What is the National Collaborative Outreach Programme ("NCOP")?
The National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP) is a project funded by the Office for Students (OfS) which aims to increase the progression of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to higher education (including a focus on young males from disadvantaged backgrounds and young people from ethnic minority groups).
NCOP consortia are made up of universities, colleges, employers and other regional stakeholders, and there are 29 individual consortia across England working to meet the overall project aim on a regional level.
The NCOP project targets a very specific group of young people. NCOP consortia work with local young people aged 13-18 living in ward areas (defined by postcode) where progression to higher education is low generally, and especially low given key stage 4 attainment in that area. This means that consortia are working in areas with unexplained gaps in progression to higher education.
Although all individual NCOP consortia are guided by the OfS and are working to the aims of the national programme, they are running as independent projects to allow them to develop programmes and outreach activity that supports local need. In the North East our core FutureMe programme focuses on mentoring and tutoring for younger students, and bespoke college-based programmes for older students.
How will we know if NCOP works?
Even though a range of approaches are being used across the different consortia, NCOP is being thoroughly evaluated and monitored on a national level to identify best practice and ensure that progress is being made towards the overall aim of the project. The participation and progression of young people who take part in NCOP activity is also being tracked to help us understand the best ways to support young people.
What should you do about NCOP?
Not every school or college will work with young people who live within the areas that NCOP is targeting but if you are approached to participate in NCOP activity, make sure you find out what could be available to your students. NCOP is a great opportunity to support young people who are able but may be lacking in knowledge or sources of support regarding higher education. Be aware that a very specific group of your students will be a key focus of the activity, but consider the impact that changes in attitude and aspiration of a group of students could have on wider peer groups and the school or college overall.