Community Engagement for Schools

“Are you looking to strengthen the home/school partnership?”

“Do you currently have a working strategy to tackle persistent absence or lateness of pupils?” 

This proposal is for Primary and Secondary Schools to consider the supply of a bespoke Community Engagement Programme offered by Step by Step Training & Consultancy Ltd   using the skills of an Outreach Parent Support Advisor or Family Support Worker on behalf of the school. Our clients believe there are many compelling reasons and advantages for a school to consider this alternative strategy when deciding on how to tackle community engagement, manage persistent attendance and lateness of pupils or as early intervention to mental health issues. This service is underpinned by reports supplied as part of a robust evidence based Child Protection strategy.

Here are a few stats for you to consider-

10% of children nationally aged 5-16 years have a clinically diagnosable mental health condition whilst 1 in 4 adults has at some point had a diagnosed mental health problem..

Domestic abuse and violence: Will affect 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men in their lifetime and accounts for 16% of all violent crime. The impact exposure to domestic abuse has on a child  of school age has been shown to often lead to mental health issues, lower attainment and attendance at school, difficulties with forming relationships, bullying, self-harming and other health issues.

Young CarersThe 2011 census identified 178,000 young carers in England and Wales alone; an 83% increase in the number of young carers aged 5 to 7 years and a 55% increase in the number of children caring who are aged 8 to 9 years. 

Between 1 in every 12 and 1 in 15 children and young people deliberately self-harm

More than 16,000 young people are absent from school due to bullying



For 14 years our Primary Worker-Julie Patterson was employed as the Family Support Manager for Children’s Centres across County Durham. Many of those years were spent dedicated and entrenched in the community areas involved with Child Protection, Child In NeedTeam Around the Family, and troubled families. The delivery of Parenting Courses and 1-to-1 outreach work has always been at the core to achieving positive outcomes- often with reluctant service users who showed resistance due to their own perceived poor experience of education.

Julie’s experience and qualifications can be found elsewhere on our website for your consideration- what may be of interest is that among her wide range of qualifications there is a unique blend of teaching qualifications (Ptlls & Ctlls) and Social Care and Health qualifications underpinned by a BA jt Hons in Disability/Childhood Studies Degree. Our workers educational and social care careers form the basis for the Step by Step training and consultative approach. Since 2013 Step by Step have supplied this service to North East schools at Primary and Secondary education levels.

The statutory service cuts felt today means we meet the demand to support schools, especially in the support of emotional, social and behavioural needs of pupils and the wider family members.

So What Are We Offering? 

We know a school PSA/Family Support role varies depending on the schools needs and the needs of the community. Our proposal offers your school the opportunity to employ a worker who has more than the usual skills possessed of a Parent Support Advisor. Here are a few areas of additional support we offer our clients-

  • Experience in areas a PSA are not usually trained in (Domestic Abuse, teaching methods, writing and delivery of training etc)
  • Outreach service to address persistent pupil absence and support families in need
  • Engaging with reluctant service users- Proactive rather than reactively working with Parents /Carers
  • Delivery of a wide range of training courses within the contract rather than referring to external providers -Strategically advantageous for recruitment and retention as the participants have already built up a rapport with the tutor during the pre-course engagement. Some are unique proven courses written by Step by Step Training Ltd and together with the various parenting courses we offer form a comprehensive Portfolio to underpin the role.
  • Skilled at setting up services such as ‘Dads Groups, Drop-ins, Parent Forums amongst others.
  • Giving written evidence in anonymized report format for Governors/Ofsted showing partnership working.
  • Providing value for money by comparison to the salary of a PSA/Family Support Worker
  • Proactive survey work using Ofsted questionnaire with parents/carers. The feedback and empowerment from this forms a framework to work from.
  • Support in writing reports and attend conferences surrounding CP,CAF TAF and CIN where required.
  • Skilled at handling ‘difficult conversations’ with parents’- As one head teacher recently told us ” Before this service was in place i used to spend a lot of time working around family problems instead of managing the school and educating our children. Now i can confidently direct these issues to support parents and resolve issues which frees up my time to address other areas“.
  • SIMS trained to assist with reporting and work in partnership with in-house staff on attendance
  • Data reports for HT/SLT showing outcomes for PPG pupils where attendance is concerned

As mentioned earlier the proposal includes the delivery of training. This key area really does offer added value to the role. The following are a selection of courses we offer-

