The school effect: Can schools prevent a charity from being effective?

By 16 February 2010

A large proportion of children’s charities work in schools. They provide important services from counselling, mentoring, and reading support, to outward-bound courses and anti-bullying programmes. To be effective the school must ensure the charity is well-integrated and that children participating in programmes are willing and engaged.

NPC is in the process of developing a tool for charities to measure well-being, based around a questionnaire which has been tested on a number of charities working in schools. What I found interesting from the analysis of the pilots was that it was the school, not the charity, that was the deciding factor in whether a positive impact on well-being was achieved.

Beatbullying is a leading UK charity that works to prevent bullying. Children being trained as online anti-bullying mentors (‘Cybermentors’) in four schools completed the NPC well-being questionnaire. The results showed that Cybermentors had a large effect (0.7< ) on children’s self-esteem, enjoyment of school and overall well-being in two schools. In the other two schools no improvements were seen.

I wondered what the reasons for this could be? Schools have a vital role to play in paving the way for a charity intervention. They need to promote the charities’ service, recruit willing participants, provide adequate facilities and time slots. If this doesn’t happen, for whatever reason, charities may struggle to be effective.

I would be very interested to hear from charities willing to share their experiences: just how big do you think is the school effect?