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Connecting Strengths of School, Family and Community and Implementation of Recommendations of the Evaluation of the Report of the Initiative Dr Paul Downes Director, Educational Disadvantage Centre Senior Lecturer (Psychology) St. Patrick


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Title: Connecting Strengths of School, Family and Community and Implementation of Recommendations of the Evaluation of the Report of the Initiative Dr Paul Downes Director, Educational Disadvantage Centre Senior Lecturer (Psychology) St. Patrick

Connecting Strengths of School, Family and
Community and Implementation of Recommendations
of the Evaluation of the Report of the
InitiativeDr Paul DownesDirector, Educational
Disadvantage CentreSenior Lecturer
(Psychology)St. Patricks CollegeDrumcondraMond
ay 26th March 2012
BKA (2012) Evaluation of Ballymun School
Attendance Community Action Initiative
  • Over the course of the two years of the
    initiative, there were 1.3 less children (34
    less children) falling into this category. In
    other words, the initiative was successful in
    almost halving the number of children in this
    chronic non-attendance group, with 44.7 less in
    this group in year 2 compared with the baseline
    group (BKA 2012).

  • The major success was in the school with the
    lowest baseline figure, which achieved a two year
    change of 4.8, which amounts to in excess of two
    and a half more days attendance per year on
    average per child (BKA 2012).

  • Previously it was almost one in three children in
    Ballymun with poor school attendance, now it is
    closer to one in four, and the initiative is
    likely to continue to decrease this in the years
    to come, with the supports in place, as the
    decreases have not yet levelled off (BKA 2012).

  • Poor attendance rates in Ballymun after two years
    of the initiative are almost comparable with the
    rate for other disadvantaged schools (24.7
    compared with 24.3), having previously been far
    in excess of other disadvantaged schools (30.5
    compared with 24.3) (BKA 2012).

  • In terms of reductions in the number of children
    falling into a pattern of chronic school
    non-attendance, the initiative was successful in
    almost halving the number of children in this
    chronic non-attendance group (BKA 2012).

  • It is noted however that improvement in
    attendance from year 1 to year 2 in the case of
    children from Traveller backgrounds was very high
    (3.9 percentage points) (BKA 2012).

  • There was considerable progress between years 1
    and 2 of the initiative relating to boys from
    Traveller backgrounds with the poor attendance
    rate reducing from 58.3 to 34.9, which was
    lower than the rate for boys from overseas
    backgrounds for that year (BKA 2012).

  • It was evident from on-site visits to the schools
    that the initiative is very much alive. Charts
    mapping attendance, posters, photographs of class
    of the month were visible in all of the schools
    visited (BKA 2012).

  • The two way supporting relationship between
    school attendance and other positive behavioural
    change initiatives at primary level such as
    Incredible Years was expressed. For example, 70
    of teachers surveyed assessed other classroom
    programmes such as behaviour management
    initiatives as having a high impact on school
    attendance (BKA 2012)

  • Many teachers acknowledged that the big impact
    has been the sense of loyalty that children now
    feel towards their class attendance record. This
    was expressed by teachers, principals and other
    support services to schools on several occasions
    (BKA 2012).

  • One of the challenges mentioned was the
    reintegration of children who have missed
    significant amounts of school. They can sometimes
    find that the other children in the class have
    established friendship groups and they can feel
    excluded. This can then negatively impact their
    experience of school and their willingness to
    return. The role of teachers in identifying and
    supporting these children is seen as critical
    (BKA 2012).

  • The negative impact of bullying on school
    attendance at both primary and post primary level
    was expressed as a potential challenge to
  • Also at post primary level, complex issues for
    some chronic non-attenders from very marginalised
    backgrounds were mentioned, including cycles of
    low self esteem, alcohol and drug misuse and
    mental health difficulties (BKA 2012).

  • This sense of belonging was important and the
    children highlighted difficulties in fitting in
    if school absence is regular (BKA 2012).
  • Some of the catchy communication messages
    displayed on the initiatives posters had very
    high positive impact with children, particularly
    Hip, hip, hooray... (BKA 2012).

