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HEFCE commissioned the Institute for Policy Studies in Education, London Metropolitan University, and Sheffield Institute of Education, Sheffield Hallam University, to conduct the evaluation of the National Networks for Collaborative Outreach (NNCO) scheme.  

The NNCO scheme was established to support a collaborative approach to outreach activity across England. HEFCE allocated £22 million from December 2014 to December 2016. The scheme funded 34 local and seven national or regional networks, which between them covered over 96 per cent of state-funded secondary academies, colleges, free schools and local authority maintained schools. A number of specific projects were also funded, through which networks could trial innovative approaches to outreach challenges, for example effective engagement with students in rural and coastal areas. The networks involved a total of 200 higher education institutions and further education colleges as well as a range of other formal and informal partners.

The evaluation was conducted over the life time of the scheme from December 2014 until December 2016. The overarching purpose was to evaluate the effectiveness of the NNCO scheme rather than the individual networks’ outreach activities. The evaluation had a twofold focus; an evaluation strand, which was mainly qualitative, and a support strand, designed to build evaluation skills and capacity amongst the networks.

The NNCO scheme had three goals:

  1. To create networks of universities, colleges and other partners to deliver outreach in their sphere of operation.
  2. To provide national coverage of outreach so that all state-funded secondary schools and colleges knew how to access information about outreach activities.
  3. To establish a single point of contact for each network.

The evaluation concluded that the NNCO had achieved all three goals.