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    Rugby Football League – Inspiring Futures Educate Mentoring Programme: feasibility and pilot trial report

    Wong, Kevin ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3847-2316, Morris, Stephen ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6869-8933, Wallace, Stephanie ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6244-860X, Roberts, Anton, Gray, Paul ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1546-9333 and Burchell, Emily (2023) Rugby Football League – Inspiring Futures Educate Mentoring Programme: feasibility and pilot trial report. Project Report. Youth Endowment Fund.

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    What does this project involve? The Educate Mentoring Programme aims to improve children’s wellbeing, resilience, social relationships and confidence, and lead to a long term reduction in offending. Delivered by the Rugby Football League (RFL) across Leeds, Huddersfield, Warrington, St Helens, Hull, Wigan and Leigh, Educate Mentoring is a 12 week programme targeted at 11-14 year olds. Weekly mentoring sessions are offered, which focus on building core personal skills and improving children’s awareness of risky behaviours and positive choices. Sessions, delivered by RFL professional club foundation coaches, are typically provided in school, last two hours, and comprise a mentoring conversation followed by physical activity. ‘At risk’ young people are selected for Educate Mentoring by schools, who target children with poor behaviour and attendance, and an interest in sport. Why did YEF fund this project? As the YEF’s toolkit explains, both sports programmes and mentoring interventions are associated with a positive average impact on reducing serious youth violence and crime. However, there are considerable gaps in the evidence, particularly relating to robust evaluations conducted in an English or Welsh context. YEF, therefore, funded a feasibility and pilot evaluation of Educate Mentoring. The feasibility study aimed to ascertain whether the programme could achieve its intended outputs for the intended target groups, explore the facilitators and barriers to delivery, detail how many mentoring sessions children received, and assess the quality, responsiveness, and reach of the programme. To explore these questions, the evaluators interviewed 17 pupils, and 14 project staff and partners. Project delivery monitoring data on 218 programme participants was also analysed, alongside an online satisfaction survey with 82 children. The pilot study then aimed to assess the extent to which an efficacy randomised controlled trial of Educate Mentoring might be feasible, acquire detailed information that could inform the design of a future evaluation, and ascertain whether there was any preliminary evidence of promise. To explore these questions, the evaluator analysed demographic data and project delivery data relating to 111 pupils, administered surveys that included validated measures (the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) and Problem Behaviour Frequency Scale (PBFS)), and conducted interviews and focus groups with 8 project staff, 7 teachers, and 29 pupils. The pilot was delivered as a randomised controlled trial, with 10 schools and 111 pupils; schools recruited to the pilot were allocated to either receive the programme, or to a waitlist control group. 88% of the young people involved identified as White, 5% as Asian, 4% as Black, and 4% as Mixed ethnicity. The evaluation ran from November 2019 to June 2022. Both the feasibility and pilot studies took place during the coronavirus pandemic, requiring both the delivery and evaluation teams to adapt to challenging circumstances.

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