and young people.
Dan spoke about the importance of all major stakeholders agreeing a plan of action that mobilises resources, support and training and a shared goal if a place-based approach is to be successful. In Children First areas stakeholders have focussed on leadership, collaboration between those involved, and a commitment to action from all levels of government.
Sarah Melkevik, the Children’s Policy Manager in the Welsh Government, talked about the multi-agency approach the five Children First areas are taking in their approach. She was joined by the head teacher of Millbrook Primary, Lindsey Watkins, and they both shared their reflections on the early challenges and successes of these programmes.
Speaking about her first-hand experience in the Newport Children First pilot, Lindsey explained how important the right partnerships, collaboration, and a shared vision are within the community if place-based, child-centred programmes are to work.
Former teacher and PhD researcher Victoria Hirst shared her work at Manchester University on “tackling educational disadvantage through an innovative cradle-to-career school design”. Victoria spoke about how she is examining the challenges and opportunities of the Reach Children’s Hub based at the Reach Academy Feltham.
Dr Sarah Pearson from the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University spoke in the afternoon about what stakeholders and researchers are looking for when they make sure place-based approaches can mitigate the impacts of poverty for families.
She emphasised the need to constantly evaluate what works for such approaches to see how place-based approaches are making a difference for individuals, families, and communities. Sarah reminded everyone how complex the process of improving outcomes for children and families is and that it necessitates a range of research methods and evidence.
Jackie Redpath from the Greater Shankill Children and Young People Zone in Belfast shared a film about the work and ambitions of the Zone titled ‘A New Picture’. Evident from the film was a real sense of the commitment that goes into making the zone successful. Jackie spoke about the zone’s unique approach to helping each child succeed, which focussed on understanding the circumstances and needs of each and every child and supported them for as long as necessary.
At the heart of the zone is the ambition to work towards whole generational transformation and the promise to constantly try new ideas to address Shankill’s challenges at their root.
Dr Leeanne O’Hara from the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation at Queen’s University in Belfast spoke to delegates about her work with partners undertaking place-based approaches in Northern Ireland. Leeanne shared clear evidence about the health and wellbeing benefits to children and young people that can be brought about through long-term commitment and improvements with communities.
The day ended on a high note when everyone at the conference broke into small groups to discuss their own questions and experiences. Professor Nick Watson, Chair of Disability Studies at the University of Glasgow and a professor in the Institute of Health & Wellbeing, closed the seminar thanking everyone for taking part and highlighting a shared sense of excitement for more collaborative opportunities to share learning in the future.
You can access a short report of the event and links to speaker slides here.