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The SWIS Trial: An evaluation of school based social work

Lead Investigator

David Westlake

Co Investigators

Dr. James White, Prof. Donald Forrester, Dr. Philip Pallmann, Dr. Fiona Lugg-Widger, Prof. Stavros Petrou


Following on from three pilot studies which showed evidence of promise, the SWIS trial will evaluate the programme on a larger scale to establish the impact it has on some important social care and educational outcomes. We will also learn more about how the intervention works and how it varies.

Education and Children’s Social Care (CSC) have an important inter-agency relationship, and both play a vital role in keeping children safe and promoting their wellbeing. Policymakers have been increasingly interested in finding ways to improve how education and CSC work together to respond to safeguarding concerns and protect children, and in the context of Covid-19 these efforts are likely to intensify.

SWIS is a promising approach to doing this. The central idea is that having a social worker linked to and based within a secondary school can have a range of benefits. In particular, to improve the service delivered to children and families, enhance interagency working, reduce risks to children and lead to better outcomes.

Aims and Objectives

Social workers will work within schools across 21 Local Authorities (LAs) in England, and the study will evaluate the impact of the programme by comparing outcomes between schools that have a social worker and those that continue as normal, without a social worker based on the premises. Schools will be selected randomly from a pool of schools put forward by LAs to receive a social worker, so that we can be confident any differences we observe are due to the intervention and not another difference between the groups.

Study Design

The primary outcome we are testing will be Child Protection (Section 47) enquiries, but we will also analyse other social care and educational outcomes to see what impact the intervention has on these. The study also includes an economic evaluation, which will calculate the costs of SWIS, and an implementation and process component which will explore how and why the intervention works as it does.

Further information and publications

The SWIS main report will be published in January 2023, along with a short Domestic Abuse report, exploring examples of practice which feature domestic abuse and an exploration of the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of school staff around this issue. A final follow-up report will be published in January 2024.

If you have any general enquiries about this project please email:

CASCADE study page

The SWIS trial: Protocol of a pragmatic cluster randomised controlled trial of school based social work (Plos One, 2022)

The Social Workers in Schools (SWIS) Trial: an Evaluation of School-based Social Work What Works for Children’s Social Care (WWCSC), 2023

Start date

September 2020

End date

January 2024


What Works for Children’s Social Care