top of page
Pastoral Scene


Selected publications by the Colebrooke Centre

Subject to copyright, users of this site are permitted to download and use materials posted by The Colebrooke Centre for research, charitable and non-commercial purposes, provided any use is accompanied by an appropriate acknowledgement of the author(s) and the source.


Report: Evaluation of the Safeguarding Analysis and Assessment Framework  London: Department for Education 

A randomised control trial and implementation analysis by the University of Bristol and The Colebrooke Centre. 

Evaluation of the Safeguarding Analysi

Report: The Family Links 10-Week Nurturing Programme: Developing a Theory of Change for an Evidence-Supported Design

Having a formally articulated theory of change has long been known to be associated with more effective programmes but many programmes and interventions, especially those developed ‘in the field’ rather than ‘in the lab’, do not have one. This paper explains what a theory of change is, and describes a co-produced project by The Colebrooke Centre with Family Links to elucidate and validate a theory of change for their ten week group-based parenting support programme. The aim of the work was to improve the connections between the design of the programme and the evidence base about ‘what works’ in parenting support, building on and refining the historical programme design. The intention is to strengthen the implementation model and the focus for ongoing quality improvement, and to enable more properly tailored evaluation designs for the future.

The Family Links

Report: Implementing social pedagogy in fostering services: The Colebrooke Centre and the Centre for Child and Family Research at Loughborough University

This report on the implementation of an ambitious four year national programme to introduce social pedagogy into seven fostering provider sites in England and Scotland focuses on the implementation successes and challenges in individual sites and across the group as a whole. Training for carers and some staff was well received and professional social pedagogues were successfully integrated into the work of several sites. In four sites, definite plans for sustaining and scaling up the approach in locally-appropriate ways were being made by the end of the period. The study also shows that implementing this kind of fluid and intangible approach is particularly challenging, at all levels. Planning and agreeing key parameters at early stages is particularly important to ensure that roles, responsibilities and methods are as clear as possible. Strong leadership is vital to prevent ‘fluidity’ leading to over-complexity; social pedagogues needed ongoing support in the difficult role of ‘change agent’; and finding effective ways to keep up the momentum once initial training was over was sometimes challenging. Organisational commitment was strengthened where there was seen to be alignment and potential for blending social pedagogy with other promising approaches to working in children’s services. There was, however, a persistent lack of clarity and agreement about how to define and implement a social pedagogic approach to fostering, and whilst all stakeholders firmly endorsed the principles and aspirations of social pedagogy as far as they understood them, some were much more persuaded of the difference from ‘good practice as usual’ than others. Reaching and influencing the wider system of care around fostered children also remained more of an aspiration than a reality. Whether social pedagogy in fostering can be implemented and sustained in the UK at scale other than through routine basic training of carers and social work staff is not clear. Three linked publications are available:

implementing Social Pedagogy

Report: Adoption Support Fund: Learning from the Prototype (2014-2015)

In 2015 The Department for Education published The Colebrooke Centre’s implementation evaluation and analysis of the year-long prototype development phase of the national Adoption Support Fund (ASF), which took place in ten local authorities around the country. Designed to extend access to therapeutic support for adoptive families across the country, three publications are now available:

Adoption Support fund

Report: Let Teachers SHINE: findings from the implementation readiness evaluation

The Colebrooke Centre undertook a two year implementation analysis project for SHINE, a grant-making trust which works to improve educational attainment among disadvantaged students. The project focused on ‘Let Teachers SHINE’, a funding programme for teacher-led innovation. Our work involved supporting the teacher-innovators to develop the theory of change underpinning their approach, assessing projects against the international evidence base for effective teaching approaches, and undertaking an implementation readiness evaluation including advising on scope and strategies for scale-up. 

Although the full reports and strategy paper are confidential to SHINE, we can share two outputs from the study:

Let Teachers shine

Report: ‘My Baby’s Brain’ in Hertfordshire: the independent evaluation

The Colebrooke Centre, in collaboration with the University of Warwick Medical School published a substantial report on the impact and implementation evaluation of My Baby’s Brain for Hertfordshire County Council. Developed by Hertfordshire County Council’s Childhood Support Services, My Baby’s Brain is based on Five to Thrive, a ‘5-a-day’ style model intended to convey in simple, accessible language, to parents of very young children, the principles of attachment and the direct impact they have on a baby’s brain development. The multi-disciplinary initiative proved to be highly successful, with strong impacts on practitioner knowledge and confidence, and much useful learning for the field of implementation.

My Baby's Brain

Report: Adoption Support in Brighton and Hove

The Colebrooke Centre  completed a project for Brighton and Hove City Council supporting the Council’s development of a multi-agency, city-wide strategy for post-adoption support. At a time when a coalition government was placing renewed emphasis on adoption support provision and the need for market expansion, the project provided important strategic insight into the nature of service provision across universal, targeted and specialised services. It addressed the fit of services with the needs of adoptive families; how service design and implementation can be strengthened; and key issues to address in taking forward in strategy development in the City.

