Evaluation of the Alternative Provision Specialist Taskforce (APST)

Multi-ethnic group of young people sitting in circle and sharing ideas during class in college, photo by Seventyfour/Adobe Stock

Seventyfour/Adobe Stock

What is the issue?

Children in alternative provision settings may be more likely to do poorly academically, not go on to further education, employment or training and become involved in crime than their counterparts in mainstream schools.

The Department for Education has launched the Alternative Provision Specialist Taskforce (APST) project. This project embeds teams of specialists, such as mental health workers, youth workers, speech and language therapists, family support workers, youth justice workers and post-16 transition workers, in 22 alternative provision schools that are in serious violence hotspots.

Funded by the HM Treasury Shared Outcomes Fund, the pilot involves cross-governmental support from the Department for Education; the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport; the Department for Health and Social Care; the Home Office; the Ministry of Justice; the Department for Work and Pensions; and the Youth Justice Board. The pilot runs for two years – delivery began in autumn 2021 – and aims to reduce serious youth violence and improve pupil outcomes.

How are we helping?

RAND Europe, in consortium with FFT Datalab and University of Westminster, has been commissioned by the Youth Endowment Fund to conduct an evaluation of the APST project. The evaluation aims to understand the:

  1. impact of the APST on pupil outcomes, including socio-emotional wellbeing, post-16 outcomes, attendance, attainment and participation in education
  2. cost of delivering APST for schools involved, and
  3. implementation of APST within settings in practice and the experiences/perceptions of those involved.

Using information from the National Pupil Database, the evaluation examines whether the Taskforces have impacts on pupils’ attendance at school, participation in education, reintegration into state-funded mainstream schools, post-16 participation in education, and Key Stage 4 attainment. The evaluation also uses the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire to examine whether the Taskforces improve pupils’ mental health, wellbeing, conduct and hyperactivity.

As well as looking at impacts on pupils, the evaluation explores the implementation and operation of APST, and gathers information about the experiences of pupils, teachers and school leaders to explain how observed impact (if any) is achieved. The evaluation also explores the cost of the APST programme.

A detailed overview of the methods used by the evaluation can be found in the evaluation protocol. The final report is likely to be published in summer 2025.