Gjensidig trivsel, glede og læring
Introduction NOVA has completed an evaluation of the mentor project "Nattergalen", commissioned by the Ministry of Children, Equality and Inclusion (BLD). This was a three-year project initiated in 2008, involving eight university colleges/universities in Norway. Nattergalen includes childen aged 8-12 years with minority backgrounds, with social work students as mentors for one child during one school year. The day to day administration of the project is taken care of by coordinators at each university college/university. The main objectives of Nattergalen are: To increase cultural sensitivity among child welfare workers through giving them better knowledge about children, young people and families with minority backgrounds. To encourage children and young people with minority backgrounds to complete their Upper Secondary School exams and go on to higher education. The evaluation is based on data collected through documentary analyses, interviews, observation, and questionnaires. We have described the experiences of the mentors and children, and analyzed in what ways they have profited by participating. In addition we have assessed whether the project has been organized and implemented in accordance with Nattergalen’s objectives. The Ministry for Childen, Equality and Inclusion will decide whether Nattergalen is to be continued as a Ministry-supported project after the trial period is over, and results from the evaluation will be used in this decision-making process. The main conclusion is that mentors and children alike profit by their participation in Nattergalen. Our results justify a clear recommendation to make Nattergalen permanent. At the same time Nattergalen presently shows some signs of falling apart, which is, amongst other things, related to the insecurity associated with further funding. In order to ensure the sustainability of Nattergalen, there is, thus, a need to clarify quickly questions related to whether the project is to be continued, funding and there is also a need for revitalization. Characteristics of children and mentors The typical mentor child participating in the evaluation was a pupil in class five to seven, and who had come to Norway from an Asian or African country. The proportion of boys and girls was about similar. The typical mentor was a woman aged 20-24 years, Norwegian of origin, in the first year of her social work studies. Nattergalen fulfils a series of known success criteria for mentoring programmes Low attrition Just above 400 children and 400 mentors have participated in Nattergalen during the three years of the trial project. The attrition has been low, just above three percent on the part of the mentors and four per cent on the part of the children. Low attrition is a clear indicator of good functioning. In addition low attrition is the result of efforts made by the coordinators as well as by contact persons at the primary schools participating in Nattergalen. Structure and flexibility International research about mentoring progtrammes underlines the significance of a clear structure in order to ensure optimal functioning. Nattergalen is manualized, and the manual gives instructions for the work to be done. The evaluation has shown that the manual is used by the professional actors participating in the project. The manual was also instrumental in ensuring the implementation of Nattergalen within a relatively short time frame and ensuring a fairly uniform practice across the eight sites. On the other hand the manual has not been an impediment to local adaptations and use of experience-based knowledge. In these ways Nattergalen successully combines the need for structure as well as flexibility. Teaching, supervising, and coaching the mentors Evaluations of mentoring programmes in other countries show that teaching, supervising and coaching the mentors is fundamental to ensure good results. At the same time situations may arise that can challenge the mentors however well the relationship between mentor and child usually functions. The manual describes procedures for teaching, supervising and coaching the mentors which were largely followed by the coordinators, while at the same time adapting to peceived needs of the mentors. The coordinators have been available to the mentors to a large degree. In addition they seem to have reflected thoroughly on the contents of the supervision, thus taking care of the goals of Nattergalen as well as individual needs on the part of the mentors. Most mentors were satisfied with what they learned. Recruitment and matching That both parties will profit by participating in mentoring programmes presupposes successful recruitment and matching of children and mentors. The evaluation shows some variation between sites with regard to how easy or difficult the recruitment process was during the three years of the trial project. One aspect present across sites is that first-year students are easier to recruit as mentors than more advanced students. The manual describes clear procedures for the recruitment and matching process. Two issues have shown themselves to be challenging with regard to the recruitment of children, first the question of whether a child can be offered a second mentoring year. Second, there was the issue of how large challenges that may be present in the children’s lives before they become ineligible for participation. Duration of the programme for the individual child Nattergalen presupposes that the children participate for one school year. However, the evaluation shows that the eight sites have differed slightly at this point. Some sites have offered some of the children a second year as well. We have argued that children who want to continue for another year should be allowed to do so, for instance if the schools have trouble recruiting a sufficient amount of new children each year, but not if this results in the exclusion of new, eligible children. If this change of practice is sanctioned, it should be described in the manual. Nattergalen incorporates political goals of integration as well as social policy objectives Nattergalen incorporates political goals of integration as well as social policy objectives. The evaluation has shown that both types of objectives are