Transition to primary

How evidence is improving services in West Lothian

West Lothian Council asked the Evidence Request Bank to review the evidence on transition to primary school

In this article, WLC describes the rationale for this; what it asked for; and how it is using the evidence provided.

Why was the evidence report requested?

To provide an evidence base for our Early Years Collaborative (EYC) improvement work within the area of transitions. We wanted to know more about the factors that affect children's transition to primary school; what can help in managing transitions; and what the barriers might be for services and families.

Specifically, for the EYC stream 3 stretch aim that 90% of children should be meeting developmental milestones by the time they reach Primary 1: identify areas where we can make improvements, and use the evidence as a basis for planning, testing, and documenting changes.

How has West Lothian Council used the evidence report?

We have used the evidence to create a driver diagram demonstrating what drives successful transitions from nursery to primary school. This will be used to create a series of tests of change to improve transition for children in West Lothian.

The evidence report and driver diagram have been circulated by the Scottish Government around the EYC networks as an example of good practice. They are also to be used as an example of using evidence for practice during EYC learning sessions.

We have held discussions with colleagues to reinforce the value of evidence-based practice, using this as an example.

What difference did having the evidence make?

A complex literature on transitions was presented in a way which enabled us to immediately identify three things that practitioners can apply to their work and be confident that they are doing the important things.

We have been able to direct resources (time, staff etc.) to several change areas that are likely to be effective.

Our social policy team already values using evidence. However, this review has helped to improve the culture of evidence-informed practice with practitioners working in transitions by demonstrating how evidence can help them to do their work.

What worked well?

Dialogue with the Evidence Bank right from the initial team discussions over our knowledge gaps helped to refine our thinking about what was needed - this was a really critical step.  Also useful was the user-friendly presentation, which eschewed academic jargon and instead offered clear, concise evidence on which to base our improvements and direct resources. The process and product have demonstrated the importance of considering evidence at all stages of planning and implementation.

What was challenging?

The time required to go through the evidence to action process within public services timescales.

West Lothian Council was a project partner in the the Evidence Request Bank (ERB) - a one year pilot development project which aimed to open up the evidence base for delivering public and third sector services to children and families in Scotland. 

The ERB development project was led by the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR) in collaboration with Parenting Across Scotland, West Lothian Council, Children in Scotland and the Scottish Government, and based on previous development work by CRFR. It was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), with additional funding and in-kind contributions from the partners.

The ERB aimed to help services to access and use social research evidence by supporting them to identify specific gaps in knowledge and consider how evidence could help address them. The ERB produced reviews of relevant evidence, and supported services to plan how to use evidence in practice.