A NUI Galway report has documented that the average progression rates of students in seven alternative education programmes amounted to 80% between January 2018 to July 2020, and more than 90% in some projects.
This is the first such report on Ireland’s alternative educational provisions.
It’s been published amidst a three-year delay of the publication of a formal review of alternative educational routes by the Department of Education.
Dr Cormac Forkan from the UNCESCO Child and Family Research Centre in NUI Galway carried out the three-year academic evaluation of the Education Fund.
The report focused on seven projects that were awarded funding under Rethink Ireland’s Education Fund, and the extent to which the practices used by these projects could serve as robust models in overcoming educational inequality.
Six projects were based in Dublin such as Trinity Access 21 and Citywise Fast Track Academy, with the seventh being the Cork Life Centre.
The average progression rates showed that in most cases, people in these projects had significant success in progressing their education and is comparable with the completion rates of those within the mainstream system.
Martina von Richter, Impact and Operations Director of Rethink Ireland has stated that the organisation is delighted with the results of the evaluation.
“The work of the Education Fund awardees is outstanding, and we now have proof that their alternative models of education work and have a far reaching and sustainable positive impact on their learners” stated von Richter.
“Every young person should be supported to reach their full potential…the alternative education sector in Ireland needs to be recognised and supported by the government and integrated into the mainstream education sector so that all learners have the opportunity to benefit from them.
“Young people don’t come in one size fits all, and neither should their education” finished von Richter.
For the €7 million invested in the projects over the three years, the total Social Return on Investment value generated for project beneficiaries was just over €68 million.
Dr Forkan stated the report allowed his team to look at how the projects supported their learners.
“We found that progression is of course about participants moving along Levels 3 to 6 of the QQI framework of qualifications and achieving ‘hard outcomes” stated Dr Forkan.
“However, our data and subsequent model shows that it is also about their personal transformation and development of their ‘soft outcomes’, like increased independence (maturity), increased self-confidence, and a more positive outlook.
Our new evidence-based model… recognises that awardee projects provide critical and enabling actions for their participants in both of these domain areas and ultimately address better wellbeing for participants “finished Dr Forkan.
The report also contained recommendations for policy to tackle educational disadvantage.
These recommendations stated a formal recognition of alternative educational routes needed to be made by the Department of Education and funded the same as the mainstream system.
They also included using the findings on what worked from the study to develop a cross departmental strategy focused on tackling the social and economic inequalities facing young people and their families in order to reduce educational disadvantage, a forum for mainstream and alternative educators to share their experiences and a showcase for the chosen projects to share their learning processes with mainstream education and a wider society.