The common assessment framework (CAF) and lead professional (LP) working are being introduced into all local authorities in the next 2 years as part of the Every Child Matters agenda. This article describes some elements of an evaluation of 12 pilot trials. It was found that schools and pastoral staff in particular played a major part in the trials. The majority of the research participants thought that this was a worthwhile initiative and examples were collected of successful implementation of the scheme. However, issues of missing skills, lack of time and limited practical support for staff in schools were highlighted. It is suggested that these issues may be magnified in the full-scale implementation of CAF and LP work. Considerable effort by pastoral staff and education managers will be required if this ‘good idea’ is to deliver improved outcomes for children in need.