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The Access Project partners with schools and businesses to deliver the programme and is currently working with approximately 900 students in London and the West Midlands.

What CSAIF funded: The Access Project was awarded £100,953. £15,000 of this was for their evaluation. The funding was used to help them to expand outside of London, in the first instance, to Birmingham. View the full impact evaluation.

About the evaluation

Level on Standards: Level 3 - they can demonstrate causality using a control or comparison group.

Evaluator: The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR)

Aim: The evaluation aimed to assess the effectiveness of The Access Project’s tutoring programme at raising pupil GCSE grades.

Key findings:

  1. Data shows that the Access Project improves pupils’ GCSE grades significantly - six of nine evaluated schools can evidence a statistically significant positive effect on tutored pupils’ GCSE grades, measured by the Department for Education’s value-added measure.
  2. Data indicates that tutored pupils seem to be more aspirational in their applications to universities and are more likely to achieve places at more selective universities.

Methodology:

  • For GCSE grades - a matched comparison group design using propensity score matching and national pupil data (Level 3)
  • For university places – pre-post data showing the change in number of pupils attending top universities from each school, from before The Access Project started working with them to after (Level 2)

Why this Level: The Access Project were able to reach their target of Level 3 on the Standards. Propensity score matching is widely considered a robust approach to creating a comparison group, provided that the factors on which participants are matched are sufficiently comprehensive and meaningful. The Access Project were unable to include ‘level of motivation’ as a matching factor, but were able to provide evidence to successfully make the case that this does not significantly weaken their findings.

About the evidence journey

Progress: At the start of the CSAIF, The Access Project were validated at Level 2 on the Nesta Standards of Evidence. At that stage they were comparing the value-added scores of TAP pupils with pupils from the same school who did not take part in TAP – this provided an interesting benchmark, but there was likely to be some systematic difference between those pupils who did and did not take part in TAP. This evaluation has moved them forward to Level 3 by introducing a matching technique that mitigates this bias, and that can therefore confirm with more certainty and accuracy that the programme is having a positive impact.

Lessons learned: The Access Project wanted a set of tools they could take on and integrate into their yearly operations, both in terms of impact measurement but also programme development and learning. In the end, what they discovered was that impact measurement can also be a great tool for impact management. Instead of only looking at their results once a year, many of the conclusions NIESR’s work allowed them to draw were put to use in tweaking and improving their model

They have also learned a lot about cross-sector collaborations in this process and have become believers in reaching out for where the expertise is. They believe that one of the real opportunities in working with external partners is that they bring a different perspective to the project and this is where the learning comes from.

Next steps: The Access Project's impact journey is ongoing – alongside running the control group analyses for the 2015 data, they are also working to devise more robust control group methodologies for assessing their long term outcome as well as their university support strand. On the impact management front, they are implementing a new university readiness outcomes framework that works to both guide their delivery and ensure they have proper visibility of each of their students’ journey to a top university.