14 SES 02 B, Policies and Action Related to Cooperation – Home-School-Community Links I
Parallel Paper Session
We first introduced the 'Letterbox Club' - a 'book parcel' scheme designed to support literacy and numeracy among looked after children (LAC) - at ECER 2009. In 2010 we reported how this small-scale, local initiative had grown to become a national project involving all four countries of the UK, largely as a result of a series of evaluations which consistently showed positive outcomes for Letterbox Club member children; the programme was consequently recommended by central government and others (Brodie, 2010). These positive outcomes relate not only in terms of academic achievement, but also a range of personal and social benefits which include improvements in interactions between foster carer and child. We refer to these as direct outcomes.
Last year (2011) we presented emerging evidence of impact beyond the immediate world of the home, (the original focus of the initiative) which may be thought of as indirect outcomes. One aspect of this emergent picture was the catalytic effect that Letterbox appeared to have exerted on the activities of professionals from a range of organisations and agencies (local and national). Examples included the involvement of libraries in providing improved access for LAC, and greater cooperation between care and educations staff leading to the introduction of purpose-designed social and educational activities for children and their foster carers (Griffiths and Comber, 2011).
While encouraging, evidence of these outcomes was largely informally derived, albeit from reliable sources. In order to explore such developments in a more robust way, a qualitative survey of Letterbox Club coordinators was conducted through the auspices of the 84 local authorities enrolled in England in 2011. The survey sought information on three main themes – impact of Letterbox within the professional team working with the coordinator; impact on work with foster carers and impact on other services within the local authority.
Analysis of the responses revealed a generally positive and wide-ranging set of outcomes associated with involvement in Letterbox. Themes which emerged from survey data analysis were then explored in depth through telephone interviews with a selected sample of survey respondents, along with an examination of potential barriers to progress.
We argued in 2011 that the ‘elegant simplicity’ of the Letterbox Club initiative – in both concept and execution – provides a model which facilitates replicability in a range of educational and cultural contexts and which is currently being explored in the USA and in Canada. In the present paper we offer further evidence of the impact of Letterbox which goes beyond its original objectives.
Boyatzis, R. (1998)Transforming qualitative information : thematic analysis and code development. London: Sage. Brodie, I. (2010) Improving educational outcomes for looked after children and young people: C4EO vulnerable children knowledge review 1. London: Centre for Excellence and Outcomes in Children and Young People’s Services (C4EO). Gardner, J., Holmes, B. and Leitch, R. (2008) Where there is smoke, there is (the potential for) fire: soft indicators of research and policy impact. Cambridge Journal of Education, 38 (1), 89-104. Griffiths, R. and Comber, C. (2011) Letterbox Green 2010: an evaluation of the Letterbox Club pilot for children in secondary school. London: Booktrust.
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