Pupils' attendance and results are improving because of the merger of local education authorities and children's social services, council staff have told researchers.
The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) study paints a more positive picture than previous research into the creation of integrated children's services, a change which all councils in England were due to make by this year.
Earlier this year, the researchers found most of the impact of the changes had been on councils, rather than the children they were supposed to be helping. But the new research suggests closer working between teachers and social services is making a difference to pupils' lives.
As well as improvements in schools, children's services staff reported advances in pupils' emotional wellbeing, social skills, confidence and physical health, and their parents' understanding of local authority services.
However, the study, in 14 authorities, said there was still a long way to go, and large variations exist between how far different authorities have integrated services.
"Steady progress has been made and there are good signs of impact on outcomes, but there now needs to be a step-change in the pace and consistency of that progress," the report said.
Concerns raised by children's services included that schools and GPs were still "not signed up" to integration between sectors. They were also worried about logistical difficulties surrounding integration and the extra workload it created, particularly in developing a common way to assess children's needs.
Eight of the 14 children's services directors admitted there was not yet a shared understanding of what integration meant in their authority.
However, positive changes noted among staff included a greater understanding of children's overall needs and of the roles and responsibilities of other agencies.
Geoff Gee, of NFER, said: "It doesn't necessarily follow when there is a government initiative that local government thinks it is good. My view is that this whole exercise demonstrates how committed people at the top and on the frontline of local authority children's services are to trying to make this work."
'Evaluating the early impact of children's services', www.nfer.ac.uk.