Our Assessment Innovation Fund pilot with the Really Neet Project | NCFE

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Our Assessment Innovation Fund pilots: The Really Neet Project

Shaping the future of learning and assessment

We’re on a mission to break boundaries in assessment with an investment fund to support and pilot new ideas on the future of assessment.

The Really Neet Project

The Really NEET Project The Really NEET Project was founded to meet the unique needs of NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) young people (aged 16-25) to learn in a supportive and specially tailored environment. They hope to empower positive change in young people by giving them the tools to create stability and security in their lives that will enable them to achieve their future goals and become contributing members of wider society.

Really Neet: Escape assessments overview

About the pilot

This study grew out of frustration; the frustration of watching vulnerable young people working hard to gain basic skills and then, when needing to demonstrate this by gaining a qualification, repeatedly failing to do themselves justice. Traditional paper-based exams left them anxious, angry and distressed, and unable to prove their skills and knowledge.  

It set about finding out whether a new, innovative form of assessment might go some way to solving this problem. It devised pilot alternative ‘mirror’ maths and English assessments incorporating Level 1 Functional Skills questions, as an alternative to the conventional maths and English Functional Skills assessments. These were story-based, digital and interactive and piloted with a group of young people across different settings, all of whom had a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC), Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) or Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Young peoples’ views and experiences of completing these story-based assessments (SBAs) were then gathered through surveys and analysed alongside their staff’s survey responses and researcher observations. 

Findings and conclusions

The findings give strong support to the idea that functional skills SBAs could help a substantial number of young people with ASC, SEMH and ADHD. Almost three quarters of our participants felt that SBAs would be of benefit to them, and two thirds preferred them to traditional exams. Many said that this was because they felt less anxious and more relaxed in SBAs. In part because of this reduction in anxiety, many participants reported increased engagement and an ability to focus and concentrate on the tasks. Both the reduction in anxiety and the increase in focus and perseverance also emerged strongly from staff feedback and researcher observations. Importantly, SBAs appear to have the potential to motivate young people with SEND to gain qualifications – responses to the English SBA found 70% thought they would be more likely to engage in a qualification if they were assessed with SBAs while the maths responses reported 52%.  

It was not possible to re-create the high-stakes assessment experience in the current study, and this alongside the challenge of working with learners who have become disengaged with education and have negative associations with exams, meant that outcome data in this report is not comparable with data from the traditional approach. The results of this study give a strong basis to argue for a large-scale project in which SBAs are piloted with a group of learners as their ‘real’ Functional Skills assessments and the results compared with a control group, creating the right conditions for valid comparisons between the traditional and new approaches. 

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Final report

Key findings and recommendations

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