Brighton and Hove

Report: Systems Leadership for Public Services

Leadership is one of the key drivers of implementation. The Colebrooke Centre  completed the first major study of systems leadership for public services (leading across multiple services and systems) for the Virtual Staff College (now ‘The Staff College’) in collaboration with the Centre for Health Enterprise, Cass Business School, City University, London. 

Systems Leadership

Report: The Development of The Parent Coping Scale 

Report and technical publications from a project to develop a simple, low-cost overarching measure of impact for family support providers.

Voluntary and public-sector providers of family support are increasingly expected to provide quantifiable evidence of outcomes for service users at both national and local level. Yet the effort and costs of designing and carrying out evaluation studies to collect this information are substantial, and the results are often inconclusive. This suite of papers describe the results of an innovative methodological development project to develop new low-cost evaluation methods, conducted in collaboration by Home-Start UK, Deborah Ghate at the Colebrooke Centre, and the Centre for Effective Services. The aim of the project was to explore whether it was possible to develop a simple, low-cost overarching measure of the impact of Home-Start’s work with vulnerable families, to use as an adjunct to more comprehensive outcome evaluations and for self-evaluation at local level.

Parent Coping Scale

Journal Article:  Developing theories of change for social programmes: co-producing evidence-supported quality improvement.

A highly accessed article based on collaborative work with Family Links on their 10-Week Nurturing Programme.

For much of the past two decades, expensive and often imported evidence-based programmes (EBPs) developed by clinician-researchers have been much in vogue in the family and parenting support field, as in many other areas of social provision. With their elaborate infrastructures, voluminous research bases and strict licensing criteria, they have seemed to offer certainty of success over less packaged, less well-evidenced locally developed approaches. Yet recently, evaluation research is showing that success is not assured. EBPs can and regularly do fail, at substantial cost to the public purse. In times of severe resource pressure, a pressing question is therefore whether lower cost, home-grown, practitioner developed programmes – the sort often overlooked by policy-makers - can deliver socially significant and scientifically convincing outcomes at lower cost and at least on a par with their better resourced cousins.

This paper shows how the application of techniques increasingly used in implementation science (the science of effective delivery) could help level the playing field. Processes for doing this including co-produced theory of change development and validation are illustrated with reference to the Family Links Ten Week Nurturing Programme (FLNP-10), a popular manualised group-based parenting support programme, designed and disseminated since the 1990s by a UK-based purveyor organisation. The paper draws out general principles for formulating and structuring strong theories of change for practice improvement projects. The work shows that novel application of implementation science-informed techniques can help home grown programmes to compete scientifically by strengthening their design and delivery, and preparing the ground for better and fairer evaluation. 

Full citation: Ghate, D. Developing theories of change for social programmes: co-producing evidence-supported quality improvement. Palgrave Commun 4, 90 (2018).

Developing theories of chang

Journal Article:  From Programs to Systems: Deploying Implementation Science and Practice for Sustained Real World Effectiveness in Services for Children and Families 

An article on how an implementation lens helps us move from individually effective programmes to effective whole-systems

Full citation: Deborah Ghate (2016) From Programs to Systems: Deploying Implementation Science and Practice for Sustained Real World Effectiveness in Services for Children and Families, Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 45:6, 812-826, DOI: 10.1080/15374416.2015.1077449

From Programs to Systems

Book Chapter: Using evidence in social care. Ghate, D and Hood, R. (2019)

In: Boaz, Annette , Davies, Huw , Fraser, Alec and Nutley, Sandra, (eds.) What works now? Evidence-informed policy and practice (2019) Bristol, UK. Policy Press, pp. 89-109.

Book - Using Evidence

Review: Evidence Paper on capacity and capability-building in the child and family sector to support the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in Scotland, 2022

In 2022 The Colebrooke Centre was commissioned to provide an evidence paper on sector capacity building, supporting the development of a theory of change for Scotland’s implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 2022

Child & Family Sector

Review: How systems change can enable transformational and sustainable improvements in people’s quality of life and wellbeing

This paper is a tailored review and overview of key literature on the topic of systems change. It was prepared for the Life Changes Trust, a charity based in Scotland, to explore a question framed by the Trust as follows: How can systems change enable transformational and sustainable improvement in people’s quality of life and wellbeing? The Trust commissioned this work to support reflection and learning to strengthen approaches and support for effective systems change in human welfare. The focus of the paper is on literature that is most relevant for services for people and for the human-created systems that bear most closely on their wellbeing.

Systems Change Review
bottom of page