reached. First, Nattergalen has contributed to giving the children experiences with local activities. This has been a great pleasure to the children, and their siblings and parents have profited as well. Through meeting with their mentor the children have both had a grown-up person all to themselves, and had occasion to meet with other mentors and mentor children, as well as the mentors’ friends and family. The manual states that the children who are to participate in Nattergalen shall need a mentor, but not have needs of an extent that makes it difficult for them to be able to sustain contact with their mentor during a whole school year. The evaluation indicates that the children who participated during the third year had fewer challenges in their lives than those participating the preceding year. Thus there has been a development towards including children with fewer needs whether this is seen from an integration or a social policy perspective. The better the children function socially, and the better they achieve in school, and the less they need to learn Norwegian or social skills, the more Nattergalen will reach children who function reasonably well at the outset. This should initiate a more fundamental discussion of who Nattergalen is supposed to serve. The Ministry of Children, Equality and Inclusion needs to make a decision about this issue. Reaching a wider array of groups through Nattergalen creates a need for adaptation of Nattergalen’s objectives At least two of the sites are in the process of developing mentoring programmes that are partly new. In addition Nattergalen is about to be included in the ordinary practice for all students at a third site. Widening the concept to new groups of mentors and children will make Nattergalen more robust owing to increased possibilities of recruitment. However, the prevailing need to increase cultural sensitivity among child welfare workers is an argument for retaining children with minority backgrounds as a central target group. If new groups of mentors and mentees are to be included, the objectives of Nattergalen have to be modified accordingly. There is, further, a need to adapt existing objectives better to the programme as it is today. Participation in Nattergalen is supposed to give students better knowledge about children, young people and families with minority backgrounds. However, seeing the children 2-3 hours per week limits the mentors’ possibilities of establishing a very comprehensive contact with the rest of the family as well. Thus, we find this goal too ambitious. A need to strenghten the ties between Nattergalen and governing bodies at several levels The evaluation has shown that mainly, Nattergalen is organised and administered according to its intentions. However, there is room for improvement at some points. Nattergalen needs to be governed at state level, and to be given high priority there As a three year trial project Nattergalen was initiated and funded by the Ministry of Children, Equality and Inclusion, and the Ministy has retained overarching project leadership. The interviews with the eight coordinators seem to indicate that this task has not received sufficient attention in the Ministry particularly towards the end of the project period. The role of project director is extremely important, and ensures a clear and unambiguous structuring of the activities. The evaluation shows that the Ministry’s project director has indeed been important to the coordinators when they have needed advice about specific problems or clarification of issues connected with funding and budgets. In addition the coordinators argued that having a Ministry-based project director contributes to giving Nattergalen increased legitimacy. Thus, the results imply that the role of project director of Nattergalen should be prioritized higher by the Ministry. Administrators at university colleges/universities need to take increased responsibility There is a need to strenghten the ties between Nattergalen and the university colleges/universities which implement the programme, with regard to organization as well as professional content. Our study has shown that the coordinators have had limited success with regard to this. Nor have the sites shown great willingness to contribute with continued funding of Nattergalen. We have argued that the responsibility for integrating Nattergalen and securing continued funding should be placed at the leadership level, as this is where such tasks usually lie. The responsibility of the coordinators should be limited to day-to-day administration. On this basis we see a need for dividing responsibility differently between coordinators and administrators at the sites, thus making the administrative level more responsible than is the case today. Nattergalen might still become better integrated in the relevant study plans. During the trial project Nattergalen has been included, but mostly as an optional extra and not as part of the study plans. The programme will become more robust if it is integrated as part of the study plans, a development which seems to have started at some of the sites. This can indicate a change. The organizational position of the primary schools needs to be strengthened The organizational position of the primary schools which participate in Nattergalen needs to be strenghtened as well. The contact persons at the schools do not receive any kind of compensation for their work, neither financial nor otherwise. Thus their work with the programme is based on voluntary work and personal engagement, which is not sustainable in the long run. It is, thus, necessary to ensure that the primary schools get some kind of compensation. In addition it is necessary to strengthen the structure of the programme in relation to the primary schools, preferably through the allocation of time as well. The political responsibility for primary education is located in the Ministry of Education and Research and the Directorate of Education. These are not involved in Nattergalen so far. Thus the participating primary schools do not have sufficient support within their own ministry or directorate. To strengthen the position of the primary schools it is, thus, important that the Ministry of Education and Research and perhaps the