Children Have Options, Imagination, Challenge and Experience – CHOICE: a primary intervention programme, Wakefield

Primary schools and 2 high schools in Wakefield are working together to identify children in years 4, 5 and 6 who are at risk of becoming NEET, and then target those children with a programme of NEET preventative activities. Wakefield MDC has developed a progress tracker which contains key data relating to each child, including their NEET risk level.

Organisation submitting example

Wakefield MBC in partnership with WDH and Pontefract Academies Education Trust

Local authority/local area:


Themes this local practice example relates to:

  • Schools and Communities
  • Youth
  • General resources

The context and rationale

The impact of the programme on each child’s risk level is recorded, and tracker data forwarded to the high schools in preparation for entry in to year 7.
Carleton Community High School (CCHS) and The Kings High School in Wakefield draws many of its pupils from a deprived area where unemployment is high. Some parents have not engaged in education themselves, and their children in turn can display a lack of enthusiasm for school and challenge authority.

The Local Authority chairs a NEET Implementation Group of key local partners who were determined to focus on the prevention of NEET (young people not in education, employment or training) which led to the development of a NEET tracker. This electronic tool enables schools to use the data they have on learners to assess their risk of becoming NEET and therefore to provide support where required. This has led to a range of intervention programmes for those at risk.

The primary progress tracker is pre-populated by the local authority with learner data for years 4, 5 and 6 relating to their name, date of birth, super output area, free school meal status, and Key Stage 1 results. The coordinator then meets with the Head Teacher of each primary to demonstrate and explain the use of the progress tracker. The Head Teacher then populates the rest of the tracker with data which includes attendance, SEN, expectation to make 2 levels of progress by the end of KS2, and vulnerable group category if applicable i.e. looked after children or young carers. Each data entry triggers a weighted score, which is totalled and then identifies the child as being at low risk, medium risk or high risk of becoming NEET.

Pontefract Academies Education Trust has successfully trialled the progress tracker and worked with the pyramid of primary schools within the CCHS and Kings district, and identified that younger siblings of the group of pupils involved in the prevention work at the high schools were displaying similar, or in some cases worse, progress risk factors. The schools, together with the LA, developed the primary CHOICE programme in 2010/2011.

CHOICE is a project which targets year 4 to year 6 children in the partner primary schools. The aim is to re-engage children in education, and improve their attendance and achievement through working to reduce anti-social behaviour in and around the community, build relationships with the police and other agencies such as the fire service, health professionals, and provide support for anger management to ensure a crime free lifestyle for participants in the programme. The programme is designed to support/re-engage pupils who:

- find it difficult to access the curriculum and are at risk of under-achieving or exclusion;
- are at risk of becoming NEET
- At a disadvantage socially
- Need a goal

The practice

In order to engage children beyond the programme, a focus on a vision for what college was like, was created. This involved Wakefield College and as a consequence, the children became ‘College Cadets’. Work on this vision highlights what young people can achieve, and close interaction with Wakefield College staff helps to inspire future goals. A record of achievement was given and a mini-graduation ceremony arranged at the end of the 30 week period.

As a further incentive, a Fire-Fighter course was created for the programme by West Yorkshire Fire Service. Each child has a uniform and boots purchased in order to participate. The course covers all aspects of the consequences related to the misuse of fire; it highlights the impact that is inflicted on its victims and the time and cost to the Service and community. A percentage of the young people in the cohort are identified as high risk in this area and referred to the programme. The course is almost military in structure which instils order and highlights the need to care for others. Education in first aid is achieved on the course with a focus on burns. The conclusion is by way of a ‘passing out’ parade. Parents are invited to the event to share the celebrations.

The 30 Week Course

The course is delivered once a week for thirty weeks, in the afternoon. The last hour of the school day is allocated for the delivery of the programme, and this scheduling at the end of the day has been proven to work well.

