What does this project involve?
LNK Educate is a school-based programme for 9-14 year olds that aims to reduce involvement with crime and violence. LNK Educate combines a series of universal workshops for all children, with targeted one-to-one mentoring. Six universal workshops are delivered by teachers, and each lesson centres on a video about knife crime and its consequences. The targeted mentoring component then uses LNK mentors to provide weekly one-to-one sessions for up to 12 months to children identified as being at high risk of exclusion and future involvement in crime and violence.
Why did YEF fund this project?
As YEF’s Toolkit explains, mentoring is associated with a moderate estimated impact on reducing serious youth violence, and we have a moderate level of confidence in this impact. However, there are a very limited number of robust evaluations of mentoring programmes designed to reduce serious youth violence in an English and Welsh context. YEF, therefore, funded a feasibility and pilot evaluation of LNK Educate, to further build the evidence base.
The feasibility study aimed to ascertain how LNK Educate is implemented, and explore participants’ experiences and views of the intervention. To answer these questions the study used interviews and discussion groups with 4 LNK mentors, 3 members of the LNK management team, 7 teachers, and 16 pupils.
The pilot evaluation then aimed to identify appropriate outcome measures for the project, ascertain the level of pre-and post-intervention change in these outcomes, explore the sample size required for future, larger-scale evaluations of LNK Educate, detail how young people are selected for the programme, and examine the feasibility of conducting an impact evaluation. 191 young people across five schools participated in the pilot study (112 completing the universal component and a further 79 also completing the targeted intervention). Pupils were invited to complete a pre-and post-programme survey featuring the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, a measure of behaviour, and the Student Resilience Survey. Of the 149 who participated in both surveys, 31% identified as White British, 12% as Black Caribbean, 10% as Mixed/ Multiple ethnic groups White and Black Caribbean, 9% as any other White background, 6% as any other Mixed/ Multiple ethnic background, and 6% as Black African.
The evaluation ran from Spring 2020 to October 2022, and was therefore impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring both the delivery team and evaluator to adapt to challenging circumstances.
|The training provided to deliver both the universal and targeted components of LNK Educate was deemed to be helpful by teachers and mentors in the feasibility study. Teachers noted some gaps in training content. While core elements were delivered in line with the intended model, implementation of both the universal and targeted elements in the feasibility study was variable.|
|In the feasibility study, teachers reflected positively on the workshop session content and typically described young people as engaged during lessons. They also perceived young people to have a good relationship with mentors. COVID-19, and subsequent school closures, was a significant barrier to delivery; other barriers included teachers lacking knowledge in specific areas and a lack of resources for some lessons. Facilitators to delivery included the support provided by LNK Educate and the extended length of mentoring.|
|Young people in the feasibility study reported that their mentors were relatable and trustworthy; they also described their mentors as caring, honest and non-judgemental as well as having a sense of humour. LNK staff, teachers and mentors perceived that the programme resulted in a range of positive outcomes for pupils.|
|The pilot study found that it was feasible to use the SDQ and the SRS as outcome measures for LNK Educate. The measures align with the intervention’s logic model for children receiving targeted mentoring; however, they are less well aligned with the universal workshop component.|
|Recruitment of schools to the pilot study was generally satisfactory. However, two of the six originally sampled schools declined to participate due to the data archiving requirement. To evaluate LNK Educate via a randomised controlled trial, LNK Educate would need to more consistently select children for the targeted mentoring component and apply a compliance measure for the targeted mentoring group to better understand the extent to which this component is delivered and scale up to a considerably larger number of schools.|
What will YEF do next?
YEF has opted not to proceed with further evaluation of LNK Educate at this stage.