The BELONG Programme (Phase 1: 2009-2013) has been externally evaluated by the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at the National University of Ireland, Galway. Key findings highlighted in the final evaluation report include:
- Implementation characterised by strong programme planning, design and content, and adaptable and flexible staff.
- Capacities and capabilities of BME children and communities positively affected, with increased levels of cultural competence and confidence of BME children over the evaluation period;
- Increased levels of awareness and understanding of BME communities, their cultures and traditions among mainstream service providers.
- Increased levels of awareness of racial bullying among BME children and within the wider community.
- Groundwork necessary to improve Traveller children’s educational achievement represented in both innovative programming(Assessment of External Learning & Skills) and in traditional after-school-type Education and Learning Support.
- Positive attitudes of external stakeholders towards future engagement with and learning from the programme.
A number of fundamental learning points have emerged which relate not only to BELONG but to the planning, development and delivery of any large-scale inter-sectoral initiative for children and young people. These include the importance of:
- High-quality programme design, with strong contentreflective of the underpinning concepts and vision
- Skilled staff capable of adapting programmes in response to needs encountered.
- Strong focus on staff support and development as key to good programme implementation in inter-sectoral and multi-disciplinary contexts
- Tracking children’s outcomes on an ongoing basis to enable re-examination and re-alignment of delivery in an evidence-based way.
- Involving children and parents in meaningful participation in policy development activities to strengthen policy and support self-advocacy.
- Creating a partnership of key stakeholders at the right level enable the context for advocacy to happen
- Realising that change in understanding and accepting cultural difference takes time, both at individual and organisational levels!