  • ‘Confidence Course for Adults’. Delivered over 6 weeks to adults and is regarded as the best pathway to encouraging reluctant service users onto parenting and other courses. This is a unique proven course that is delivered in a fun, interactive yet educational way and provides the school/Ofsted with evidence based materials.
  • Parenting Courses. Julie is trained to deliver a range of Parenting courses (Triple P, Nurturing, Mellow Parenting, Strengthening families and Handling Children’s behaviour).
  • ‘Stepping Up’. Delivered to 7-11 year olds to help increase self-esteem and self-confidence and reduce isolation. This is a unique proven course using evidence based materials. Schools tell us it’s an excellent way to spend their PPG monies whilst also ‘closing the gap’ in education to disadvantaged children.
  • ‘Dads Count’. A 6 week course aimed at Dads/Male Carers to help them with confidence self-esteem, understanding the importance of play and physical activity, Safety in childhood, Routines, Boundaries and discipline, choices and consequences. A unique proven course using evidence based materials.
  • Freedom Programme. Using our considerable experience and training qualifications in dealing with crisis work surrounding areas such as domestic abuse (perpetrators/victims) and offers to support our clients in this area. Julie offers CAF/CP plan/CIN experience as a family support manager. This is her area of expertise and offers support to the school/CP lead.
  • ‘All Together Now’. A unique nurturing course aimed at primary school aged children and their parent/carer. Delivered over 6 x 2 hour sessions within school. The first hour of the session introduces the parent/carer to some simple parenting strategies such as positive praise, self-esteem, nurturing, choices and consequences and the 2nd hour involves the parent/carer and child working together with their child on fun interactive activities putting into practice those strategies learned earlier.
  • Delivery of PREVENT training such as ‘Promoting British Values’ which is delivered using a unique and memorable style incorporating role play and anecdotes.


Other Services Offered-

Every term a report is generated to show the work completed together with recommendations. Additionally each course (where appropriate) has a report generated with pre and post course evaluations. This acts as robust evidence for Ofsted and school governors to show value for money and the proactive approach taken by the leadership team in community engagement.

Setting up ‘Dads Group’ or ‘Drop-In’ sessions

School events- linking in (where possible) to further engage with parents/carers- parents teacher evening, fun day events etc

Transitional work. Linking into the relationship with secondary academies and infants schools for example.

Parent Rep Forums-helping empower parents and in particular reluctant service users.

Financial Benefits-

There are some clear benefits to buying in services rather than employing staff- employment law, sickness and training to name a few.

At Step by Step our clients tell us they like the speed at which we can start bringing down barriers with the community. Knowing the community and partner agencies mean (diary permitting) you can start offering parental engagement much quicker than appointing a member of staff through local authority.

For some schools 1 or 2 days a week may be enough to provide this service – the employ of such a highly skilled person on part time hours would be extremely difficult to find.

Invoicing is offered on a term by term basis making it financially efficient for the school to operate within budget.

Furthermore, ask us about grants available to help support your school 

Schools have found the role can be self-financing as FSM forms for PPG can be completed with the family in their own home at visits. Barriers such as literacy or pride often lead to a loss of finances to schools at Key Stage 1 level

Case Studies-

Working from a list of data supplied from the school admin mum RS was visited at the family home-The child was due to make the transition from Infant to Junior education.

Leadgate Community Fun day 2014

Leadgate Community Fun day 2014

It was clear from the initial meeting that mum had low confidence and self-esteem. This proactive approach of visiting the mum regularly made the worker accessible to RSDuring a meeting it was mentioned a parent drop-in service was available and an offer was made and accepted to be met and led into the meeting . Barriers were broken and isolation reduced as the other parents made her feel welcome.

Parents at this meeting asked for a community fun day event to be organised- which we did as a group –attracting the late Denise Robertson of ‘this Morning’ fame to attend for over an hour- very uplifting for the community. RS was involved in the planning, setting up and helped manage the day as a volunteer

During a One-to-One home visit RS disclosed she had been a victim on domestic abuse- this led to some work using the freedom programme being delivered to her which helped her confidence and self-esteem- so much so that she is now a parent representative helping to set up services in the community and work alongside school staff members on projects.


Using a list of young people whose attendance at school was poor (≤95%), the worker made contact by telephone and random home visits to those in the locality.  One family has severe financial difficulties due to both parents losing their jobs or on zero hour contracts. Parents kept children off school during inclement weather as they could not afford clothing/shoes. Referral successfully made to the Salvation Army fund to get support for school clothing shoes/coat to enabling the children to attend school

Home visit to family whose child has presented over a prolonged period with dirty/unkempt clothing at school.  Referral came via a year7 teacher. Home conditions were untidy with a smell of cannabis. After breaking down barriers with mum she disclosed that her ex-partner has been abusive towards her and feels her low mood/mental health is being impacted upon. Some 1:1 ‘freedom for domestic abuse victims’ work to be done with parent and this then led onto participation of a parenting programme.

Home visit to parent whose child is presenting as tired at school and grades are ‘slipping’.  Met at door by granddad using a walking aid as he explains he suffers from MS. Through discussion it is now known that the child is a young carer for granddad. The child does not have a social network as a result of caring for granddad , finances are low, both socially isolated. Granddad feels guilty of needing to be looked after and this affects his and the child’s well-being. Referral made to Durham Young Carers in order to give support for the child and time out from caring using a short break holiday at a boot camp. Step by Step worker gives a platform to the child allowing them to ‘offload’ in a non-judgemental way. The child three months on is back on track for their expected grades and has noticeably put the effort into work at school.

