By Professor Christopher Chapman, Director, Policy Scotland and Chair in Educational Policy and Practice, University of Glasgow

WE know that children who grow up in areas of high social deprivation face challenges and that, unless well supported, they are less likely than their more advantaged peers to be successful in later life. We also know that many of these communities are working with organisations and agencies to try and tackle the many challenges these children face, but that they often don’t have sufficient resources to produce the outcomes they want to achieve. If we want to create a new future, the evidence from Europe, America and elsewhere tells us that we are going to have to have to work in different, more creative and more joined-up ways. We need to develop new approaches that reshape roles and responsibilities and will bring together the many different agencies and organisations that are currently involved in delivering services to and helping children in these areas.

Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland (CNS) is a new initiative that brings together the University of Glasgow, Glasgow Centre for Population Health and the Glasgow City Council with key partners working with children within a geographic area to achieve ‘collective impact’ so that all children can fulfil their potential. The Children’s Neighbourhood is now working with a range of players to generate a coherent response in services to ensure that all resources are pulling in the same direction. This is, of course, a slow task and so far we have invested our time in building trust and relationships to create the conditions that will promote authentic collaboration and partnership working across the neighbourhood.

The Children’s Neighbourhood in Bridgeton and Dalmarnock is an example of a “backbone organisation” that brings together different resources, brokers and facilitates connections and activity. We are also researching and evaluating our work and progress to ensure that learning is fed into future developments. With its track record in out-of-hours provision and community relationships, Dalmarnock Primary School is the heartbeat of CNS and its headteacher, Nancy Clunie, works with the CNS’s Lizzie Lehman and the team based in the University’s Social Science Research Hub at Olympia to make it all a reality.

We have undertaken a detailed analysis of context and developed what it is that we want to achieve in the short, medium and long term and also mapped out how we might best achieve that. We have a research team in place to develop the research and evaluation strategy. This is an important priority that will allow us to ensure we develop local evidence-based solutions as well as drawing on the wider evidence, principles and frameworks.

We have already undertaken some work on play and are in the process of working with the data and our partners to identify key priorities across the most significant phases of children’s lives and into adulthood. These will drive our future activities and our three, five and 10-year plan.

Children’s Neighbourhoods is not a quick fix, rather a long-term investment in sustainable cultural change. We believe, and the emerging evidence suggests, this is a model that can make a difference to the lives of young people and their families locked in to poverty and can play a significant role in achieving the Scottish Government’s 2030 child poverty targets. CNS is also flexible enough to travel and therefore has the potential for roll-out to other areas, both urban and rural. We believe we have developed a uniquely Scottish approach to put poverty in its place.

Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland is led by Christopher Chapman and Nick Watson at the University of Glasgow and Carol Tannahill at GCPH.