Case study: team around the school, Wakefield

Since 2019, senior leaders at Wakefield Council have transformed children’s services under the umbrella of Wakefield Families Together. This consists of localising services in six geographical cluster areas, which encompass six integrated staff bases, nine family hubs and three youth hubs across the district. The Team Around the School (TAS) has been a significant change programme, which offers more immediate support to schools at the earliest opportunity and either continues to work with the child and family or provides a wider partner support package.

TAS is a proactive, relationship-based model which supports families by bringing together a team of professionals around schools to help children, young people and families access additional support when they are showing early signs that they are finding it difficult to cope. The model supports schools if there are worries about a child’s behaviour, school attendance, emotional health and wellbeing, and concerns in the family.

The model is based on building relationships with families. Schools encourage families to speak to them about any worries or difficulties they are having and, with the family’s agreement, will hold a TAS meeting. Every Wakefield school has a designated link worker from the family hub who leads a multidisciplinary meeting, hosted by the school, which includes a Future in Mind (FiM) educational improvement teacher and, where appropriate, a school nurse.

All secondary schools have three TAS meetings per term, most primary schools have two meetings per term and low-demand primary schools have a ‘keeping in touch’ virtual offer. All school-based early help requests for support are directed through the TAS process instead of a referral through the Integrated Front Door.

There was a recognition in Wakefield that, as community assets, schools needed their own support when working with children and families facing difficulties. Leaders observed a TAS model in another authority and developed a revised version to meet the needs of Wakefield schools. This included working in partnership with emotional health and wellbeing services and education colleagues. Early Help teams were restructured to recreate the Early Intervention and Prevention (EIP) Service and the Targeted Early Help case-holding team. Working from family hubs, EIP provides a link worker to every school and ongoing feedback on this support is extremely positive. To further enhance the model, every school has a linked qualified social worker.

How was the model developed?

TAS is a school-led model. After a six-month pilot with core partners and using feedback from the schools involved and parents, the TAS model was rolled out to all Wakefield schools. Core partners include: the Early Intervention and Prevention Service; the FiM partnership, which includes child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS); educational improvement teachers and special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) advisory teachers; and the 0–19 Health Service, which includes the School Nursing Service.

What was the impact?

TAS is now an established model in Wakefield for families and schools to access support. Further information is available on the Wakefield’s Families Together website, where there is also a short video explaining the model.
Parents have spoken about feeling able to talk about their worries, that someone has the time to listen, and that they feel supported. Parents have gone on to attend parenting groups, and this has created a calmer home environment where they are able to cope better. One said she felt less isolated, knowing she was ‘not the only one’ going through difficult times as a parent.
Schools tell us they no longer feel they are ‘on their own’; they feel ‘part of a team’. Representatives from schools have seen the benefit of having access to a link worker who is able to offer support in coordinating plans. In addition, schools have been able to connect families to community resources: for example, foodbanks and other charities. One school spoke about how the model has improved school attendance.

Praise from Ofsted, January 2022:
Examples of strong partnership service delivery are demonstrated through the development of locality hubs to deliver the Wakefield Families Together service, and the investment in the development of health and wellbeing services for children. In addition, there is a linked social worker to every school to provide guidance and advice.

Wakefield also offers a Team Around Early Years service for babies and children aged 0–5 years, working with nurseries, health visitors and SEND early years advisory teachers.

How were challenges overcome?

The pilot phase adopted a ‘design by doing’ approach, building on a collective vision of how TAS could work. Partners committed resource through staff time and through adapting their existing approach to test how the TAS model could work. While evaluation of the pilot was positive, partners could not sustain the level of staffing resource but did agree to an adapted version. This meant that rather than have a school nurse attend all TAS meetings, they would focus on secondary school attendance and provide advice and guidance to primary schools, while the FiM representative would attend two out of three secondary TAS meetings and one primary meeting per term. The partnership is strong and committed to the TAS model.

The main challenge was maintaining the consistency and quality of the link worker support attached to each school. The model has now been adjusted to. provide nine more senior link workers supporting seven to nine primary schools or two to three secondary schools in each cluster area, with support from family hub staff to deliver interventions and support low-demand schools. This approach has enabled the consistent application of the TAS model to be built in through monthly standardisation meetings, with a focus on practice development, partnership work and family hub outreach in schools to address thematic needs.

Additional material

See the Wakefield Families Together website for more information on TAS, including link social workers and early intervention and prevention workers.

Subscribe to our newsletter 

Family Hubs in Mind is our free newsletter, circulated monthly, and will share news from our members, latest events and resources.

The National Centre for Family Hubs is hosted by the Anna Freud Centre. This data is managed by the Anna Freud Centre through Mailchimp. Click to read the National Centre for Family Hub’s Privacy policy

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.