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We got it going: Back on Track 2 -Final project report (2010)

We got it going: Back on Track 2 -Building collaborative partnerships between further education and early intervention in psychosis services - Final project report (2010)

The problem Back on Track 2 sought to address

Although many young people who develop psychosis want to work or complete their education, and see this as part of their recovery process, they can often face many and complex barriers - leading to an increased risk of them dropping out of, or feeling unable to access education, employment or training. When they first make contact with Early Intervention in Psychosis services almost 50% of young people are unemployed and within a year of making contact with mental health services their unemployment rate can almost double to 75-95%.

The method

Back on Track 2 (BoT2) was an NIACE/LSC/ISCRI partnership programme project in 2009/10.

Working with national service leads and local partnerships around the country Back on Track 2 sought to improve links and partnership working between Early Intervention in Psychosis Services (EIP), Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Further Education Colleges in order to support young people with a first episode of psychosis to re-engage with, achieve in and progress on from education, training and employment. It was based on an innovative project in Portsmouth: Back on Track - a partnership between Headspace Early Intervention in Psychosis Team and Highbury College.

The project used an action research approach to enable practitioners to develop and improve their practice. A national oversight group provided strategic level advice and expertise. Members included, representatives from the National Learning and Skills Council, the NHS national EIP and Child and Adolescent Mental Health services and Pam Ringland (Headspace EIP) and Sue Ward (Highbury FE College) who developed the original Back on Track project.

Interesting findings

  • On entry to the EIP caseload 48% were below a full Level 2 (or equivalent) qualification
  • The proportion of young people who were not in education, employment or training varied considerably between EIP teams (from 39.6 % to 76.3%)
  • Similar to an earlier study (Lau, et al 2008) findings from the EIP caseload audits suggest that service users from Black and minority ethnic groups had the same or slightly higher participation rates in employment, education and training as did their White British peers
  • The findings for learners with concomitant/multiple disabilities and/or a long-term health condition are less clear and warrant further investigation in the future
  • For some EIP teams the project was their first real engagement with a local further education provider
  • EIP teams reported that the project presented particular challenges around time allocation, and that they had realised successes in terms of enhanced communication with FE and an increased awareness of and commitment to, the importance of recording caseload data about service users’ academic achievements and experiences.
  • College staff reported that as the programme had progressed, they and their EIP partners had been better able to understand the issues and constraints that each other faces and how they could work around them together. Regular meetings and maintaining close contact was seen to be a cornerstone for the success of BoT2
  • On completion of their BoT2 course, more than half of all learners were hoping to move on to other college provision, and five had secured or were hoping to find paid employment. For example, one had applied and been accepted on a ‘Pathways to Progress’ degree access course. Another successfully gained full time employment and stated that the BoT2 course helped give her the confidence to apply; she also enrolled on an Access to Health and Social Care course to support her in her new job.


This final report concludes that the Back on Track approach can make a positive contribution to local and national strategies to increase re-engagement and success in education, employment and training by young people with early psychosis. Different EIP teams and FE colleges with different provision in different parts of the country were able to use the Back on Track approach to establish effective partnerships that enabled young people with early psychosis to re-engage in education, employment or training.

A key focus of this project was to establish how well good practice from the Portsmouth Back on Track model could be rolled out to other organisations wishing to develop collaborative partnerships to improve vocational outcomes for young people with first episode psychosis. The findings tell us that it is indeed possible, but it is time intensive in its planning stages, and requires senior management ‘buy in’ and support in order to secure sufficient resources and ensure its sustainability. Without strategic level commitment at the local level from both the mental health service and further education partners the work risked running aground, and being overtaken by or sacrificed to external pressures experienced by one or other partner. 


This report includes recommendations to the Young People’s Learning Agency (YPLA), with the Department of Health, the NHS, and local commissioners of young people’s learning and mental health services as well as recommendations to learning providers and young people’s mental health services, to support and take forward the work that has already begun through BoT2 and to explore the potential for this approach used to be further developed to:

  • Be made available to young people with early psychosis throughout the country;
  • Extend the approach to different types of FE providers in order to ensure choice for young people with early psychosis to be able to access the full range of learning opportunities in further education;
  • Re-engage, support and improve education and employment outcomes for a wider group of young people with mental health difficulties who are currently not in education, employment or training; and
  • Re-engage and support other groups of vulnerable young people who experience complex barriers to their participation in education, employment or training.

Note: This report includes as an appendix a copy of the 'Back on Track How to Guide' a practical tool to support other local partnerships to develop and implement this approach to partnership working to prevent young people with first epidose psychosis from becoming NEET. This tool is also avialble in the virtual library in Word format -allowing the checklist to be completed electronically.

 Check out all of the resources in the Back on Track collection

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Worrall, C and Lau, A.
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