The Back on Track Alternative Provision Pilots: Final Report

Kerry Martin, Richard White, Jennifer Jeffes

30 October 2012

Research Brief

In 2009, NFER was commissioned by the DFE (then DFES) to conduct research into 12 alternative provision pilots established through the 2008 White Paper, Back on Track: A strategy for modernising alternative provision for young people. This agenda sought to transform the quality of alternative education for those who are excluded from, or who for some other reason are unable to attend school. The pilot programme commenced in April 2009 and funding, the majority of which was ring fenced for capital development, ceased in April 2011. During this time case study research was undertaken to develop insights from these diverse projects to investigate what can work in alternative provision in order to advance understandings and inform future policy and practice.

Key Findings

  • There is great variety in the scope and constitution of effective alternative provision in terms of modes and contexts of delivery and the nature of the contributions made to the lives and future life chances of young people. Alternative provision works well when it reflects and is responsive to the dynamics of local contexts and the changing needs of the various cohorts of young people it serves.
  • The value and effectiveness of pursuing personalised approaches to alternative provision need to be recognised and supported, especially in the commissioning process.
  • The effectiveness of alternative provision is enhanced when it is perceived and commissioned as an essential, integral component of a continuum of local provision and support, with coordinated routes in and out, to facilitate appropriate positive transitions for young people.
  • The measurement and assessment of the impacts, outcomes and achievements of alternative provision require further consideration and development. There remains a critical need to develop meaningful achievable outcome measures that, whilst taking into account the variations in circumstances of young people and the remit of the provision, can deliver valuable assessments of their capacity to effect positive change.
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