From education to employment

Students who participate in summer schools more likely to attend university

Students who attend summer schools are more likely to receive better grades and progress to higher education, according to a new report today (31 Mar) from the Centre for Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education (@TASO_he) and the Higher Education Access Tracker (HEAT) Service. 

The report comes after the government, yesterday (Tuesday 30 March), published new guidance for secondary schools to help progress plans for summer schools once they return from the Easter break, using the £200 million funding announced in February.

Analysis finds that attending summer schools is associated with higher GSCE grades – revealing a 2.9 point increase in Attainment 8 scores – and improvements in progression to higher education.1 

The report also finds that university or college campus visits are linked to higher grades, particularly for disadvantaged students with low previous academic performance.  

Dr Omar Khan, Director of TASO said:  

“Universities across the UK spend countless hours and resources each year running summer schools for prospective students. TASO’s new analysis is a positive sign that such efforts are not made in vain. However, we now need to build on this evidence to determine whether such activities are having the intended impact to close equality gaps for disadvantaged and underrepresented students in higher education.” 

Sharon Smith, Director of HEAT said:  

“It is great to be able to publish results which are a culmination of all the hard work that providers undertake to capture and process data around outreach delivery. These results would not be possible without the commitment and collaboration of HEAT members, and data custodians such as the Department for Education and HESA. 

“This analysis shows the importance of contextualising the HE progression outcomes of tracked outreach participants with their prior attainment in Key Stage exams from the NPD. We would also like to see further research to help triangulate these findings and in parallel, to continue our own research to deepen our understanding on the effect of different types of outreach on a range of outreach participant groups.” 

Students’ participation more broadly in intensive outreach – attending one or more intensive activities – is associated with an increase in Attainment 8 scores of 3.4 points and a 6-13 percentage point rise in the likelihood of progressing to higher education. 

The attainment analysis focused on approximately 117,500 individuals and the higher education progression analysis focused on approximately 165,500 individuals from HEAT’s extensive membership dataset on outreach participation. 

The report cannot provide causal evidence on the efficacy of activities. This is due to limitations within the dataset, including an inability to capture individual motivation or parental support, which are strongly correlated with attainment and higher education progression.  

TASO is conducting a randomised controlled trial (RCT) of summer schools to generate causal evidence and uncover the effect of the activity versus the effect of certain individuals being more likely to attend. 

The Centre for Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education (TASO) is a What Works Centre for the higher education sector, part of the Government’s What Works Movement. TASO focuses on eliminating equality gaps in higher education. 

TASO was set up in 2019 and is funded by the Office for Students on an initial grant until 2023. TASO is an independent charity and will be seeking ongoing funds from a range of sources.

Before becoming a charity, TASO was managed by a consortium of King’s College London, Nottingham Trent University and the Behavioural Insights Team.

The Higher Education Access Tracker (HEAT) Service is a national non-profit-making collaboration between higher education (HE) outreach providers. HEAT provides a monitoring and evaluation service, at the heart of which is an extensive system of outreach participant data collection and tracking.  

HEAT has collected an impressive dataset from across its membership, comprising of outreach participant details and information about their involvement in outreach activities.  

The HEAT dataset is annually linked to government data on education outcomes, including attainment and information on whether and where participants enter HE. This data linking makes the HEAT database a potentially powerful resource to explore questions about the relative efficacy of different outreach approaches. 

[1] Attainment 8 measures the achievement of a pupil across eight qualifications. Each individual grade a pupil achieves is assigned a point score, which is then used to calculate a pupil’s Attainment 8 score.

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