  • Late bed times appears to be one of the major
    challenges with fostering consistent school
    attendance at primary level (and possibly also at
    post primary level). There were significant
    numbers of children interviewed aged eight years
    of age and older who stated in focus groups that
    they regularly stayed up until after midnight on
    school nights, watching TV, playing games. Many
    share bedrooms with older siblings. This late
    bedtime was validated separately with classroom
    teachers. It allows an approximate average of
    seven hours sleep, which is low. It is well known
    from numerous international research studies and
    also from teachers direct classroom experience,
    that children who consistently get less than the
    required amount of sleep experience concentration
    (BKA 2012).

  • A further block to consistent school attendance
    at the post primary level is the experience of
    bullying in school. Fear of or avoidance of
    bullying was mentioned in the interviews with
    young people as a reason why they miss school
    (BKA 2012).

  • Parents assessments of the poster campaign were
    mixed, with not all parents comfortable with what
    they regarded as an association of Ballymun and
    poverty conveyed in the image on the Ask Why!
    poster, and not all in favour of acting on the
    message of the Ask WHY! poster. Discussion
    highlighted that only a small minority would take
    any proactive steps if they saw a young person
    out of school on a school day. However they also
    acknowledged that the posters can be positive in
    triggering discussion and debate about the issues
    of attendance which they wouldnt have engaged in
    previously (BKA 2012).

  • Other parents spoke of the negative rut that
    can arise when a child becomes unhappy at school,
    either resulting from bullying, from difficulties
    in the child/teacher relationship or their
    ability to keep up with class work. The negative
    impact of undiagnosed learning difficulties or
    mental health issues were also highlighted
    through interviews (BKA 2012).

  • Principals of schools involved in the initiative
    spoke about how children now have a different
    attitude towards school attendance and how they
    are putting pressure on their parents to bring
    them to school every day and on time so that
    their class can win. The children interviewed
    were very aware of the initiative and were fully
    engaged in the processes to support attendance
    (BKA 2012).

  • Parents of children who have certificates for
    attendance noted their pride. This was very
    evident amongst Traveller parents who displayed
    the certificates in their home (BKA 2012).

  • Ballymun Whitehall Area Partnership should work
    with stakeholders to consider the impact of cuts
    in public expenditure on progress relating to
    improving educational outcomes, and in particular
    to explore mechanisms to reinstate a Visiting
    Teacher for Traveller role within Ballymun on the
    basis of the high proportion of Travellers in the
    area, successes in school retention to date and
    the extreme level of disadvantage in Ballymun
    (BKA 2012).

  • Bullying - the schools and the community need to
    consider the level of peer bullying in schools
    and resulting impact on school attendance (BKA

  • A further concern was that the law only covers
    you from the age of 6 and the pattern of
    non-attendance is established from Junior
    Infants. The Education Welfare Officer cannot
    intervene realistically until First Class
    (Downes Maunsell 2007).

Council of the European Union
  • COUNCIL RECOMMENDATION on policies to reduce
    early school leaving. Brussels, 7 June 2011

  • Enhancing the involvement of parents,
    reinforcing their cooperation with the school and
    creating partnerships between schools and parents
    can increase learning motivation among pupils (EU

  • Developing schools into learning communities
    based on a common vision for school development
    shared by all stakeholders, using the experience
    and knowledge of all, and providing an
    open-minded, inspiring and comfortable
    environment to encourage young people to continue
    in education and training.
  • Developing early-warning systems for pupils at
    risk, which can help to take effective measures
    before problems become manifest, pupils start to
    alienate from school, play truant or drop out (EU

  • Networking with parents and other actors outside
    school, such as local community services,
    organisations representing migrants or
    minorities, sports and culture associations, or
    employers and civil society organisations, which
    allows for holistic solutions to help pupils at
    risk and eases the access to external support
    such as psychologists, social and youth workers,
    cultural and community services. This can be
    facilitated by mediators from the local community
    who are able to support communication and to
    reduce distrust (EU 2011).

