Why are they leaving? :an investigation in the retention of students in Cardiff County Council's Basic Skills Service
Hancock, R. J.
University of Wales Institute, Cardiff
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"In response to a request from the then Secretary of State, all institutions were required to set targets to improve student completion / retention for the academic year 1999/2000" FEFCW 2000, p2) Retention in continuing education is clearly seen as a major issue which requires attention. This investigation focuses on the retention of students in the County of Cardiffs Basic Skills Service, the Friary Network. The service provides for the basic skills needs of over 3000 students. There is a range of learning centres in locations across the county of Cardiff where students basic skills needs can be met. Calls for increased participation of people over 16 with poor to very poor basic skills in appropriate learning programmes, has been made in a number of recent major reports on lifelong learning. As a result the government commissioned a working group led by Sir Claus Moser to report on how to improve basic skills provision. This Report from the Moser Group 'A Fresh Start' DEE (1999) and other recent reports and government papers have made a major contribution to the conception and shape of this investigation. This investigation is a case study into the retention of basic skills students within the Friary Network. The principal method of data collection used was a questionnaire to students and tutors. Data from respondents was triangulated with data collected by the Friary Networks Management Information System (M I S). A range of positive and negative factors were identified which contributed to students leaving courses. These included, lack of initial assessment, misplacement of students, students leaving having achieved what they wanted from the course and leaving for personal or health reasons. Shortcomings were identified in access, assessment, the learning environment and other areas which appear to effect the retention rates of students. Strategies addressing these issues if effective, could contribute to more students completing courses. This would in turn enable the Friary Network to better meet targets on the recruitment and retention of students set by national and regional government.
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