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NCFE sponsors major research on enrichment in FE, supporting student resilience in Covid-19 recovery

01 June 2020

A long-term piece of longitudinal research into enrichment spanning four years is to be undertaken in a pioneering collaboration between AoC and the University of Derby, funded by NCFE. The research will seek to demonstrate the huge role enrichment activities play in preparing students for employment and careers. It is a pertinent time for a study of this kind as the coronavirus pandemic will radically alter the needs of the economy and jobs market for years to come. The research will also capture the impact of funding cuts to enrichment programmes in further education institutions, while identifying effective models of enrichment and the impact these have on the outcomes for young people. The case for enrichment programmes has never been stronger as government, employers and the sector continue to talk about the importance of essential skills. The need for young people to develop wider skills, flexibility and resourcefulness as the country recovers from months of closures has never been greater. The long-term research will explore what these essential skills mean for colleges and the learners who benefit in a variety of ways from the activity. The aim of the in-depth research set to begin from June 2020 is to get sector wide agreement on what we mean by “enrichment”. This will include reporting on the current state of enrichment activities delivered across the sector, sharing best practice, demonstrating their impact to government departments, and articulating the case for why such activities should be more strongly supported as a means to create more work-ready, resilient and active citizens. The approach to this piece of research is unique and will provide evidence focused and influential data to link economic value to enrichment. The approach will be fluid and allow us to evidence changes in practice and impact through repeated surveys of different types of post-16 organisations, as well as qualitative interviews with staff and students within those organisations. Staff samples will be stratified to include senior management, those with strategic and day-to day responsibility for enrichment, and those delivering enrichment activities, as well as students engaging with enrichment activities. AoC will establish a sector representative working group to review progress and development needs at each stage. This will ensure the research is inclusive of a range of provider types. The final report is due to be published in March 2024 with an interim phase 2 set of findings due in July 2021. David Corke, Director of Skills and Education Policy, will lead the research for AoC. David will play a key role in sector engagement and participation in the research. He said: "Enrichment is all too often seen as a nice-to-have, rather than an essential part of education. This piece of much-needed research will aim to challenge that. The pandemic has shown that we are at risk of losing some students from education forever. “Now, more than ever, as we begin to think about how to recover from the crisis, enrichment activities need to be a central part of the plan for reengaging students. Some of the most important skills learnt in a young person’s life are through the extracurricular activities they undertake between 16 and 19. We hope that this influential piece of work – once complete, will help to cement that enrichment should be a core part of the educational experience in the new normal.” Victoria Orr, Chief Customer Officer at NCFE, commented: “At NCFE, our core purpose is to promote and advance learning for all. As an organisation, our primary responsibility, is and always will be, to our learners, helping them to achieve their personal and career goals and improve their life chances through education. “We know that the pandemic is likely to further impact disadvantaged learners in particular in terms of reaching their goals. Hard has just become harder. Life skills and coping mechanisms are so important to be able to live a happy and fulfilling life.This research will help us to make good decisions when developing products so that our learners benefit from a really thoughtful curriculum that not only meets the renewed needs of the sector, but also helps them to find employment in the post-COVID economy. “The development of transferable skills, such as adaptability, resilience, creativity, problem solving and communication, will play a key factor in supporting the nation back into work. We are absolutely delighted to be supporting AoC and the University of Derby with this fundamental research project.”