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Valuing Enrichment: Transforming Education through Empowerment and Opportunity

06 June 2023

The Association of Colleges (AoC) and educational charity NCFE have released an interim report evidencing the significance of enrichment activities for 16-19 year olds, in empowering individuals and promoting lifelong learning.

The interim report underscores the necessity of enhanced funding for enrichment in order to provide equal opportunities to every college student.

The Association of Colleges (AoC) and educational charity NCFE have released an interim report evidencing the significance of enrichment activities for 16-19 year olds, in empowering individuals and promoting lifelong learning.

The interim report underscores the necessity of enhanced funding for enrichment in order to provide equal opportunities to every college student.

Based on the research undertaken by the University of Derby, the report puts forward several recommendations for policymakers, funders, and education providers including:

  • the development of a national strategy for enrichment
  • the provision of dedicated funding
  • the establishment of success measures and evaluation criteria
  • further research into the benefits and effectiveness of different types of enrichment.

David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, commented: "Enrichment has a crucial role to play in empowering learners and developing essential skills. This research reinforces our appreciation of its value and provides us with the evidence needed to advocate for increased investment in enrichment programs."

David Gallagher, Chief Executive of NCFE, stated: " We believe that education should be a catalyst for personal growth and societal progress. This report is a fantastic opportunity to reinvigorate the conversation around enrichment and highlight its value in developing social and cultural capital, which is particularly important for those from the most disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds. I’m excited to see these emerging findings which demonstrate how important it is to extend the student experience beyond their main area of study.”

Launched in 2020, the project aims to bridge the evidence gap surrounding the value of enrichment in post-16 education and advocate for improved funding and recognition of enrichment programmes.

The findings of the Valuing Enrichment Project reveal that well-designed enrichment programmes can have significant positive impacts on learners, foster essential skills (such as team work and confidence), and contribute to the goal of societal levelling up.

However, the absence of a consistently applied national entitlement and the low priority given to enrichment in education policy has resulted in unequal access to these opportunities for learners.

Led by the University of Derby, the Valuing Enrichment Project has collected data from 109 providers across England and Wales and conducted interviews with staff and learners from nine case study providers.

The research highlights the diversity of enrichment activities and their positive impact on learners, as well as the benefits for providers, including enhanced reputation and improved student engagement and attainment.

Bill Esmond, University of Derby Project Lead, said: "Enrichment looks different in every college. Some colleges have instituted programmes that reach out to every learner, while others focus their offer on specific groups, such as A-Level students or learners with special needs. And despite this support and recognition of its benefits, the provision of enrichment is uneven and characterised by uncertainty and a struggle for resources."

For more information about the Valuing Enrichment Project and to access the interim report, visit the AoC’s Enrichment page here.

Coleg Cambria

Coleg Cambria, in North East Wales, acknowledges the challenges faced by post-Covid 16-18-year-olds due to the crucial months of isolation they have endured.

The college aims to address this by offering enrichment activities that allow students to find their own place within the college community.

Jade, a student representative in Health and Social Care, describes enrichment as a personally fulfilling form of self-discovery. She emphasizes the importance of providing learners with opportunities to use equipment and engage in activities they may not have access to at home, likening it to a supportive family environment.

Daniel, a student governor, highlights how enrichment broadens learners' perspectives, enabling them to explore possibilities they may not have considered before.

Rona Griffiths, Learner Experience and Enterprise Manager at Coleg Cambria, said enrichment is not merely an "add-on" but an integral part of the college experience.

She added: “The college is committed to enriching students' lives by offering opportunities for skill development, fostering new friendships, and cultivating new interests. Enrichment activities positively impact students' academic performance, well-being, and employability, and remain at the core of Coleg Cambria's mission.”

Brighton Hove and Sussex Sixth Form College

Brighton Hove and Sussex Sixth Form College (BHASVIC), in East Sussex, places enrichment high on its agenda, recognising its importance in the teaching role.

The college allocates dedicated time for teaching staff to develop activities that extend beyond the subject curriculum. For example, science students build a green car, and climbing becomes an extension of the sports program. The college also organises mock trials, publishes a magazine, and encourages student clubs and societies to flourish.

BHASVIC views enrichment as a means to create a vibrant and creative community, fostering collaboration and inclusivity.

Students at BHASVIC testify to the transformative power of enrichment programs. Daisy, a first-year A-Level student who commutes from a significant distance, participates in various activities such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award, the Feminist Society, and Creative Writing. She attributes her ability to fully immerse herself in college life and the broader community to the opportunities provided by enrichment programs.

Meanwhile Shahama, studying Chemistry and Psychology, actively engages in the Debating Society and the college magazine while volunteering at the local hospital. Shahama credits these experiences with broadening her social network and uncovering career aspirations she had not previously considered.

Ella, in her final year of English and Media A-Levels, takes advantage of enrichment opportunities such as Current Affairs as a portfolio course. These experiences have enhanced her writing skills, allowed her to make new friends, and opened doors to exciting opportunities such as a creative writing trip in North Devon.

Alison Cousens, Assistant Principal and Director of Student Services at BHASVIC stresses the significance of community and belonging for students' success at college.

She said: “Enrichment programs at BHASVIC go beyond classroom learning, providing students with the chance to expand their knowledge and collaborate with peers outside their core classes. Portfolio enrichment sessions enable students to acquire new skills in different subject areas, enhancing their progression options.

“Student-led societies foster a sense of camaraderie among like-minded individuals, providing spaces to share ideas, have fun, and actively campaign for change. BHASVIC is proud to include elements of social justice within its enrichment programs, such as the Climate Action Society, Period Poverty Society, and Student Union.

“These initiatives empower students to have an active voice within the college community and contribute to broader society. With a large student population and a wide catchment area, BHASVIC recognises the profound impact of enrichment in giving meaning and purpose to students' time at the college.”