What does this project involve?
SW!TCH Lives aims to support pupils aged between 11 and 14 to improve resilience to adversity, increase self-esteem, remain in school and develop positive aspirations. The project provides universal workshops for groups of 10 to 15 pupils, delivered by Youth Development Workers (YDWs). These are followed by 6-12 months of weekly, targeted one-to-one mentoring for a smaller group of young people.
SW!TCH Lives provides consistent positive role models and access to a supportive peer network through community activities. The project is based on the logic that through participation in SW!TCH Lives, young people will develop knowledge and awareness about youth violence, they will feel understood and supported, and they will develop new skills and relationships. This will lead to behaviour changes, including greater engagement with school and positive activities, reduced risky behaviours, improved well-being and greater focus on their life aspirations.
Why did YEF fund this project?
As we explain in our Toolkit, mentoring (where children are matched with a mentor and encouraged to meet regularly) has – on average – a moderate impact on violent crime. Research shows it’s effective in both reducing crime and the behaviours associated with crime and violence.
We have a moderate level of confidence in our estimate of mentoring’s impact on violent crime, and identify it as a promising intervention for violence reduction. However, as there are so few robust studies on mentoring programmes in an English and Welsh context, we were interested in funding and evaluating SW!TCH Lives to build on the existing evidence base .
The evaluation of the SW!TCH project was a feasibility study that aimed to assess early implementation and delivery of SW!TCH Lives from the perspectives of LifeLine senior stakeholders, Youth Development Workers, teachers and pupils.
The study also aimed to identify any refinements required to improve the intervention and to inform the research design for a potential, larger pilot evaluation. To achieve this, the study used in-depth interviews with two senior stakeholders and two Youth Development Workers at LifeLine and conducted case studies of two of the twelve schools involved. The case studies involved interviews and focus groups. Overall, nine pupils that had received mentoring took part in interviews. A total of eighteen pupils that attended a workshop took part in one of four focus groups. One interview was conducted with a teacher.
This study was conducted between August 2021 and August 2022.
|The aims of SW!TCH Lives were broadly understood by LifeLine staff, teachers and young people. However, some young people were not clear about the specific goals of the mentoring programme, and some were not sure whether participation was voluntary.|
|LifeLine staff shared positive views about their training and experience of SW!TCH Lives. Feedback from LifeLine staff, YDWs and young people suggested that the workshops were interactive and engaging and increased participants’ knowledge about serious youth violence. Young people described the mentoring sessions as valuable and highly individualised, with some noting improvements in confidence, aspirations, emotional well-being and relationships.|
|Delivery of SW!TCH lacked consistency and deviated from the intended model. Deviations included some schools delivering workshops to whole year groups (as part of Personal, Social, Health and Economic education [PSHE]) rather than to smaller groups of 15. In addition, some pupils who were receiving mentoring did not recall attending a workshop, while some pupils attended more than one workshop. The length of mentoring sessions was also not always consistent.|
|Improved consistency of implementation is required. This includes selection of schools, delivery of workshops, selection of young people to receive mentoring, the core activities involved in mentoring sessions and assessments of progress. Clearer information could be provided about the workshops, goals of mentoring and voluntary participation.|
|To progress to a pilot evaluation, a larger sample of school delivery sites will be required, observations of training sessions and workshops could sit alongside other qualitative data collection, and pre- and post-intervention data should be collected to measure progress towards intended outcomes for young people.|
What will YEF do next?
SW!TCH Lives was well-received by the schools and the young people involved gave positive feedback about the Youth Development Workers, the participatory nature of the workshops and helpful mentoring sessions. However, due to the inconsistencies in the delivery of this programme, we have no plans at this stage to fund a further evaluation of SW!TCH Lives.