Outcomes Map: Education and Learning (UK)

NPC outcomes map - educationThis is adapted from the NPC (UK) publication by John Copps, February 2013: Version 1.0 visit NPC site to download PDF.

Key outcomes

  • Academic success: achieving qualifications that demonstrate individual ability and are valuable for future education, employment or training.
  • Vocational preparation/employability: preparing individuals for employment, developing skills that contribute to economic well-being.
  • Creating better citizens: developing knowledge of each person’s responsibility in society, understanding the principles of democratic freedoms and learning to value tolerance and diversity.

Related outcomes

  • Employment and success in the labour market
  • Mental health and well-being

Vulnerable groups

Many of the problems in the education system are not new, and reflect long-standing concerns which tend to persist from pre-school to adulthood. Key areas issues include:

  • The relationship between poverty and educational opportunity: Poverty is among the most important determinants of achievement. At GCSE level, just 34.6% of pupils who are eligible for free school meals achieve five or more grade A* to C including English and Maths, while 62.0% of their fellow pupils who are not eligible for free school meals achieve the same results.
  • The relationship between ethnicity and educational opportunity: Performance at school is known to be correlated with ethnic background. Whilst pupils of Chinese origin are the most consistently high-performing ethnic group, the group of most concern are Black Caribbean boys. This gap in attainment is replicated in higher education, with a lower proportion of black young people in higher education.
  • Special educational needs (SEN): The attainment gap between the proportion of pupils with and without any identified SEN achieving five or more A*-C grades at GCSE or equivalent including English and mathematics is 47.4 percentage points – 69.5% of pupils with no identified SEN achieved this compared with 22.1% of pupils with SEN. Pupils with SEN with statements are around nine times more likely to be permanently excluded.
  • Low performance of other vulnerable groups: There are a number of other groups of young people that show consistent underachievement at school. For example, only 13.2% of looked after children in England achieve the benchmark five A* to C grades at GCSE. Refugees and asylum seekers, travellers and teenage mothers also fair badly.
  • Truancy and exclusion: Every day, around 600,000 children in England are absent from school. In 2011 there were, 5,080 permanent exclusions and over 270,000 temporary exclusions in schools in England. The implications of permanent exclusion for an individual’s life chances and job prospects can be profound.
  • Low participation in post-16 education and training: One of the weaknesses of the UK education system is the relatively low proportion of participation in post-compulsory education and training, putting the UK behind all our major European competitors in international rankings. At the end of 2011, there were almost 155,000 or 8.1% of 16-18 year olds not in education, employment or training.

Examples of typical interventions

  • Pre-school: parenting programmes; information, advice and guidance; play-based education
  • School: after school hours activities; school-home mediation services; counselling and therapy; extra tuition; alternative education; outdoor activities; mentoring
  • Post-16: information, advice and guidance; mentoring; work experience placements; volunteering programmes; skills-based courses; counselling and therapy
  • Adult education: basic skills classes; IT courses; counselling and therapy; mentoring

Current approaches to measurement

Data collection within the education system is an established and accepted practice. Data is most commonly collected on attainment and attendance, particularly grades in GCSEs, NVQs, A Levels and other qualifications, rates of attendance and truancy and exclusion. Schools and colleges all have strategies focused around d these metrics and are accountable for performance to inspectors from Ofsted (England and Wales) and HM Inspectors (Scotland). Another common measure is post-16 destinations, or what a young person chooses to do when they leave the compulsory schooling. Government routinely reports on these statistics and commissions reports to assess the effectiveness of policies.
There are also a wide range of measures of ‘soft outcomes’, such as self-esteem and emotional health used through school, post-16 and adult education. These are usually survey-based and based on the perspectives of individuals. A range of psychological scales can capture subjective feelings and opinions including aspirations, resilience and determination, and well-being. These are effective for measuring the impacts of interventions that have non-academic benefits. Student (and parent) satisfaction is also commonly measured across education institutions. Often this is conducted through commissioning surveys from third party organisations.

There are a number of institutions that specialise in the evaluation of education and learning programmes. These include: The National Foundation for Education Research, the Institute of Education and the Centre for Evaluating and Monitoring at Durham University.


Education is the acquisition of skills, knowledge and understanding to put individuals in a position to succeed in personal relationships and in society. For the purpose of this overview, we look at formal education – pre-school education, primary and secondary school, college or university and adult education, and related. Broadly, we categorise education and learning by age group to reflect the structure of the institutions operating in the area:

  1. pre-school education
  2. school
  3. post-16 education
  4. adult education.

This overview does not include education opportunities outside the UK or informal independently learning.


Education is a process of personal and social enrichment. Studies have linked formal education with future earnings, health and happiness, making it an important mean of personal fulfilment and socio-economic mobility.

Education in the UK is dominated by the activities of government, with schools, colleges and universities all funded by the tax payer. Expenditure by the Department for Education accounts for 5.8% of GDP, or £90bn. Education is seen by government as an investment, creating a skilled workforce that will yield returns in the future and which is an asset of increasing importance in a global economy. The education system is also at the heart of modern democracy. School is the most important shared experience of our lives and can be a source of common understanding between diverse groups. Notions of citizenship and community safety are important aspects and products of universal access to education.
Charities are involved in education in three main ways:

  1. to provide services in addition or complementary to those offered by the state (eg, out of school hours clubs);
  2. to help individuals access services offered by the state (eg, providing information to adults about learning opportunities);
  3. to influence policy or change attitudes (eg, lobbying for improvements to pre-school education).

Charities also run independent schools, schools for young people with special educational needs, and trust schools.

Where did this come from?

This is one of 13 outcomes maps produced by NPC in partnership with the SROI Network, investing for Good and Big Society Capital. Each map examines a particular issue area or domain, and aims to document the relevant outcomes and indicators that are currently being measured by charities, government, academics and practitioners working in this field. This map is not intended to be prescriptive about what you should measure; instead it aims to be a starting point for social investors, funders, charities and social enterprises thinking about measuring outcomes in this domain. Neither is it intended to be definitive or comprehensive: we plan to develop the maps further in future as we learn more about measurement practice in this area. If you have any feedback or suggestions for how we could do this, please get in touch with Tris Lumley at NPC by emailing tris.lumley@thinkNPC.org.

Outcomes maps in this series

Housing and essential needs
Education and learning
Employment and training
Physical health
Substance use and addiction
Mental health
Personal and social well-being
Politics, influence and participation
Finance and legal matters
Arts and culture
Crime and public safety
Local area and getting around
Conservation of the natural environment and climate change

 Key sources

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