Knowledge Exchange Research

Our research

Aimhigher London undertook a bespoke research project throughout 2022/23 to understand why Year 12 learners were less engaged on our sustained and progressive programmes, alongside national research taking place into youth engagement such as the Covid Social Mobility and Opportunities (COSMO) Study from Sutton Trust and UCL.

Our qualitative research sought to identify the interests and aspirations around progression for Year 12 learners, focusing on how informed, supported, and confident they felt about their journey to university, and how they perceived the barriers – if any, should be addressed.

We selected a cohort of learners from four of our partner school’s to be a cross-representation of our learner profiles. Following a baseline survey, they then participated in a range of focus groups, evaluations and opportunities of in-person engagements throughout the year, including new pilot initiatives and existing outreach offerings.

At the start of the year 96% said they “thought they would like to go university” and yet the data demonstrated an underlying feeling of being “under-prepared” for what was next. 50% did not feel “confident” about their next steps or had the information and support they needed to make decisions for post-school education journeys. 

100% expressed a need for more detailed, specific information about progression, delivered earlier in Year 12, to support and strengthen their journey to higher education.

The research delved into where the lack of confidence came from and learners stated very clearly that their anxieties stemmed from the impact of lockdown, they felt ill-equipped for transition and wanted support earlier to be able to think about their future education decisions. Just some of the quotes from initial focus groups revealed:

“Teachers don’t understand how scary these choices are” 

“I want specific information not to access broad strokes”

Following the initial research, we delivered and developed a series of outreach activities across five strands, including in-school, on-campus, residential and online engagements to explore and address specific needs of our learners. During all these activities we continued our conversations and research through the initial group of learners on levels of confidence, support and information.

“We worry about the details”

The end of year focus group was overwhelmingly positive for the learners, with a significant turnaround in the level of optimism for their futures.

  • 90% feel ‘very informed’ or ‘informed’ about their next steps.
  • 95% feel ‘very confident’ or ‘confident’ towards taking their next steps.
  • 100% feel ‘very supported’ or ‘supported’ about their next steps (whether education, training or employment).

What next?

We are using this research, as well as, ongoing consultations with our partner universities and schools in the network to evolve the sustained and progressive programme to ensure in-school, on-campus and online activities are available throughout each key stage, focusing on supporting young people as well as their parents or carers and teachers. More news on this to come soon.

In the meanwhile, sign up your Year 12 on the new Cutting Through the Noise in-school programme.

For more information or questions on our programme, contact Justine Marcham.

“The research revealed a strong sense that this age group wished to catch up, to fill in the gaps of what they did not know, gaps that were created through missed learning and experiences during the pandemic.”

“Being able to develop and deliver relevant, clear and accessible support to address these needs has been rewarded with the learners feeling less anxious about their futures.”

Justine MarchamSchool's Manager, Aimhigher London