Directorate of Education are included in the work with Nattergalen at this level. In addition some challenges exist in relation to how Nattergalen is funded. These need to be solved. Primary schools are a municipal responsibility, and the financial responsibilities for primary education thus lies with the municipalities. The evaluation has shown that some of the university colleges/universities do not feel responsible for funding the parts of the programme which involve the municipalities. Some suggestions are discussed in the report. However, the question must be resolved through collaboration between relevant ministries and directorates. Coordinators have a key function The function of coordinator lies at the heart of Nattergalen. Thus, sustaining this function should be highly prioritized in the future. The mentors are highly inspired by their coordinator. As well the coordinators are responsible for collaboration with the primary schools and the Ministry of Children, Equality and Inclusion. To retain motivation and engagement the function of coordinator should perhaps be organized as a fixed position of some years’ duration. We have also suggested that the position could take up 50 per cent time, with secure funding, which may be shared by two persons in order to make it less vulnerable. A decision to continue Nattergalen with State funding must be made quickly On the one hand Nattergalen now seems on the way to becoming well established among the coordinators as well as the participating primary schools. On the other hand Nattergalen shows some signs of falling apart, which we to a large extent attribute to lack of clarification with regard to future State funding. This has influenced the activities in several ways. For instance Bergen University College reports that Nattergalen is not active in the school year of 2011-2012 because the question of funding has not been decided on. The coordinators at two other university colleges have left Nattergalen and taken up other positions. At one site the municipality has signalled a willingness to contribute with part funding, but this presupposes part funding from the university college. On its part, the university college involved is waiting for a decision about further State funding from the Ministry of Children, Equality and Inclusion. Thus a rapid clarification on the part of the Ministy is necessary, as regards whether Nattergalen will be sustained as a State initiative and how the programme is to be funded. At the same time we point out that the university colleges/universities have responsibilities on their part as well with regard to future funding. This was stated explicitly by the Ministry when Nattergalen was implemented. The signs we have observed that Nattergalen may be falling apart at some sites indicate a need for revitalization if a decision is made to sustain the programme. Coordinators and contact persons at the primary schools should be given the possibility of participating in international networks of mentors. Recognition, and stable and predictable structures for those working with Nattergalen will have great significance as well. Experiences and effects on the part of children and mentors Being together brings great pleasure to both children and mentors The evaluation shows that being together has brought great pleasure to both children and mentors. Mentor and mentee pairs participate in a broad spectrum of activities as well. Almost all mentors answering their survey enjoyed being together with their mentee, and felt that the children enjoyed being with them as well. The interviews show that where the children were concerned, these activities were an independent and important part of the mentor year. To a large degree the children were involved in deciding on which activities they and their mentors were to engage in. At the same time scant economic resources in the mentees’ famlies may limit the possibilities of utilizing all offers of activities, as well as the possibilities of keeping up particularly attractive actitivities afterwards. Thus it is important to take costs into consideration when planning the activities during the mentoring year. However, the total amount of cancellations was low. This demonstrates how the programme ensures stability and good continuity for individual mentor-mentee pairs. A good relationship developed between the children and their mentors Well-being, joy and low conflict levels are central in descriptions of how children can profit from participating in mentoring programmes, and are highlighted as important indicators for evaluating these programmes. Almost without exception the relationship that developed between children and their mentors in Nattergalen was described as very good, and hardly ever characterized by conflict. The "Mentoring Alliance Scale" elicits descriptions of the quality and the closeness of the relationship between children and their mentors. Examples are whether the child likes being with his or her mentor, or would rather have done something else, or whether the child talks to his or her mentor about how they feel or problems they might have. According to our analyses the mentors overall judged the quality of the relationship to be very good, and the closeness of the relationship to be good as well. Analyses of the children’s responses all over show that these feelings were reciprocated by them. At the same time this very positive picture becomes somewhat nuanced, as the older children and boys profited a little less by their own accounts. These differences are statistically significant, but represent but small nuances in a generally positive picture. However, these results serve as a reminder to pay a little more attention to how the activities proposed are tailored to the mentees’ age and gender. In addition the results concerning the closeness in the relationship, which were a little less positive than those concerning the quality of the relationship, can lead to reflection on what reasonable expectations of this relationship are. It is not self-evident that the mentors must feel obliged to discuss the mentees’problems with them unless the mentees themselves initiate such discussions, or it becomes obvious that something is wrong. The children really liked going to