  • "transformation is only relevant if it is carried
  • out with the people not for them" (Freire
  • 1970 p.43) Parents were to be at the heart of
  • a new emancipatory way forward
  • (Mulkerrins 2007).

  • The rhetoric of HSCL suggests that one aim was
  • to empower 'disadvantaged parents by
  • nurturing their capacity to engage as partners in
  • the education of their children. Therefore, in
  • effect the central focus of HSCL is to ensure
  • parents have a voice in the exercise of power in
  • the school (Mulkerrins 2007).

  • Deficit view of Parents
  • Principals and teachers believed that parents do
    not appreciate the value of education for their
    children. One principal spoke of parents shedding
    responsibility for their children's education on
    to schools. Teachers said that many parents may
    be reluctant to commit themselves to involvement
    in school activities during school time, as they
    want a break from their children or may have
    other commitments (Mulkerrins 2007).

  • Teachers and principals understood HSCL
  • work as being mainly focused on
  • changing parents, not empowering them
  • (Mulkerrins).

  • An analysis based on the themes that emerged in
    this section of the study would suggest that the
    lack of recognition of working-class parents
    within the school system, the issue of power
    relations in schools, idiosyncratic
    understandings both of the HSCL scheme and the
    role of the HSCL co-ordinator all constrain
    possibilities for transformative change

Alternatives to suspension
  • Downes (2011) Lithuania
  • According to management and the teacher
  • approximately 10 percent of students are expelled
    from school in
  • each year. The reasons are usually behaviour
    problems, bullying,
  • harassment, aggressiveness i.e. non-academic
    reasons prevail.
  • The teacher mentioned that there were no expelled
    students for
  • not attending classes. The statistics, according
    to the
  • management can be collected, but this will not
    solve the
  • problem (Taljunaite et al 2010)
  • The Irish post-primary figure of 5 for
    suspension, applied to the
  • total population of 332,407 students equates to
    well over 16,000
  • students suspended from post-primary schools in
  • (ERC/NEWB 2010).

  • Downes (2011) Russia
  • A multidisciplinary team plays a key role in
    devising alternative
  • strategies to suspension in this example from a
    Russian school
  • The school doesnt practice expulsion or
    suspension of students.
  • Instead, the psychological support service team
  • conducts preventive meetings and conversations
    with students
  • who have discipline or study problems. Each
    school has a
  • Preventive Council aimed at dealing with
  • studentsThe psychologist and social teacher
  • conversations and meetings with adult students in
    case their
  • discipline or studying practices are improper.
    Use of preventive
  • measures as an alternative to expulsion shows
    that the school
  • staff aims to keep as many students at risk of
    early leaving at
  • school as possible, which proves how much they
    are indeed
  • interested in students and care for them
    (Kozlovskiy, Khokhlova
  • Veits, 2010).

  • Downes Maunsell (2007)
  • -Suspension is stupid, just gives them a break
  • -If you swing on a chair thats enough for a
  • -About 8 out of 17 suspended, she suspended 7
    people in one day
  • - Worst thing about school getting suspended
  • -He says if you do that boy youll be out of the
    school in a second and youll never come back
  • -He threatens you, Ill suspend you, Ill expel
    you and youll never come back
  • One service provider suggests that suspension
    used a lot, need to put something in place if
    suspended, not much endeavour to keep them in
  • -Need suspension only for serious things
  • - getting sent home for 3 days isnt punishment
  • sit outside the door for hours
  • Priority needs of some of the schools emphasised
  • -Individual discipline programme for disruptive
  • -Teacher to work with children with challenging
    behaviour in small groups above quota
  • -Permanent in-school counselling service

  • Early school leaving is a mental health issue!
  • Kaplan et als (1994) North American study of
    4,141 young people tested in 7th grade and once
    again as young adults which found a significant
    damaging effect of dropping out of high school on
    mental health functioning as measured by a 10-
    item self-derogation scale, a 9-item anxiety
    scale, a 6-item depression scale and a 6-item
    scale designed to measure coping.
  • This effect was also evident when controls were
    applied for psychological mental health as
    measured at 7th grade. The significant damaging
    effect of dropping out of school was also evident
    even when controls were applied for gender,
  • occupational status, and ethnicity
  • Though early school leaving can have different
    effects across countries (Van Alphen 2009)

