The NNECL Quality Mark


Following successful pilot phases, we were delighted to launch our new Quality Mark to support higher and further education institutions to achieve the best outcomes for their care experienced students in June 2021. 

NNECL has built on the pioneering work and legacy of the initial Buttle Trust quality mark which significantly raised awareness of care experienced students in HE and FE but was sadly discontinued in 2015.  Over the last couple of years, with initial grant funding from the UPP Foundation, we have developed a new Quality Mark.

We ran an initial pilot in 2019 involving seven universities and four FE colleges.   The outcomes of that work, alongside regulatory changes and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, have further shaped the project.  As a result, the Quality Mark now has a stronger focus on mental health and wellbeing as well as more detailed written guidance, templates and support for institutions.  We have also benefitted from the engagement and feedback of an Advisory Board involving many other expert organisations, sector bodies, researchers and policy-makers.

In early 2021, we completed a collaborative Quality Mark project with a group of 8 universities and colleges in Greater Manchester, funded by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority as part of its commitment to care leavers.  This project further enabled us to test and refine the process on a collaborative basis, using a mix of one-to-one virtual consultations alongside whole group meetings every three weeks to discuss issues and emerging evidence. 

Content and criteria

The new Quality Mark involves an institutional self-assessment which is reviewed by a NNECL assessor.  The process is designed to be holistic and proportionate, reflecting the diversity of institutions within the HE and FE sectors.  The guidance document also contextualises the framework against the different requirements and policies of the four nations of the UK.

At this stage in its development, we are not planning to offer the QM at different levels (e.g. gold, silver, bronze), but simply to award the QM and highlight any areas of enhanced or exceptional practice.  The award will be made for 3 years in the first instance. As part of the process, institutions will identify future actions to improve their ongoing support for care experienced students.  These will then form the basis for re-submission at the end of the award period. Over time, the findings from the Quality Mark assessments will enable us to build up a more detailed repository of effective practice across the sector to inform future policy and further improvements.

Expressions of interest

Working with our new panel of assessors we are ready to accept expressions of interest. We highly recommend studying the NNECL Quality Mark Guidance & Information to ensure your institution is ready to begin the assessment process prior to expressing interest. Please do contact us if you have any questions.

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