The course starts with the Vision. Children are able to access taster sessions at Wakefield College in the vocational areas of construction, mechanics, bricklaying, hair and beauty, and catering, and two further sessions in sporting activities. This essentially inspires children, giving them an insight into what College may be like, and the courses that are available to them. Throughout the time that is spent on the course a record of achievement is created, and the programme concludes with a mini graduation ceremony. The sessions are built into the Actions and Consequences timetable, on five separate occasions throughout the year. The elements of the course include drugs education and awareness, internet safety, railway safety, the criminal justice system, and health sessions which focus on relaxation.

Also included is a six week fire-fighting course led by Castleford Fire Station which links to the need to care for others and team work elements of the programme. The initial suggestion of working with the Fire Service generated excitement amongst the children. The course and the intended outcomes of the programme were explained to parents, and all parents and children were willing to become involved.

There is also a six week Young Explorer course which is led by the Police. This course outlines what is involved in joining the Police service as a career, and looks in detail as to why entering the criminal justice system is not an option!

All children involved in the CHOICE programme are automatically eligible for the Children’s University passport to success. This is further supported by staff at the primary school, where learning destinations are arranged for the activities to be carried out. Support is available via the College Children’s University co-ordinator as required.

Family Centred

The base for the coordinator is situated in the heart of the Pontefract catchment area in the local Community at (St Marys Community Centre) which is central to all. The centre is perfectly positioned for all to access and offers Further Education for parents in English, Maths, Social Care and IT. There are employability courses that help those in need of support in order to return to work via the centre which provides support in accessing an up to date CV and gain interview skills. There is also a cyber café and job club on site. The main partners of the centre are Pontefract Academies Education Trust, Wakefield Probation, Turning Point, Wakefield Adult Education and the WEA. New, on site, is a provision to access a Food Bank and sign post support which helps those in need of help in terms of Debt, Housing, Financial support and Benefits. This is led by the coordinator on either a drop in basis or structured appointment.

CHOICE is now a family oriented programme and is not solely child centred. Instead, all family members become involved through the family CAF (Common Assessment Framework) process or the Signs of Safety model.

Achievements so far

Each child’s details appear on a primary NEET risk tracker which has been provided by the

Each child’s details appear on a progress risk tracker which has been provided by the local authority. The participating schools have analysed the impact of the CHOICE project from the data which has been entered onto the progress risk tracker on a regular basis.

Progress tracker information is forwarded on to the CHOICE coordinator once it is confirmed by the admissions team that Pontefract Academies Education Trust is the agreed destination for each individual. Schools use the information to plan and support with an appropriate secondary programme for each child, and ensure a successful transition from primary to secondary school.

The progress risk tracker also identifies additional children that require the attention of school staff and other agencies, who were not otherwise viewed to be at risk.

In total 82 Pontefract families have taken part in the programme, and a further 2 schools from the Knottingley area, totalling 20 families. Within the Pontefract area the programme will continue to roll out each year. There are strong indicators in the early planning stage of the next cohort for 2015/16 that each school will require their own group this totalling a further 60 families. In September the programme will also be launched into the South East locality of Wakefield District Council where Primary schools will be given the opportunity to take part. There are plans to further roll out the programme to other localities with a view to the programme developing district wide. Results continue to highlight that children progress by 1 and in most cases by 2 sub levels of attainment with increased attendance. Example for the 2014/15 cohort; 38 children were referred to the programme from 6 schools/academies:


Number of pupils

Carleton Park Primary


Cobblers Lane Primary


De-Lacy Primary


Orchard Head Primary


The Rookeries


St Giles


Total 38



% improved attendance

% Improved attainment Reading

% Improved attainment Writing

% Improved attainment


Carleton Park





Cobblers Lane










Orchard Head





The Rookeries





St Giles










1. 50% of the children who took part in the CHOICE programme showed an improvement in their attendance, 3 by as much as 10%

2. 100% of the children from Orchard Head showed an improvement in their reading, 2 of these showed outstanding progress in reading

3. 50% of the children from Carleton Park showed outstanding progress in mathematics

4. 53% (20 children) of the total cohort showed improvements in reading, writing and mathematics

For those children who accessed the programme in 2011 it is pleasing to evidence that all were entered at KS4 for GCSE level. Families and school feedback that behaviour is reported to be less problematic and more manageable.

