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Evaluation, a place to start or a place to end?

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As UFA works towards its 20th birthday it is a good point to reflect on what we have learnt over the last two decades, but also to think about what more we now want to know about what works and importantly why it works. Evaluating what we do has always been a key part of our work and we are currently investing in a three year external evaluation strategy, working with the Institute of Education to help us do this. We have already set out our Theory of Change and have thousands of evaluations from children and young people who have taken part in our activities, but we also want to evaluate impact on professionals through our capacity building approach and finally on organisational impact to sustain the change.

As a Governor at two secondary schools I’m very clear on how schools are measured on their outcomes and indeed we all want our young people to leave the education system feeling successful and with the evidence to match. But should how we get those results be where UFA focuses its evaluation? The recent changes in measuring levels of progress, GCSEs and vocational subjects should not matter, if we are focused on developing great learners. Are we as an education system spending too much time increasing the number of interventions needed to pass exams? Or rather should we be evaluating what supports our young people to be successful learners, to be happy with themselves and with others, to have developed their character so that they can make the most of their potential?

If we just evaluate success on academic results then what have we done to ensure the wellbeing and citizenship of our next generation? So here is our UFA evaluation dilemma, do we go with the system and evaluate our impact on academic results, or do we focus on broader measures around character and leadership development, (knowing that these will also bring results) to evidence much longer term positive social impact too? Over the next couple of months we will be developing our hypothesis with the IOE, before implementing the evaluation framework. Please get in touch if you would like to be involved.

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