In 2015-16, NEON managed and coordinated a successful bid by the University of Leicester for a research project under the HEFCE NNCO project funding. This project aimed to understand why certain schools and colleges, despite having large numbers of disadvantaged learners, have a higher level of participation in higher education than predicted by their GCSE attainment. The project ran until December 2016.
Investigating school culture
Working with four networks for collaborative outreach (REACH, Greater Manchester Higher, Kent and Medway Collaborative Network, Merseyside Network for Collaborative Outreach) NEON worked with schools and colleges in both a rural and urban context. The project investigated school culture and the attitudes of governors, teachers and students. It also took into account the views of widening access practitioners and developed a model of school/HE engagement.
Through the research findings a number of interventions were developed. These were trialled with schools and colleges that have a lower than expected level of participation in higher education. The findings were disseminated nationally allowing widening access practitioners, and their partner schools/colleges, to implement the model of school and college/HE engagement and to run proven interventions that can increase future participation.