Helping teenagers get Future Ready

This article is published as a feature case study on the OfS website

Future Ready is a programme of workshops created specifically for further education students to increase progression to higher education.

Make Happen is the Essex partnership for National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP).

We successfully engage with 67 schools and further education providers across all 55 wards within our region. We have two distinct models of engagement with NCOP students – our pre-16 learners and our post-16 learners – to complement the diverse and often complex challenges of each learning environment.

The challenge
Further education providers offer a range of qualifications, including BTECs which offer practical learning in a range of environments, such as the opportunity to undertake work placements. Each department area is often separately managed due to huge variations in the types of teaching and learning required, and therefore there is no neat, single college-wide timetable, or even term dates.

Students are expected to be independent, often with time scheduled for independent study alongside more structured group learning. Large student numbers are often spread over multiple campus sites, each with distinct student populations.
All of these complex factors mean that it can be difficult to engage further education learners.

The approach
During October 2018, we recruited a dedicated team to challenge and overcome some of the barriers facing our partnership in engaging with further education students.
Our aim was to engage students through a defined programme of activity, which was sustainable, low cost and utilised the broad range of skills and knowledge expertise within the team.

In January 2019, the Future Ready programme was launched as a progressive series of innovative, engaging workshops to ensure that further education students were well informed about higher education options as well as feeling confident about making career choices. The Gatsby benchmarks and NERUPI (Network for Evaluating and Researching University Participation Interventions) framework were used to design the programme to maximise the effectiveness of activity.

Workshops included

  • how to write personal statements and CVs
  • knowledge about higher education options
  • how to make the most of university and college open days
  • stress management support related to exams (delivered through a partnership with the NHS Improving Access to Psychological Therapies team

Workshops were delivered flexibly and took one of four approaches

  • integrating the programme into existing college activity, such as Industry Week and the Progression Fair
  • a self-select model, where NCOP students signed up to attend workshops during lunch time
  • collaborating with individual departments to schedule workshops during teaching time
  • campus visits, where students experienced a condensed version of the Future Ready programme

The workshops empowered students to become self-aware through reflective exercises and discussions to help them to identify their passions and skills as well as their own personal situation. Participants left each session with a tangible outcome and guidance on suggested next steps. Alongside the workshops, several other elements were developed to support student progression:

  • online maths revision videos to support attainment
  • a cooking and budgeting day to help students develop independent living skills
  • access to an online platform where students can view staff and student ambassador profiles and FAQs, and send us a secure message
  • a joint parent and student conference at a university campus, where parents learned how to support their child.

The result
Between January-May 2019, the Future Ready programme has worked with 1,100 students from six further education providers within Essex. The high engagement is as a result of strengthened relationships with the colleges by better understanding the further education environment. The relationships have been enhanced across all levels, from senior management to individual tutors.

Another strength of the programme, and the team delivering it, has been the recognition that the programme had to be delivered flexibly to adapt to the needs of each college. We are now looking to expand the success of the programme through further refinement of our targeting of NCOP students and by expanding delivery.

We are also looking to enhance our collaboration with individual departments within each college to provide additional support and tailored activity to meet the needs of their students. We have joined forces with KaMCOP, the Kent based NCOP, to share best practice and to enhance post-16 activity across the two neighbouring partnerships.

"The workshops empowered students to become self-aware through reflective exercises and discussions to help them to identify their passions and skills as well as their own personal situation."