  • Outreach Gap
  • Ballymun Study 2009


 Slide 2.1 Level of contact by survey respondents with different people in their social network (number of parents) Total Applicable Responses Of Which Of Which Of Which Of Which Of Which
 Slide 2.1 Level of contact by survey respondents with different people in their social network (number of parents) Total Applicable Responses Most Days At least once a week About once a month Less often than this Never
Your Mother 35 30 3 1 0 1
Your Father 32 23 4 2 0 3
Other Grandmother (not your mother) 40 7 11 4 6 12
Grandfather (not your father) 25 1 5 3 7 9
Partner 38 37 1 0 0 0
Child's Parent/Other Parent 31 17 2 1 4 7
Your Sister(s) 40 29 5 4 2 0
Your Brother(s) 41 13 12 9 6 1
Child's Brother(s) or Sister(s) 35 30 2 2 1 0
Work Colleagues 20 15 3 2 0 0
Neighbours 46 29 13 0 1 3
Friends 47 30 10 2 3 2
Social Worker 16 0 0 2 1 13
HSCL Coordinator 23 1 3 2 3 14
GP 45 0 2 7 33 3
Childs Teacher 31 12 2 7 10 0
School Principal 31 6 4 5 13 3
Preschool Staff 15 15 0 0 0 0
Preschool Leader 15 11 2 1 1 0
Paid Childminder 2 1 1 0 0 0
Other 17 4 4 6 2 1
Table 2.8 Extent to Which A Large Amount of
Emotional Support in relation to raising their
child is received by Parents from Different

People from whom at least 75 of parents receive a large amount of emotional support
People from 50-75 of parents receive a large amount of emotional support Partner (70)
People from whom 25-50 of parents receive a large amount of emotional support Respondents mother (47), Childs other parent (34), Respondents sister (s) (30), Respondents father (26)
People with whom under 25 of parents receive a large amount of emotional support Brother(s) (9), Friends (9), Other grandmother (6), Childs brothers or sisters (4), Work colleagues (2), Social worker (2), Childs teacher (2), Other grandfather (2), GP (0), HSCL Coordinator (0), Preschool staff (0), Preschool leader (0), Paid childminder (0), Neighbours (0), Childs school principal (0)
Public Spaces
  • Professor Roger Hart (2006) has observed
    its more important than ever that there are
    spaces where children can come together with
    other children in an open and free way, rather
    than in a programmed way. He argues that too
    much of childrens time is programmed whether
    spent in crèches, music lessons or sports classes
    theyre not playing with their peers out on the
    street and therefore not building a democratic
    culture. (Roger Hart was speaking at the annual
    lecture of the Childrens Research Centre,
    Trinity College Dublin 26th October 2006
    Professor Hart is the Co-Director of the
    Children's Environments Research Group, Center
    for Human Environments and the Environmental
    Psychology Program, City University of New York.)

  • As those most at risk of early school leaving
    may lead particularly unstructured lives, there
    is a need for services that provide not simply
    programmed space and programmed time (Hart
    2006). This need for more drop-in spaces is
    even greater due to the distinct lack of public
    space available for people in local area32. This
    is a public planning issue, namely, to increase
    the range of public space available in the area,
    for example, for a shopping centre, bowling
    alley, and cinema in other words space that
    local youth can access without significant
    planning in advance. (See also Downes and
    Maunsell 2007)

  • Systems changes slow!
  • Foster-Fishman Behrens (2007) Tseng et al.
    (2002) Tseng Seidman (2007)

  • One significant limitation to Bronfenbrenners
  • (1979) framework of concentric nested systems
  • of interrelation was that it tended to omit a
  • dynamic focus on change over time.
  • In order to address this temporal issue of
  • bringing change to a dynamic system, Downes
  • Downes (2007) developed a framework in the
  • of social exclusion in education which is
    described as
  • organic systems theory.

