Supporting good mental health amongst London’s FE learners

Summary and evidence report of an assessment of mental health needs and support approaches

Newton B, Patel R, Akehurst G, Alexander K, Byford M, Rickard C, Ebanks-Silvera DJ, Buzzeo J, Cook J, White-Smith G  |   | Institute for Employment Studies  | Dec 2021

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The mental health needs of students in the further education (FE) system are relatively overlooked by policy and research when compared to other phases of education. This sector covers 16–19 learners, apprentices, and adults (19+) taking part in community and vocational studies. The existing evidence sets out a trend for an increasing level of need for support amongst FE learners, markedly for the younger age group. The most recent research on this theme led by the Association of Colleges (AOC; 2021) indicates the pandemic has only served to further increase this level of need, particularly amongst young learners.

Aims and approach

The aims of the study were to bring together insights into London’s FE learner population (those aged 16–19 or 19+ (adults) taking part in full or part-time FE study as well as those undertaking apprenticeships), with existing evidence on the dimensions of mental health and wellbeing and new primary research with stakeholders, and London’s providers and learners. Given the context in which it took place, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are also covered.

The method involved desk research, combined with primary data collection. The pandemic meant that it was not possible to take forward the planned approach to delivery which would have included case study visits to conduct interviews with FE students, staff, and stakeholders. It was possible to undertake some primary data collection with these groups using telephone and video-conferencing facilities although at a more limited scale than initially hoped.

This summary report aims to provide a synthesis of the issues raised by the research which led to the recommendations above. Where readers wish to deepen their understanding of any of the issues or data, they can refer to the accompanying evidence report,