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Financial support for learners pays off in motivation and retention

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Help with the costs of learning boosts students’ motivation and improves retention rates, according to a new report from the Learning and Skills Development Agency.

Evidence is drawn from different sources: a national evaluation of learner support funds (carried out by the Institute for Employment Studies), an evaluation of Education Maintenance Allowances (based on research briefs fromthe Department for Education and Employment and
research from LSDA), findings from 86 college inspections and qualitative research from individual colleges participating in the LSDA’s Raising Quality and Achievement Programme .

In a national evaluation of learner support funds (Institute of Employment Studies, 2001), all educational institutions that were able to monitor and assess the impact of financial support reported a positive effect. Early evaluations of the Education Maintenance Allow ances (EMAs) in the pilot areas show ed an average increase in student participation by 5% (DfEE, 2001). EMAs had a greater
impact on young men than on young women and more success in rural than urban areas. Although it is too early to make assessment of the impact of student support on student
achievement there is some evidence of improvement commitment to study and subsequent performance, based on qualitative research by the LSDA.

There is also evidence that the prospect of two years funding had led some students to raise the level of their educational goals and to remain in education. This seems to be particularly amongst students from lower income families and those whose motivation to study was fragile. The bonus payments in the scheme also appear to have been particularly motivating for these students.

"Although the quality of teaching is the crucial factor in raising quality and achievement, this research show s that providing student support does make a difference," says Chris Hughes, Chief Executive at the Learning and Skills Development Agency. "But to work most effectively it needs to be offered with certain conditions, such as good attendance, attached."

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