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Branching Out

In-school social and emotional skills sessions, detached youth work and a targeted 12-week programme.

Evaluation type

Pilot study
See project

Organisation name

Wakefield Council Youth Work Team

Funding round

Launch grant round




Yorkshire and the Humber

Activity Types

Mentoring, Social skills training


Community, School and college


Sheffield Hallam University


May 2022

What does this project involve?

Branching Out is a three-pronged intervention. It offered:

  • 36 in-school, social and emotional skill development sessions to whole Year 6 and 7 classes;
  • detached youth work, where youth workers aimed to engage with young people in anti-social behaviour ‘hot-spots’;
  • and a targeted 12-week programme for the most vulnerable children, that included an outdoor adventure week, the planning and delivery of a social action project and informal mentoring.

The project was targeted at 10-14 year olds in three areas of Wakefield and was delivered by Wakefield Youth Services.

Why did YEF fund this project?

Branching Out delivered both social skills training and mentoring – two approaches included in the YEF Toolkit, which research shows have – on average – a positive impact on reducing violent crime.

For example, our Toolkit shows social skills training has, on average, a high-impact (we have a high-level of confidence in this estimate). And mentoring has a moderate impact, supported by a moderate confidence rating in this finding.

With supporting evidence for two approaches used by Branching Out, we funded a feasibility and pilot study of the programme.

The feasibility study aimed to identify the core elements of the programme and explore factors that supported or hindered delivery, the programme’s referral routes, young people’s experiences, perceived benefits, and whether the programme achieved its recruitment and delivery targets. These questions were explored by analysing the questionnaire responses of 26 young people, conducting focus groups with young people and project staff, in addition to interviews with project staff and partners.

The pilot study then explored what measures could be used to evaluate the impact of Branching Out, how useful these measures are, and perceptions of the programme. It also examined whether the project could be scaled up and evaluated in a trial. To tackle these questions the pilot study analysed the questionnaire responses of 108 young people, interviewed 28 young people, in addition to interviews with project partners and staff. 

The project was conducted between November 2019 and May 2022. Both delivery and evaluation therefore took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring both the evaluators and delivery team to adapt.

Key conclusions

The feasibility study identified several factors that facilitated successful implementation of Branching Out, including consistent engagement with young people, responding to local need and providing agile responses to changing circumstances (such as COVID-19 restrictions). The evaluator identified four referral routes into the programme, but found no evidence to suggest which route was most successful for reaching the target group.
Young people who participated in the feasibility study summarised their involvement in the project as positive. They particularly enjoyed memorable activities of a practical nature. Young people also identified several programme benefits, including becoming more active, building confidence and developing new skills. The project had an original target of engaging 600 young people, 360 of whom would participate in the targeted activity. Overall, the project had 1,231 contacts with young people (which included contacts with the same individuals on multiple occasions), 78 individual young people completed Skills for Adolescence and 204 completed an activity week.
The pilot study surveyed programme participants with pre- and post-questionnaires that used the Problem Behaviour Frequency Scale (PBFS) and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). Project staff also administered a resilience questionnaire, and contextual data were collected. Additional measures could be included to adequately measure the outcomes of the intervention, such as willingness to engage in new activities, improved relationships with families, improved school attendance and desistance from anti-social behaviour.
There is insufficient data to draw robust conclusions about Branching Out’s impact on young people’s outcomes. Participants and staff did perceive the programme to support the development of confidence, social skills, relationships and behaviour regulation.
The intervention is not ready for trial. Given the disruption caused to the pilot evaluation by COVID-19, any future evaluation should focus on examining consistent delivery for at least 12 months and ensuring that consistent data collection is undertaken to make robust assessments of impact.

What will YEF do next?

As a result of the limitations identified in the pilot study, we opted not to proceed to a trial.

Download the report