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AIB Schoolmate evaluation 2005-2008 Phase IV

Research Staff

Dr. Audrey Bryan, Clíona Murphy, Kellie Gallagher

About the Project

Schoolmate is the flagship project of the Better Ireland Programme, with an investment being made of up to €1.27m per annum. It is currently in its fourth year of operation. The aim of the project is to touch and significantly improve the lives of Irish children most at risk of missing school as a result of hunger or lack of nutrition, homelessness or drug / alcohol abuse. Three charities, Barnardos; the ISPCC and Focus Ireland, receive funding from the AIB to create and provide a range of services which support children to participate in and enjoy school.

The Children's Research Centre was commissioned by the AIB Better Ireland Programme to evaluate the interventions funded by Schoolmate, and worked closely with the bank and its charity partners, to provide evaluation that acted as a support to programme development, service delivery, and demonstrable outcomes for the children.

What did the research focus on?

The first phase of the evaluation (March - August 2002) focused on the development of Schoolmate across the three charities and included a draft set of guidelines for good practice in the operation of Schoolmate activities (afterschool, breakfast club and toy library).

The second or 'Implementation' phase (January — August 2003) examined how Schoolmate had been developed and consolidated across all sites. The evaluation answered questions as to whether Schoolmate was reaching the target children and whether and how it was making a difference. Those ingredients that seemed particularly important in facilitating impact were identified. A number of case studies were conducted.

The third or 'mature operation' phase of the evaluation (March — September 2004) took a more detailed look at how Schoolmate impacted on the lives of the children who participated in Schoolmate activities. It also paid particular attention to how links with parents and schools have been developed. The second and third evaluations both considered how the recommendations arising from the previous evaluations had been implemented.

What did the research involve?

The fourth phase of the evaluation of Schoolmate took place over a three-year cycle to reflect the funding commitment of three years. The nature of the evaluation developed to respond to the differing needs of the operation of Schoolmate in each of the three charities and had a number of components.

Firstly, semi-structured interviews conducted at each site examined how the recommendations made in the last phase had been implemented and collected information on recording and self-evaluation practices at each site. A census of Schoolmate activities and participants was carried out in October 2005.

Secondly, the evaluation team engaged in the examination and consideration of the ways in which the charities and sites record information about their interventions, and investigated how best to develop tools with which to measure and evaluate the impact of those interventions. Following training days for Schoolmate staff in the use, administration and scoring of the package of tools developed, the tools were piloted at each site in 2006.

Last updated 15 March 2010 by The Children′s Research Centre (Email).