Identifying Children & Young People

A significant number of children and young people face a high risk of negative outcomes in adulthood, including unemployment, poor physical and mental health, addiction, debt and crime. These children and young people are commonly those who underperform in school. Some estimates put this group – sometimes called the ‘tail’ of educational disadvantage, i.e. those who struggle even when the majority of their peers are doing well – at around 20% of the school age population (The Tail: How England’s schools fail one child in five ­ and what can be done, ed. Paul Marshall 2013).

Resources aimed at supporting this group are often inadequate i.e. there is not enough support, at least in the statutory system, to cater for them all. Furthermore, the resources that are available are often ill-directed i.e. not targeted at the right children and young people. This diagram illustrates the 20% of children and young people who are at risk, and the smaller cohort of people – many of them not the right ones – who receive support in the current system.

WLZ intends to increase the supply of support so there is enough to meet the needs of the whole 20% of children and young people in our neighbourhoods; and to ensure that this support is targeted accurately at those who would benefit most.

Identifying children who may experience negative outcomes in adulthood is both easy – most children’s workers and teachers can point out the children who likely to struggle as they get older – and difficult: while data can tell us a lot, there is no scientific method for predicting an individual’s life chances. While teachers’ opinions are important, they are not enough.

Therefore WLZ has adopted a combined methodology that begins with a comprehensive survey of all children in a school. This has been designed for WLZ by the team at Dartington Social Research Unit, based on substantial research into the correlations between factors affecting children and outcomes in adulthood. The survey produces information on a set of risk indicators for each child or young person, and is based on standardised measures from a set of validated surveys covering different aspects of the ‘whole child outcomes framework’. Read more about this process here.

Results from the survey are then submitted to the professional judgement of staff at the school, who know the children and will have valuable insights into whether the correct children have been identified. A final list is then agreed with the school, and the information from the survey is used as the baseline for tracking progress over time (see Our Results).

The professional judgement of teachers is also vital for the next stage of the identification process: to identify the strengths of each child, as well as their needs which have been demonstrated via the survey. WLZ believes that children flourish when we focus as much on their strengths – their talents and passions –  as on their needs, deficits or ‘failings’. Our Link Workers work hard to draw out a sense of a child or young person’s capabilities and dreams (see Supporting).