Step by Step training successfully work with Secondary academies and schools to meet challenges where persistent absence of pupils are prevalent. Using an outreach approach random home visits are made to help engage with the parents/carers before legal intervention is used by the local authority. This intervention strategy using our worker’s experience has helped in engaging with often reluctant service users and brought in other external agencies to help support the family- sometimes through the instigation of a TAF.

And the results are in……………

Step by Step were commissioned to help a local secondary academy tackle their % of Persistent Absence- and in particular the more intensive cases where pupils show a 80%-92% attendance, leaving their EWO to manage those nearer the 96% attendance mark. The strategy taken to show that attendance improves when schools engage students and parents in positive ways and when schools provide mentors for chronically absent students.

Working  in an ‘outreach’ capacity the role has produced some positive case studies and as our summary report for the academy Senior Leadership Team showed, decreased the % of absence in 21 of the 25 families/young people worked with over three school terms. The worker additionally provided the necessary information for the other 4 students to receive alternative education through home visits, reports and using local contacts to expedite the process.

Additionally intervention work has an aim to decrease legal intervention by the local authority, working with the families rather than issuing fines,  partnering with other external agencies where appropriate for example when domestic abuse, mental health or drug/alcohol abuse has had a negative impact on the child and family members- barriers to education that our workers are skilled in removing at a time where public services are decimated.

The difference attendance can make to attainment

The difference attendance can make to attainment

We believe  “that a happy parent often makes for a happier child……….”

Step by Step have as a result of this work received an extension to this contract until the end of the 2016-2017 academic year…………







Schools and academies Step by Step Training & Consultancy Ltd have provided this service within the following schools/academies: Heworth Grange Comp, Thorp Academy, Moorside Primary, Leadgate Primary. Lingey House Primary, St Wilfrids RC VA Primary and Rowlands Gill Primary Schools


“We began working with Step by Step to help us address attendance issues with some of our harder to reach families. Very quickly we have realised that Step by Step can have a very important part to play in safeguarding too. Julie’s experience of working with families means she quickly gains the confidence of our parents and forges an excellent home school link from which we can build. The very professional and informative individual reports provided from each home visit have helped us gain a much deeper understanding of the underlying issues which some of our families face thus enabling us to target help more specifically than ever before”

Sue Hamilton, Deputy Head, Heworth Grange School, Gateshead


“Step by Step worked with us during the last academic year supporting pupil premium students attendance,  we achieved our highest ever attendance, including a 3% increase in pupil premium students attendance.  This has ensured the school is in a strong position to push on even further over the coming years”.

Pete Fox, Vice Principal-Thorp Academy

Since engaging the services of Step by Step training & Consultancy we have seen a dramatic improvement in parent engagement across the school. Their direct and rapid response to parent needs have removed barriers to learning, greatly supported transition work and allowed parents direct access to the leadership and management team within the school. The difference made has resulted with the engagement of a multitude of services and have supported both home and school in working closer together for the benefit of our pupils.”

Mark Watson. Head Teacher- Leadgate Junior & Infants Schools

As a school without the services of a PSA, Step by Step Training and Consultancy have provided us with fast and direct access to high quality, effective community engagement programmes, support and training for children and parents.  Since engaging their services we have seen positive engagement with parents grow particularly the most vulnerable in our school community.  The services they offer are bespoke to the needs of our parents and children.  This has resulting in removing barriers to learning for our children and greater community engagement in our school.

Helen Louise Templeton, Headteacher, Moorside Primary School Consett

“Julie Patterson has a way to interact with families that is not only service user focused but also professional .  Her work that I admire the most is that she undertook with fathers – especially hard to reach fathers or fathers that were going through statutory interventions.  Julie was able to facilitate, manage and support these parents through the groups she ran – enabling parents to share their experiences in a anti oppressive way.  Sometimes parents just need the freedom to speak without prejudice to off load their feelings and thoughts – Julie was able to facilitate this in a safe place with necessary group rules in place”.

Helen Williams – Team Manager, Safeguarding Children- Greencroft, Co Durham


“This course gave me confidence and self-belief when I had to become both mam and dad to my four kids”.  Pauline Dixon-Parent


 “The step by step course gave me the confidence to believe in myself and I am still reminded of my progress each time I look at the ‘compliments card’ from one of the tasks done.  This course helped me to look forward and I work as a volunteer at Children North East- something I’d never imagined doing beforehand”

Helen Walton- Parent & Volunteer


“My life was changed by this course as it gave me self-belief to go to achieve my ambitions- I am now a health trainer for the NHS”



“As a Health Visitor I have referred clients to various courses Julie has run over a period of years. I have had positive feedback from clients who have been able to implement significant changes in their lives in order to improve their circumstances and benefit their families. Julie is committed, passionate and motivating. I would be confident in recommending her courses to clients”.

 Diane Lynn- Health Visitor