school, and experienced some improvement in important skills The questionnaires filled in by the children demonstrated a high degree of school well-being. This pertains to general well-being at school as well as maths and Norwegian. The majority of the coordinators as well as the contact persons at the primary schools have stated that Nattergalen helps improve the language and social skills of the children. To what extent improvement takes place will, however, depend on the individual child’s needs, situation and skills at the outset. The survey data indicate that children who needed to improve their Norwegian and their social skills did so, at least to a certain extent, from the point of view of the mentors. However, improved skills in one of these areas does not necessarily lead to improved skills in the other area. Results also show variation between the mentor years, as a smaller proportion of the children participating during the final year needed better Norwegian or social skills at the outset. Also, there are indicators of a change in recruitment practices across sites, as children not needing to improve their Norwegian were present at all sites during the third and last year, but not during the second year. This pattern was not repeated when it came to the need to learn better social skills. Actually our results are more positive than what is usually found in effect studies of mentoring programmes in other countries. We think that the differences may be connected with methodological challenges associated with these effect studies, and different methodological approaches in the studies. The mentors’ expectations were fulfilled A large majority of the mentors we included in our survey had their expectations to being a mentor fulfilled. The few who did not think so were, for instance, dissatisfied withhow they were matched with their mentee, since they had wanted a closer relationship with him or her, or they found that the language barriers made communication a bit too difficult. All the same those who were less satisfied than average still assessed their contact with their mentee as good. The mentors increased their knowledge through the programme A great majority of the mentors replied that they had learnt things from the mentoring activities which they would utilize in future work with children and young people. In addition the mentors think that their understanding of children and families with minority backgrounds has been a bit or significantly increased through the mentoring acitivities. However, there were clear differences between the project years. While the majority of the mentors reported an increased understanding in 2010, the same pertained to be slightly less than half in 2011. One quite evident explanation is that this is related to the differences between the children these two years. During the final year the children may have been better integrated in Norwegian society, thus decreasing the significance of learning from the minority backgrounds of children and families. At the same time comments from the mentors in the survey as well data from the interviews shows that the mentors did gain valuable knowledge about relating to children and families with minority backgrounds. However, the interviews indicate that this may be more about general communication with children and parents in a multicultural context, than increased multicultural competence in the guise of knowledge about actual cultural and communicative differences. There is a need to continue with a well-functioning programme The evaluation gives a clear and unambiguous foundation for recommending that Nattergalen continues. Since the experiences are so positive, and to make the programme more robust, Nattergalen should be extended in order to reach other target groups as well. The structure surrounding the programme is very important. Not in the least it is important to see organization in relation to the content of the programme. It might also be advantageous to include program evaluations as part of the further development of Nattergalen. Reccommendations for continued use of Nattergalen It is necessary make a quick decision about the future of Nattergalen Nattergalen should be made permanent Nattergalen should have a broader and more robust administrative base at State level (ministry/directorate) State funding is still necessary, at least in a transition phase. It is necessary to revise the objectives and content of Nattergalen. Further development of Nattergalen should be controlled and directed by the State. It is necessary for the administrators at university colleges/universities to take more responsibility for Nattergalen. The function of the coordinators must be strenghtened. The coordinators should use this evaluation as the basis for further improvement of Nattergalen. Recommendations for further research There is a need for a follow-up study in for instance five years to document whether the positive results continue among children and mentors. There is a need for more knowledge about differences in results for different groups of children, for instance according to gender, age, and ethnicity. Other relevant variables can be how long the children have been in Norway, language challenges and family background.NOVA har på oppdrag fra Barne-, likestillings- og inkluderingsdeparte-mentet gjennomført en evaluering av mentorordningen Nattergalen, en ordning som i 2008 ble iverksatt som et treårig prøveprosjekt ved åtte høgskoler/universitet i Norge. Nattergalen omfatter barn med minoritetsbakgrunn i alderen 8–12 år og studenter innen barnevern, sosialfag eller vernepleie som er mentor for et barn gjennom et skoleår. Ordningen skal gi studentene bedre kunnskap om barn, unge og familier med minoritetsbakgrunn, og barna skal få motivasjon til senere å ta høyere utdanning. Evalueringen viser at Nattergalen oppfyller sentrale suksesskriterier for mentorordninger. Barn og mentorer setter stor pris på samværene og vurderer relasjonen til hverandre som god. Barna har også fått litt bedre ferdigheter i norsk og litt bedre sosiale ferdigheter slik mentorene vurderer det. NOVAs hovedkonklusjon er at ordningen har vært meget vellykket, og vi anbefaler at ordningen videreføres.
- NOVA - Rapport 
Seeberg, Marie Louise