  Unsuccessful Transition as a Systemic Shift
from Concentric Relation of Assumed Connection to
Diametric Relation of Assumed Separation (Down
es 2003) (Downes 2009)
Bystander Effect
  • For Early School Leaving prevention
  • McLaughlin, Arnold Boyd (2005) Manning, Levine
    Collins (2007) Steuve et al. (2006)

DES White Paper on Education (2000)
  • Consciousness Raising to realise full potential
    self-discovery personal and collective
  • Citizenship to grow in self-confidence, social
    awareness and social responsibility and to take a
    proactive role in shaping the overall direction
    at societal and community decision-making.
  • Cohesion to enhance social capital and empower
    those particularly disadvantaged.
  • Cultural Development the role of adult education
    in enriching the cultural fabric of society.
  • Community Development the role of adult
    education in the development of community with a
    collective sense of purpose

  • BKA (2012) Evaluation of Ballymun School
    Attendance Community Action Initiative. On behalf
    of the Ballymun
  • Whitehall Partnership
  • Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human
    development. Harvard University Press.
  • Council of the European Union (2011). COUNCIL
    RECOMMENDATION on policies to reduce early school
  • Brussels EU
  • Foster-Fishman, P G T R Behrens, (2007).
    Systems change reborn rethinking our theories,
  • methods, and efforts in human services reform and
    community-based change, American Journal of
  • Psychology, (2007) 39191196
  • Hibernian Consulting and Ballymun Whitehall Area
    Partnership. (2009) Family Involvement in
    Education in
  • Ballymun
  • DES (2000). White Paper on Education. Dublin
    Stationery Office
  • Downes, P. (2003). Cross-cultural structures of
    concentric and diametric dualism in Levi-Strauss
  • anthropology Structures of relation underlying
    the self and ego relation ?, Journal of
    Analytical Psychology, 48,
  • 47-81
  • Downes, P. (2009). Prevention of Bullying at a
    Systemic Level in Schools Movement from
    Cognitive and Spatial
  • Narratives of Diametric Opposition to Concentric
    Relation. In Shane R. Jimerson, Susan M. Swearer,
  • Dorothy L. Espelage (Eds.), The International
    Handbook of School Bullying, Section III.,
  • Prevention and Intervention
  • Downes, P. (2011). A Systems Level Focus on
    Access to Education for Traditionally
    Marginalised Groups in

  • Hart, Roger, (2006). Undesigning for children
    Creating Free Play and Informal
  • Learning in Community Gardens Design Trust for
    Public Spaces. New York
  • Kaplan, D.D., Damphousse, J.R. Kaplan, H.B.
    (1994). Mental health
  • implications of not graduating from high school.
    Journal of Experimental
  • Education, 62, 105-123
  • Kozlovskiy, V., Khokhlova, A., Veits, M. (2010).
    The role of Russian educational
  • institutions in the promotion of access for
    adults to formal education
  • Manning, R., Levine, M. Collins, A. (2007). The
    Kitty Genovese murder and the social
  • psychology of helping The parable of the 38
    witnesses. American Psychologist, 62(6), 555-562.
  • McLaughlin, C., Arnold, R Boyd, E. (2005).
    Bystanders in Schools What Do They Do and What
    Do They Think?
  • Factors Influencing the Behaviour of English
    Students as Bystanders. Pastoral Care in
    Education. The
  • International Journal of Pastoral Care and
    Personal-Social Education. Volume 23, Issue 2 pp
    17-22. June 2005
  • Stueve, A., Dash, K., ODonnell, L., Tehranifar,
    P., Wilson- Simmons, R., Slaby, R G Link, B
    G. (2006).
  • Rethinking the Bystander Role in School Violence
    Prevention Health Promotion Practice 2006 7 117
  • Mulkerrins, D. (2007). The transforming potential
    of the Home School Community Liaison
  • Scheme in In Beyond educational disadvantage
    (Downes, P. Gilligan, A.L Eds)