The timetable has developed significantly introducing many new topics including
On-line Safety, (CSE) Child Sexual Exploitation, The Consequences to anti-social behaviour within a tenancy, (Adopt a Bobby) which includes, Stranger Danger, Disclosure and the touching rule.

Summer School
A summer school will launch this year to all those who participated in the programme. This is a continuation of the support that has been offered throughout the year and offers a means of contact for any general need. Children and parents can access a more informal timetable during the summer months for 2 weeks during July and August. There are plans to deliver a in house certificated First Aid course as part of the timetable along with, education in healthy eating, general hygiene, railway safety and sporting activities. There are planned visits to meet the Mayor and the Pontefract Castle Dungeon’s.

Parental Engagement
All parents involved in the programme have engaged well and in some cases now contribute to the project by volunteering to support the classroom based sessions. One parent said:

“I think the CHOICE course was brilliant for my daughter. It gave her a lot more confidence and encouraged her to work as part of a team. Annette Jones put a lot of hard work and thought into this programme. It was great that the children got lots of support from her and others that became involved. I personally feel that any child chosen for the programme are very lucky and will learn a lot from it.”

Pre and Post Assessments
This area is currently in the process of implementation and in the process of change. Public Health has agreed to measure the children taking part pre and post programme by using the Risk and Resilience model. This will be implemented this year.

There has been much interest in the CHOICE programme, including communications with the Prime Minister’s office and local MP’s office, the Department for Education and West Yorkshire Police for roll out across West Yorkshire.

North, South and West Yorkshire & Humberside Fire Services were also keen to hear more about the programme and Keighley Fire Station asked if the Fire-Fighter programme could be rolled out over the whole of West Yorkshire.

In addition:

A submission was made for the Commonwealth Education Good Practice Award and the programme was filmed by visitors from the Virgin Islands, with a view to implementing the programme abroad.


The following challenges have been identified by the CHOICE project coordinator at Pontefract Education Trust.

The first challenge was getting the content of the programme correct for a younger audience. The agencies involved had previously supported other programmes for older learners and discussion was required to focus on the needs of younger learners. This type of project had never been tried before with children as young as 10. Through these meetings, a commitment to this programme was secured over a long-term basis. The agencies were all willing and fought on the schools behalf with their managers to be able to give the commitment.

Secondly, many parents of the children had failed to achieve at school themselves. As a consequence, they had little confidence in the school system. Some had little confidence in the programme and initial meetings had to be dealt with sensitively and positively. Schools also linked with a Strengthening Families parenting course at the local Outreach Centre where children and parents work together and parents can discuss the barriers they have in supporting their children. The offer of literacy and numeracy classes was also made available and two parents so far have signed up for these.

An obvious challenge was funding for the project. Because of the levels of NEET in the north east of the district and the LA work on tracking those at risk of becoming NEET, partners agreed to contribute resources. Participating primary schools currently pay £1000 towards covering programme costs. Resources will obviously continue to be a barrier to further development of the CHOICE programme.

Identifying suitable facilities was also a challenge as it was important that the children had the opportunity to experience different environments. In this partners were supportive. Wakefield College provided the venue for sessions in Construction, Mechanics, Hair and Beauty, Catering and Sports. The Outreach Centre was used for the after school events where both children and parents attend holistic therapy and Castleford Tigers Rugby Ground was used to deliver an alternative approach to basic literacy and numeracy.

