Children and Young people are individual and unique. We cannot possibly compare to others when we are looking at engaging a young person in a process that challenges and develops their own emotional awareness. However, all too frequently as practitioners we are required to create a data led evidence base to support approaches and methods that have been verified time and time again. The young foundation did a study on the use of ‘soft outcomes’ and distance travelled’.We use this approach to create yearly reflective data for our stakeholders, as opposed to short term targets, as well as individualised targets for private and family work.
The Young Foundation Study of 2012 states that
‘There is clear and growing evidence that young people’s personal and social development is strongly related to positive life outcomes. The Government’s Positive for Youth1 strategy states that the process of personal and social development includes
developing social, communication, and team working skills; the ability to learn from experience, control behaviours, and make good choices; and the self-esteem, resilience, and motivation to persist towards goals and overcome setbacks.
This process is often through the provision of developmental educational opportunities: space for young people to actively learn, to participate, and to take responsibility. The 2008 National Occupational Standards for Youth Work state that:
The key focus of youth work is to enable young people to develop holistically, working with them to facilitate their personal, social and educational development, to enable them to develop their voice, influence and place in society, and to reach their full potential.
Evidence shows that there is a clear connection between social and emotional capabilities and positive life outcomes, including educational attainment, employment status, health and behaviour.
Paradoxically, evidence also shows that approaches which focus on supporting personal and social development can have greater long-term impact than those that focus on directly seeking to reduce the‘symptoms’ of poor outcomes for young people. From The Wincroft Youth Project in the 1970s2, to the New York chess in schools project applied in Harlem3, and the Venezuela favelas music programme, recently brought across to Stirling4, through approaches that offer developmental opportunities, and tap into the passions and energies of young people, it is possible to enhance greatly social and emotional capabilities, cognitive skills, and the ‘hard outcomes’ of exam results and employment alike.
However, providers and commissioners often find it easier to quantify and monitor ‘harder’ outcomes – tangible ‘results’ such as educational achievement, participation in training, exclusion from school, offending or challenging behaviour – than so called ‘softer’ social and emotional capabilities. Self- esteem, resilience and thinking skills, for instance, all underpin young people’s progress but can be hard to assess. It can be difficult to make the case for such ‘softer’ outcomes, despite many compelling examples of lives transformed, in which building these capabilities has been a pre-requisite to success in ‘hard outcome’ terms.’
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