This function is crucial to the work of the West Partnership, supporting it to evaluate its activities in terms of each workstream and more widely through the achievement and attainment of learners across the eight authorities.
The partnership is aiming to have an influence and shift change in three complex areas; equity, excellence and empowerment. In order to demonstrate collective impact across these three areas, an evaluation strategy was developed.
This is underpinned by a driver for improvement model and was derived from identifying common outcomes across each workstream as well as through thematic analysis from earlier evaluation reports. The three drivers are focused on how the West Partnership:
This is summarised in diagram 1
The partnership report internally using this framework and showcase impact under each driver through highlight reports. These reports are shared with the board and the Glasgow Regional Education Committee.
The consequences of the partnership work are also evaluated alongside a series of critical indicators conceptualised around the areas of excellence, equity and empowerment. These indicators recognise that our work combines with work at school, local authority and national levels, with each level having an impact on educational outcomes. Most critical indicators are updated annually with a few updated biannually for data validity purposes.
The Information and Data Officer provides programme wide support in all aspects related to data and information management. Research papers and briefs are produced which support the Partnership in ensuring our work is underpinned by a strong research and evidence base.
The Evaluating and Reporting Team at the West Partnership are currently running an evaluation of 1140 hours of funded Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) across the West Partnership. This research covers all local authorities within this region to explore what impact it has had to date for children, families, and practitioners.
Since August 2021, the number of funded hours children in ELC receive has increased from 600 to 1140 hours. This entitlement is available for all 3-4 year-olds and some eligible 2-year-olds, and was introduced by the Scottish Government with the aim of improving children’s outcomes, supporting families to return to work, and improving family wellbeing. This research will examine the impact this reform has had for providers across the West Partnership, and the experiences children, parents, and practitioners have had with this entitlement so far.
To obtain a holistic understanding of the impact this policy has made, the team are applying various research methods that measure each of its intended outcomes. This will allow them to collect rich data from all those involved in ELC, and explore whether the expansion has generated the impact it was predicted to achieve.
To understand how 1140 has affected children’s outcomes, nurseries are being supported to complete developmental questionnaires with children in their establishment. This data will provide an insight into the overall trends of children’s learning and development after receiving 12 months of this extended entitlement across each local authority.
Parents and practitioners are also being encouraged to share their views through surveys, interviews, and focus groups. These will provide more in-depth information on their perception of the impact of 1140 hours for their children, and how this policy has affected the accessibility, flexibility and affordability of ELC. Additionally, the team are also eager to involve children’s views within this research. To do this, they are conducting child-led interviews that allow children to express their thoughts around ELC, the activities they enjoy, and who they like to interact with.
Although data collection began in December 2022, nurseries are still welcome to participate in this evaluation. If you work within an early years establishment that provides funded ELC within the West Partnership, or you are a parent/carer of a child currently accessing 1140 hours, you can find out more about how you can share your views by contacting the team’s Research Assistant:
ROC works in collaboration with the West Partnership RIC, in a variety of ways, one of which is to provide an independent external evaluation of the work of the RIC and to support the Partnership’s collaborative professional learning activity.
This is delivered by the ROC team working at strategic and operational levels of the Partnership: two professors from the University of Glasgow provide expert advice to the West Partnership Board on the West`s Learning System and act as `critical friends`, while two ROC senior researchers support and facilitate groups and networks across the PS to develop collaborative practitioner enquiry approaches that inform practice and improve outcomes for children and young people across the west of Scotland, using the CAR approach.
In addition to supporting those groups and networks, the West`s research and impact officer, based in ROC, has a focus on process and impact evaluation and research to promote and progress knowledge mobilisation across the partnership. The outcomes from this activity has resulted in five reports for the West Partnership as detailed here.
The ROC Team conducted a Conditions for Change Survey across practitioners and senior leaders in West PS schools in the later part of 2019. The findings from this were published in a West Partnership Conditions for Change Interim Highlights Report. These findings provide a useful baseline for future research on, for example capacity, conditions and context for collaboration.
An additional complementary qualitative strand of our evaluation strategy was the production of an evaluation report, (February 2021), largely based on interviews with a range of practitioners and leaders across the West Partnership. The ROC team has also drawn on other available information and insights gained through our work across the Partnership. This is complemented by a summary report Reflections on the Challenges of the West Partnership Development 2018-2020.
In August 2022 our evaluation report focused on the ways in which the West Partnership responded to the challenges of the pandemic to support key stakeholders through recovery to renewal. This was also complemented by a summary report Back to the Future (August 2022).
The University of Glasgow’s Robert Owen Centre has just published its WP Interim Evaluation Report, Phase 1: Defining and Understanding Impact, evaluating the work of the West Partnership so far, this academic year.
Researchers found there is a sense that more significant impacts or changes occurred in 2021-2022 and that there is “no doubt that the effects of the pandemic strengthened relationships, (across the eight WP LAs), which led to more openness and willingness to collaborate, which in turn led to increased opportunities for practitioners to learn and try new approaches to practice”.
Participants were very clear that they perceived “added value” from the West Partnership to the work of their local authority, and that the Partnership had established “trust, honesty and openness” in its ways of working.
In addition, participants were also more aware that collective agency was being built through collective capacity, and there was a clearer link between this and how it led to, or in some cases sped up, improvement. In particular, school heads liked the chance to talk about and think about leadership, learning and health and wellbeing policies and practice with their peers.
At the heart of ROC`s involvement in the West Partnership is building sustainable relationships with key stakeholders in the RIC. We have a long history of working with those in the field to develop local approaches that make a difference to the life chances of learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. This activity aims to promote more equitable education systems through theory-informed, applied research underpinned by a commitment to the principles of social justice and lifelong learning. More information on our ethos, principles and projects can be found at Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change and at the Network for Social and Educational Equity websites. You can also follow us on Twitter@NSEEScotland
The Scottish Government also published research (Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs) Interim Review) in February 2019 evaluating the establishment of the Regional Improvement Collaboratives and the emerging early impact on stakeholders. The Scottish Government has commissioned a full review of Regional Improvement Collaboratives which, although delayed by Covid-19, led to a published report in 2021.