External experts

Working with local Violence Against Women and Girls organisations:

External experts offer a unique and needed expertise to an education setting. Staff from local women’s voluntary organisation’s or the Local Authority are able to tailor their delivery to the needs of the local community and support education staff to develop the commitment to prevention across the institution. From the research that AVA did with projects it was clear that prior to the commencement of work in the schools, school leads were already dedicated to the idea of preventing Violence Against Women and Girls, but it was only with the external expertise of local women’s organisations that they were able to put their commitment into practice. It was clear from the interviews with the lead teachers in the schools that they valued this support. The key to the partnerships appeared to be tailoring a programme of work to meet the specific needs of the school and together supporting each other to keep the momentum of the developing project going.

…It’s important to have someone there who, it’s almost like a partner and a consultant, and schools are very busy and there’s lots and lots of pressures and there’s lots and lots of issues and it’s really important to have that kind of link with an organisation … because although we are very passionate about it, it can sort of start to peter off because they’ll be other things that we’re being asked to do… we just need to have that sort of friend who helps us to keep it as something sort of live in the school (Secondary school Teacher) [AVA, 2012].

External experts working in partnership with a local education setting can be instigators of the development and delivery of work driving it forward, often delivering sessions and the training. It takes time, persuasion and commitment to engage a school and when delivering short-term funded projects there is always a risk that the work will not get embedded. This can be a barrier to the continuation of the work within the organisation as a lack of resources and funding for external experts to be an active partner can mean that the project can be prevented from continuing.

“…[the external organisation lead was] the driving force behind the group and that will need to continue for it to be sustainable. It all boils down to time and capacity of staff that are already stretched to the limit” (PSHE Lead in a Secondary school) [AVA, 2012].

Top Tips for external experts to engage with education organisations:

Engaging with education organisations and local authorities to embed the project beyond a particular cycle of funding is another important way to develop active partnerships. Here are some top tips to engage an education setting to take the work forward:

  1. LOCAL AUTHORITY: Engage with the local authority by presenting the project to the Director of Safeguarding and local councillors, focusing on the content, cost and benefits of the project to staff and students.
  2. LEVERS: Promote the project to individual education institutions and local families, highlighting the support for the work from the national PHSE Association, the ways the project met Ofsted’s spiritual, moral, social, and cultural criteria and the PSHE curriculum learning concepts.
  3. STATS: Highlight local VAWG data to convince potential new funders and stakeholders.
  4. BUSINESS: Develop a business plan and a clear pricing strategy of the various series an organisation can offer, also makes it easier for education settings and local authorities to budget for such work.
  5. COMPETE: Use the work that is done in one education organisation to champion work in other organisations. Encourage some competition to get organisations engaged.
  6. TIME: Ultimately engaging education organisations to work on Violence Against Women and Girls will take time and resources, therefore it is important to recognise that it is a long-term project and take it slow and steady.
  7. PERSISTENCE: Keep knocking on the door of the organisation and trying new approaches to engage them. Something will work in the end.
  8. RELATIONSHIPS: Engaging an organisation is dependent on key relationships that are formed with individuals. Work with an organisation staff champion to develop and deliver the work.

Case study

Victim Support Cornwall’s SAFE Project had previously-developed, strong links with local schools who have continued to commit to part-funding the project workers to continue their work. The project workers were well known across the school offering support for child protection disclosures and delivering a large number of PSHE lessons. One school that they worked in received an OfSTED outstanding score, and the project workers were commended for their contribution. As a result of the close relationship that they had built up over the years, this particular school offered to fund the project to continue the delivery of Violence Against Women and Girls work across the PSHE curriculum. The organisation is also in discussions to create a Cluster Fund to work with the feeder primary schools. The good practice of the project was recognised by participating schools who, in turn, dedicated their own resources to the partners.