Connecting communities

Much of the work that we do looks at how schools and other organisations can work together to transform communities, using area-based approaches to addressing disadvantage, and to enhancing the wellbeing of children, young people and families. We have studied a variety of ways in which these approaches are manifest, including studies of full service extended schools, and being involved in the development and evaluation of Children’s Communities, which have evolved in the UK from the Children’s Zones approach in the US.

We have some key interests within this theme as follows:

  1. Researching how such system-wide change takes place: We are interested in how decisions are made, who makes the decisions and how those decisions are enacted. We are also interested in how people work together to make these approaches work, and how they develop in response to their local context.
  2. Methods for evaluating complex multi-strand initiatives: building such community approaches to enhance the lives of children and families is multi-faceted and complex. Evaluating such approaches is difficult and calls for methods that go beyond traditional methods-driven approaches. We have been developing our work around theory of change evaluation techniques in response to this challenge.

Key projects around developing children’s communities

  • 2015 – present, ESRC IAA Open Chair: Building a children’s Community for the West End of Newcastle, ESRC, Liz Todd (PI) and Karen Laing (Co-I). More information and resources can be found here

Following a feasibility study which found a real interest among local practitioners for developing a Children’s Community for the West End of Newcastle, Liz Todd and Karen Laing were awarded an ‘Open Chair’. An Open Chair is an award which is made to enable a consortium of academics, NGOs, community groups and other professionals to work together to undertake research on a theme determined by the entire consortium with the aim of delivering transformative action to address an identified need. During the early months of the Open Chair, several meetings and events were held with local practitioners and policymakers and in 2016 a lead organisation (The West End Schools Trust) came forward to drive the development, with support. A co-ordinator was commissioned who organised consultation with children, and together with Karen Laing, organised for further development activities with practitioners in the area to attempt to identify a governance structure, boundaries and key strands of action. The next steps are to consult with community members around their vision for the West, and to develop a theory of change for the long-term transformation of children’s outcomes in the area.

  • 2016- 2017 ESRC IAA Knowledge Exchange Secondment, ESRC, Karen Laing (PI)
  • 2014 – 2015 Building a children’s Community for the West End of Newcastle: A feasibility study, Children North East/Ballinger Trust, Liz Todd (PI) and Karen Laing (Co-I).

Key projects around extended Services evaluation and research

  • 2009-2011 Evaluation of extended services, DFES, Liz Todd (PI) Karen Laing and Colleen Cummings
  • Evaluation of the disadvantage subsidy
  • Full Service Extended Schools Evaluation

Publications and conference papers (click on cover image to read)

Thumbnail: Children's community update
Building a Children’s Community in Newcastle 2017
Thumbnail: Newcastle children's community update
Building a Children’s Community in Newcastle 2016
Thumbnail: community aware
“Community aware” education policy 2016
Thumbnail: West End feasibility
Children’s Community in West End of Newcastle: feasibility study 2015
Thumbnail: family lawyers
Family Lawyers and Multi-agency Approaches 2015
Thumbnail: SAGE handbook chapter
Inter-agency Working and Special Education 2014
Thumbnail: Family Support
Family Support: Facilitating Transformatory Change 2012
Thumbnail: Extended services thematic review
Extended services evaluation. Thematic review 2011
Extended services. Summary of evidence for head teachers 2011
Multi-Agency Working: ‘What Works’ To ‘Active Becoming’ 2011
Thumbnail: extended schools first year
Full Service Extended Schools Initiative: First year report 2005
Thumbnail: Extended schools final
Full Service Extended Schools Initiative: Final report 2007
Thumbnail: extended schools pathfinder
Evaluation of the Extended
Schools pathfinder project 2004
Thumbnail: Extended schools interim report
Extended Schools Subsidy Pathfinder Interim Report 2010
Thumbnail: Extended services evaluation
Extended Services Evaluation. Thematic Review 2010
Thumbnail: es demonstration
A study of the Extended Schools demonstration projects 2002
Thumbnail: abstract
Schools Extended Services: Impact on Disadvantaged Children 2010
Thumbnail: disability welfare
Disability & restructuring of welfare: The problem of partnership 2003











































Presentations and slides

Pupil Premium: Closing the gap for disadvantaged young people? Liz Todd, 12 Nov 2013, presentation at Exeter University.

Pedagogies of Knowledge Exchange. BERA Round Table presentation, Karen Laing and Liz Todd (presentation slides)