The Valuing Enrichment Project: Making the Case for Enrichment
Eddie Playfair, AoC Senior Policy Manager
The Valuing Enrichment Project was jointly initiated by AoC and NCFE in 2020 as a four-year research project which aims to fill the evidence gap around the value of enrichment in post-16 education. David Hughes, Chief Executive of Association of Colleges says: “We embarked on this research because we felt that enrichment had been overlooked for too long, and that the offer had been limited by over a decade of funding cuts.”
The interim report published today describes how enrichment is benefiting college students and considers how the best examples could be built on. It also highlights the vital role enrichment played in supporting learners through the pandemic and beyond. As David Gallagher, Chief Executive of NCFE, says: “This is particularly important for those from the most disadvantaged, underserved and underrepresented backgrounds and who may not have had the opportunities to travel, play sport, or go to a local museum.”
The research is being undertaken by the University of Derby, widely recognised for its research, capacity-building and teacher education in the FE sector.
The researchers worked with 109 providers across England and Wales, including General Further Education, Sixth Form and specialist colleges. Of these, nine case study providers were chosen for further staff and student interviews to represent the range of settings and contexts. The research continues to identify, support and share best practice as well as contributing to a deeper understanding of the scope and potential of enrichment.
The report recommends that government should work with the post-16 sector to agree the aims and rationale of enrichment, develop a national strategy which properly recognises, values and resources enrichment activity, review the 16-19 study programme guidance and ensure that there is earmarked dedicated funding for enrichment.
We are recommending that the government provide more support for enrichment with guidance, resources and capacity building to help provide a richer and more meaningful educational experience for all post-16 learners.
We also recommend that Ofsted should agree success measures and evaluation criteria for enrichment and this should include a substantial input from learners themselves.
Students across the country need a full enrichment entitlement and colleges need the resources, guidance and training to support enrichment activity and create an infrastructure to embed it. Due to a lack of earmarked funding from government, enrichment often has to compete for resources with qualification teaching time.
What is enrichment?
The project’s working definition of enrichment is: provider-supported activities which enhance and complement learners’ study programmes and which promote learners’ personal and social development.
Why offer enrichment?
Enrichment contributes to broadening, stretching, and deepening students’ experience and promoting student choice, agency and exploration of different options. A diverse, high-quality enrichment programme is particularly important for the most disadvantaged learners who might not otherwise have access to the range of experiences and opportunities as their more advantaged peers.
Researchers at the University of Derby asked providers for their reasons for offering enrichment and the responses fell broadly into two categories:
1. Progression and employment: as a specific means of developing progression or to develop work-related skills, including ‘soft’ skills such as teamwork and communication widely associated with progression.
2. Personal and Social Development: To support students’ development as active, contributing and fulfilled members of society.
Official acknowledgement of the value of enrichment can be found in the DfE requirements for ‘non qualification activity’ in 16-19 study programmes as well as in the description of Personal Development in Ofsted’s Education Inspection framework.
The diversity of enrichment
The research suggests a typology for enrichment which reflects the range of purposes, organisation and evaluation and we believe this could inform a national framework for enrichment. The seven key areas are:
- Aims: what is the purpose and who is it for?
- Initiation / Organisation: who is leading?
- Responsibility: who is accountable?
- Knowledge and Skills Acquisition: what do we expect students to learn?
- Planning: how do we design and run the programme?
- Partnership: what external partners will we work with and how?
- Evaluation: how will we measure impact?
The research shows that that the best examples of enrichment extend and/or complement students’ learning in study programmes and help them prepare for their next steps.
For students, good enrichment can equip them with essential skills & attributes, such as confidence, teamwork, resilience, risk taking, creativity and innovation. It gives students access to opportunities they might not otherwise have, including involvement in creative and community projects and experiences which are engaging, motivating, challenging and enjoyable.
For colleges, a strong enrichment programme can provide opportunities to work with employers, national and local organisations and community groups and to develop new resources. It also creates new opportunities to promote equality, diversity and inclusion.
It is clear that enrichment has many academic, economic, personal and social benefits for students and has the potential to contribute to levelling up and addressing inequalities and skills gaps. As David Hughes says: “This report shows how much colleges value the role of enrichment in empowering people with the skills, confidence, self-esteem and awareness they need to be lifelong learners and engaged citizens.”
However, college students have very different offers available to them because there is no consistently applied national entitlement and enrichment is not currently a high priority in 16-19 education policy. We believe that these opportunities should be universally available to all learners, and that we need a coherent national approach to supporting enrichment in post-16 education.
The linked blog ‘College students and staff talking about enrichment’ gives a sense of how students and staff feel about the benefits of enrichment.
The ‘Valuing Enrichment’ page on the AoC website has further information and blogs on the project.