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New research aims to shine a light on overlooked learners

07 October 2022

Researchers will explore the outcomes of 14 to 16-year-old learners who study in further education (FE) colleges across England for the first time.

A joint research project between the Association of Colleges (AoC) and IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society, funded by Nuffield Foundation, will produce the first in-depth picture of the roughly 10,000 young people in this cohort to support policymakers to make decisions in the best interests of these students.

More than 100 of the 228 colleges in England provide education for 14 to 16-year-olds who have found that mainstream school does not meet their needs. Their high likelihood of dropping out of FE and becoming ‘not in education, employment, or training’ (NEET), and the long-term consequences of this, has been much discussed, but not researched until now.

Set to run until October 2024, the new project seeks to understand the post-14 opportunities and trajectories in FE, as well as how the ecosystem is functioning at the individual, institutional and community level.

Catherine Sezen, Senior Policy Manager at AoC and principal investigator for the project, said: “Shining a light on 14 to 16-year-old students is long overdue and I am delighted to be able to work with expert colleagues at IOE and across the sector to achieve this. This group of students is among the most vulnerable in further education and building a deeper awareness of them and their outcomes will help the sector improve its provision for this cohort.”

Dr Lynne Rogers, co-director of the Centre for Post-14 Education and Work at IOE and co-investigator for the project said: “It is scandalous that so little is known about these young people. Given the evidenced vulnerability of this cohort and the longer-term consequences for young adults who fail to gain essential literacy and numeracy skills and drop out of education, there is an imperative to understand the role of FE provision in supporting these young people to achieve positive educational outcomes.”

David Hughes, AoC Chief Executive, said: “This is a ground-breaking project which will strengthen our collective understanding of a cohort of thousands of students which policymakers know little about. Supporting research in further education is important to help inform evidence-based decision making and I am pleased AoC is leading this along with the highly respected IOE, thanks to funding from Nuffield Foundation.”