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Attainment Support (Access)

A moderate to very high cost intervention, with limited evidence, which suggests it may have a positive impact.

Academic or learning development support, normally in secondary education, in addition to usual lessons. Support may include help with homework, study skills, revision sessions or university-style tutoring.

This is usually provided face-to-face by university staff, PhD students or other tutors external to the school.

This type of provision is delivered in variety of formats:

– Subject-specific support and/or more generic study skills

– Regular sessions across a whole school year (or years), or a shorter intensive period of support

– Within the school day, or as after school/holiday sessions

– In school, or on a university campus

Attainment support is often supplemented by other interventions such as mentoring, aspiration-raising activities or ‘soft skills’ development.


Educated Pass – The University of Edinburgh

Educated Pass is a project aimed at teenage boys, designed to build upon their commitment to sport and athleticism and generate a similar interest and commitment in education. The scheme was formed as a response to extensive research that shows lower levels of engagement and performance in school amongst working class boys from communities with historically low levels of participation in further and higher education. Boys are targeted through local youth football clubs. The scheme emphasises the importance of continuing with study and how this can lead to a successful career in sport and beyond, and works with boys, their coaches and families. It is firmly grounded in a critical pedagogy that reveals school curriculum as directly relevant to the participants.

Educated Pass aims to achieve:

•           An attitudinal change that is more sympathetic to participation in the classroom

•           An increased rate of participation in the senior school phase

•           Positive examination results

•           Continued participation in competitive football or leisure-based sport and fitness, and

•           An increase in positive destinations after school compared to the national picture.


Blending sport and education, participants undertake eight sessions over a twelve month period. These engage the boys with learning across curriculum topics such as anatomy, human rights, poetry, health and maths, all taught through the lens of football. The project is available to boys in S2 prior to their first curriculum choices.

Whilst progressing to higher education is only one of several options for positive post-school destinations, the project has seen success in this area as well as in relation to all other outcomes. Compared to all males in Scotland over the same period, the 2011-12 and 2012-13 cohorts combined achieved:

•           Higher staying on rate at S5 and S6

•           Higher levels of progression to a positive destination

•           Higher levels of progression to higher education, and

•           Lower levels of unemployment.

Educated Pass participants are 20 times more likely to enter higher education than become professional footballers.

Launched in 2006, Educated Pass is funded by the Sutton Trust and run by the University of Edinburgh, in collaboration with Edinburgh College, West Lothian College and the Scottish Youth Football Association (SYFA).

For further information, please see  and Spiers, N (2018) Educated Pass: Executive Summary of the 2018 Statistical Report. University of Edinburgh.

Target Audiences

The majority of evidence included in this review evaluates programmes aimed at underrepresented and/or disadvantaged groups (how this is defined varies), often combined with a particular level of ability.

Evaluation evidence has tested the effectiveness of the intervention on the following target audiences:

– Students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds

– Students from underrepresented backgrounds (particularly minority ethnic groups in the USA)

– First-generation university/college students

Two of the nine studies evaluated interventions offered to all students of a particular age.

The intervention may also be targeted according to specific level of academic ability. Studies in this review were varyingly targeted at either low, medium or high achieving students who were also underrepresented or disadvantaged.


The primary outcomes of interest are:

·         Enrolment in post-secondary education, either generic, selective or a particular (sponsoring) university

·         Application to /offer from post-secondary education

·         Intention to apply to post-secondary education

Secondary outcomes of interest include:

·         Academic achievement in school / school completion

·         Retention once in higher education

·         Enrolment in post-secondary training or employment

·         Enhanced knowledge to make more informed decisions about university

·         Confidence and self-esteem

What are the costs?

Two of the evaluations conducted in the USA report costs of approximately $5,000 per student per year. Others, including all UK studies, do not report costs.

Given the resources required to build a relationship between a university and school(s) as well as the staff/tutor time required to run the programme and deliver academic sessions in schools or on campus, this is considered a moderate to very high cost intervention.

How relevant is the evidence?

Both of the level 3 studies (RCTs) and two of the three level 2 studies were conducted in the USA. Two studies were conducted in Australia. Overall, only four of the nine studies relate to the UK, and three of these are level 1.

All but one of the studies conducted in the USA evaluate federally-funded outreach interventions. This is not the case for any of the UK studies reviewed, where programmes were found to be run either by universities or by a national charity. However, interventions of this type may form part of a wider programme of support through SFC-funded access initiatives in Scotland.

Things to consider

All of the evaluations reviewed have attainment support as a primary focus, but none deliver this in isolation. Academic support programmes are often supplemented by activities such as mentoring, university visits, social skills, transition support and in one case, a scholarship. Therefore, it is difficult to isolate the particular impact of the attainment support element.

Further Research Recommended

More research in the UK context, and Scotland in particular, that focuses on the primary outcomes of progression to post-secondary education for participants. This should include Level 3 studies that include a randomised control or well-matched comparison group.

Further Information

This Universities UK Parliamentary Briefing (2017) gives a number of case studies highlighting relationships between higher education institutions and schools, with many providing academic support. This also gives examples of different ways this can be implemented.


Level 3 
Bergin, D., Cooks, H., & Bergin, C. (2007). Effects of a college access program for youth underrepresented in higher education: a randomised experiment, Research in higher education, Vol. 48, no 6, pp 727-750.

Schirm, A, Stuart, E and, McKie, A (2006). The Quantum Opportunity Programme demonstration: Final impacts. Washington, D.C.: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

Level 2 
The Brilliant Club (2017). Annual Impact report 2016/17. The Brilliant Club.

Seftor, N and Calcagno, J.C. (2010). The Impacts of Upward Bound Math-Science on Postsecondary Outcomes 7-9 years after scheduled high school graduation. Report for US Department for Education.

Watt, K.M. Powell, C.A. Mendiola, I.D. and Cossio, G. (2006). Schoolwide Impact and AVID: How Have Selected Texas High Schools Addressed the New Accountability Measures? Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 11:1, 57-73.

Level 1 
Croll, N & Browitt, A (2015). Pre-entry Widening Participation Programmes at the University of Glasgow: preparing applicants for successful transitions to degree study. University of Glasgow.

Levy, S. and Murray, J. (2005). Tertiary Entrance scores need not determine academic success: An analysis of student performance in an equity and access program, Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, Vol 27, no 1, pp 129-140.

McPhail, R. (2015). Pre-university prepared students: A programme for facilitating the transition from secondary to tertiary education. Teaching in Higher Education, Vol.20, no 6, pp 652-665.

Universities UK (2017). Raising attainment through university-school partnerships UUK: London.

White, K. Eames, A. and Sharp, C. (2007). A qualitative evaluation of the IntoUniversity programme. National Foundation for Educational Research.