As highlighted earlier, the Co-ordinator’s role has now become a fulltime post which is currently funded on a secondment basis by Wakefield’s Early Help team, WDH and the Pontefract Education Trust. The total cost for this is £34,746. The total cost for a group of 12 children to access the programme for 30 weeks is £1910, this equating to £159 per child per 30 week input is £5.30 a week per child. This covers, transport costs, uniform, Holistic Therapist and Fire Fighting Course. The programme is now a dedicated multi-agency concern that has expanded in growth. Many of the agencies have committed to a long term involvement and can offer consistency in terms of input.

An information pack has been created and is currently used and viewed by all who are involved. This is also distributed in strategic planning meetings and to schools. This consist of what the programme is about, its aims and intended outcomes, a typical timetable, how to collate data alongside an example. Information relating to the Children’s University and any media/magazine publications.

Much has been learnt in this time:

  1. Parents will engage when an empathic approach is applied and support is available with regards to literacy and transport;
  2. barriers to learning can be removed by creating an alternative provision that provides targeted interventions that meet the needs of vulnerable children and their families;
  3. organisations that do not usually have an active involvement in long-term education projects will become active participants when shown their relevance and value;
  4. when the community is asked to look towards itself to solve a problem, it has far greater capacity than its members often realise.

The CHOICE programme has been shown to improve the attendance and behaviour of its participants, support improvement in their mathematics, reading and writing, engage their parents in supporting their children, prepare Year 6 participants for transition to secondary school, and support secondary schools in planning their transition and successful engagement in secondary education.

Key leadership behaviour characteristics

The following core behaviours have been identified as part of successful elements of leadership (see National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services/C4EO (2011). Resourceful leadership: how directors of children’s services improve outcomes for children. Full report. Nottingham: NCSL.

Wakefield identified the following behaviours as key to the transformation of its service:

Openness to possibilities

We explored the issues surrounding the poor engagement of some primary children in education, and in partnership created a solution that incorporated new initiatives and new contacts, and drew down funding from appropriate budgets.

The ability to collaborate

Consensus for the solution was secured through strong partnership working between the LA and wider partners at the highest level, and fed down to operational groups who supported the use of the NEET trackers and utilised the resources available.

Demonstrating a belief in team and people

In Wakefield we have a shared drive and commitment to meeting the needs of the children in our care. These shared values ensured that there was secure and productive team working, with support provided to a range of partners by the LA. The enthusiasm of the CHOICE team was infectious and contributed directly to the success of the programme.

Personal resilience and tenacity

Persuading busy primary Head teachers to populate and use the Primary NEET tracker in addition to their existing systems required tenacity and resolve.

Theability to create and sustain commitment across a system

The work was initiated by strategic leaders in the LA and commitment to the CHOICE programme was created as plans were disseminated and discussed. The CHOICE vision, shared by all stakeholders, became a reality and there are plans to continue into another year as more partners commit to the programme.

Focusing on results

The desired outcome was to ensure that the young people involved in the programme made a successful transition to secondary school and engaged and achieved in secondary education. However, there was a need for some outcomes to be short term, and these had to be linked back to the direct impact that the project had on attainment in maths, reading and writing, and the NEET risk level of the participant. The LA took a rigorous monitoring role to assure the success of the project, and positively challenged any inaccuracies in pupil data with a supportive but pragmatic attitude.

The ability to simplify

The project was developed to fit with district priorities, with schools targeted by the LA for enhanced support. Its aims and objectives were therefore clear and understood by all stakeholders.

The ability to learn continuously

From the outset the project involved a new way of working to address the needs of primary school children who were viewed to be at risk of not engaging in education during their secondary school years, and of becoming NEET. We learnt of and accessed more providers in the district, and built strong operational relationships with the fire, rail and police services amongst others, allowing us to understand and utilise knowledge from the front line. The project has been the trail blazer for the use of the progress tracker by primary and secondary schools – we have engaged directly with senior staff in both settings and have learnt much in relation to what more needs to be done, and how, to ensure all schools use the tracker to monitor NEET risk levels and apply appropriate interventions.

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