Findings from a recent external evaluation suggest that pupils on the Future Frontiers programme improve outcomes in behaviour, attendance and attainment in GCSEs.
We recently commissioned ImpactEd (an independent organisation specialising in evaluation in the education sector) to evaluate the impact of our new two-year programme.
This exploratory evaluation tracked our pilot cohort of 71 Future Frontiers students across three schools. The outcomes of pupils on our intervention were compared to the outcomes of a matched control group of 64 students in the same schools who were not taking part in the programme.
Outcomes we are measuring
Throughout the programme in Year 10 and 11, pupils learn the importance of post-16 transition planning, aiming high educationally and fulfilling their potential in their GCSEs and beyond.
The Impact Ed report uses data recorded by schools to explore the impact of Future Frontiers programme on pupils’ engagement with learning at school (measured by their attendance and behaviour) and their GCSE attainment.
This evaluation explored the following outcomes:
So what changes did we see in Future Frontiers’ pupil data compared to the control group?
When comparing ‘working at’ GCSE grades from before the programme to achieved GCSE grades, Future Frontiers students saw on average a 6.4% increase in their Maths grades (a statistically significant difference).
While we might expect grades to increase throughout Year 10 and 11, the matched control group only increased their grade by 0.9% over the same period. This indicates a positive impact of the programme.
Future Frontiers pupils maintained their level of attendance at school throughout the programme (only decreasing by 0.4%), despite the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic. This is particularly remarkable considering that the comparison group decreased by 7.7%, and the average attendance nationally decreased by 10.1% during this period.
GCSE grades are directly influenced by attendance, and therefore maintaining strong attendance is a key factor for success at this stage.
In the term before GCSEs, Future Frontiers pupils attended an additional 5.6 days of school compared to the control group. If maintained across an academic year, this equates to an additional 17 days in school or 110 hours of learning.
Behaviour points were collected for students during the terms before and after the intervention.
Students on the Future Frontiers programme demonstrated an improvement in behaviour, receiving 12% fewer negative behaviour points after the intervention, compared to the control group who received on average 9% more negative behaviour points at the second data collection stage.
Celebrations and caveats
We are really pleased with these results. They suggest a promising initial assessment of the programme’s impact on the students involved, with the most notable improvements evident in GCSE Maths grades and maintained attendance.
While these results are certainly cause for celebration, we are careful not to generalise from them as the cohorts involved were fairly small. We are also mindful of not jumping to the conclusion that these successes are the sole product of the Future Frontiers programme, as there are a wide range of factors within and outside of school that affect student engagement.
ImpactEd is in the process of conducting a similar evaluation with our new cohort: this time with around 1600 programme students, to provide a similar picture of the short-term impact of the programme.
This study will build on our existing data to provide a more robust sample of students and further enhance our current understanding of the programme’s impact, which we hope will continue to highlight successes for students.
Want to hear more about our impact over the last year? Read our 2021-22 Annual Impact Report.