Case study eleven: Nacro Education Centre, Leeds

Brief Description of The Provision

Nacro provides alternative provision at centres across England. The Leeds centre is one of five in Yorkshire and The North West. The Leeds centre caters for 24 part-time students a year on a motor vehicle maintenance course. These students begin with them in year 10 and continue into year 11. The students come from across the city.

Content and Delivery

Nacro’s education centre in Leeds run both pre and post 16 ‘NEET’ provisions which are funded from different sources and sit under different frameworks. There are two main projects at this centre:

14-16 provision:

The main provision is for 14-16 year olds, and is recognised as AP. Young people do either a one or two year motor vehicle course. The only requirement is that the young people turn up and work. The content of the course includes some engineering. The group attend on Thursdays and Fridays and they leave with qualifications. The ‘carrot’ at the end of the programme is that they get to go go-karting in the car they have built.

The young people make their own way to the centre and arrive at about half past nine in the morning. The session starts at ten – young people put their overalls on and an attendance register is taken. By 10:30 this information is transferred to the attendance website and information is made available to each student’s home school. There is a break at 12:30 in the on-site canteen for an hour. The final session lasts from 1:30-2:30, which is home time. Other short breaks are built in, but the students have to stay quite focused as Nacro are trying to teach a 470 hour qualification in “three hundred and something hours” (member of centre staff).

The young people all work at different speeds and the teaching process has to be flexible. Students work through eight different units and all have a portfolio. Yong people can work for either an award or the diploma but staff encourage the young people to get the diploma.

Nacro Leeds provide careers advice and support with applying for college. If young people are not successful at getting a place at college they may be able to get a place on the centre’s 16+ full time study programme, or undertake a work placement of some kind. Staff try to guarantee all students progression of some kind.

Students get comprehensive support from additional learning support staff.

Youth Inclusion:

The youth inclusion team work with young people aged 8-13. They go into schools and work with the community and the police to identify young people at risk of anti-social behaviour or those who are ‘pre-NEETs’. They target different groups in the community. The project team run activities in the daytime, at evenings and at weekends. This includes sessions around knife crime, arson, drugs, crime prevention and anti-social behaviour prevention. They run residential trips.

There is also Go-Karting. Nacro Leeds are also contracted by Igen[1] to run a day of go-karting per week for post-16 unemployed youth. This is designed to re-engage young people.The Youth Inclusion projects and activities are not accredited; they are about showing the young people that they can learn in different ways, and giving them some practical skills which may enable them to re-engage back into school.

Identifying Features of Quality


The motor vehicle maintenance group attend the centre for two days a week. The aim is to support them to reengage with learning, to get qualifications and to successfully transition at post-16. The post 16 work is to support re-entry to education training or employment.

Target Group

The three projects cover young people from 8 to 18/19 years old. The research visit focused on the 14-16 year olds who were identified by their school as potentially benefitting from some time in an AP, who may have an interest in Motor Vehicle Maintenance (MVM) specifically, or more practical ways of learning more generally:

We are working with young people who just want to do practical education and for whom classroom learning isn’t the right thing for them because they are kinaesthetic learners” (Member of centre staff).

Some of these young people may have had challenging behaviour and low levels of literacy.

The Youth Inclusion project aims to provide early support to young people who may be at risk of engaging in anti-social behaviour or entering the NEET category. The post-16 course is aimed at young people who are out of school and aims to reengage them with learning, training or employment.


Nacro Leeds Manager is also area manager for Yorkshire and the North West. He oversees the five centres in this area. The target is to open another three centres by the 2016 financial year.

There are two staffing arms at the centre. The vocational staff, the largest group, look after all the day to day teaching and work placements. The functional skills team support young people from across the programmes to access maths and English.  Each of Nacro’s key contracts has a single point of contact in the centre who is responsible for overseeing that contract. There is a base administrator and an on-site chef who does cooking with a group of young people undertaking a catering and hospitality course (not seen as part of this case study – they make all of the lunches.

Nacro Leeds recruit staff from industry, for instance people who have worked in the motor industry and who now want to teach or give something back. One staff member arrived with a history of working in both FE and at the LA level. Nacro train people once they have recruited them; they fund PGCE courses and other teaching qualifications. Additional qualifications have a positive impact on salary.

Nacro identify the right group of staff to work with the different groups of young people. Their most challenging young people tend to be on the NEET course so they have a member of staff who is highly skilled in classroom management and motivating young people.

Nacro limit the amount of paperwork staff have to do so they can focus on teaching. Staff are very aware of the context many of their young people come from and the fact that they never know what each day will bring.

Training and Continual Professional Development (CPD):

The staff have to be at least a Level 3 subject specialist. Staff who are not at this level when they are recruited are supported to reach this level. Staff also have to have a level 5 teaching qualification. Training and development needs are discussed during formal supervision meetings with their line manager which happen every two months. All staff have an annual appraisal and a training development plan which allows their training requirements to be planned ahead for the year.

In 2014, Nacro were enabling staff to access further training through online courses and providing First Aid training to all staff. Where there is an identified need for training, and available resources, Nacro provide wider staff training.

The Local Authority(LA) maintains a list of quality approved providers, of which the Nacro centre in Leeds is one. This means that staff at the centre can access CPD and training provided by the LA, which is based on the best practice the LA team observe as part of their quality assurance visits. For example, in a newsletter that they publish every term, the LA quality team refers to two summer peer-led CPD sessions:

  • Supporting Students to Improve Outcomes – Looking at what additional support can be given to students to positively impact on their learning
  • Assessing literacy and numeracy – Examining how this is mapped across the complete curriculum, and how effective literacy and numeracy can be embedded in all subject areas.

The LA newsletter informs them of dates for the Schools’ Offsite Coordinator’s Meeting and of the Provider Network Meeting. The newsletter provides updates on the DfE and Ofsted, informing providers of any changes that will affect them.

Rules and Discipline

The students have to stay on site throughout the day

If individual pupils are not willing to commit and accept Nacro’s rules then they are removed from the placement. Schools are able to send another pupil in their place.

Monitoring of progress

Young people often arrive with poor literacy levels. Diagnostic tools are used on arrival to assess Maths and English attainment and to ascertain any difficulties such as dyspraxia, dyslexia, or autism.

Nacro Leeds retention rate is high at around 94%. This is taken as meaning that the qualification is pitched at the right level and to the right learners. 100% of young people achieved a qualification in 2013-2014. They is also an indication of quality.


Nacro Leeds have had a deaf student enrolled who was provided with an interpreter throughout the placement. Students receive support from Additional Learning Support staff where necessary.


There are twenty four students in the course. Students begin in year 10 and roll into year 11. Increasingly schools are starting the year 10 course in June of year nine, so the centre enrols year 9 students in June rather than September.

Nacro Leeds courses are advertised on the UCAS progress search engine website. Here referring schools can get information and apply for a place for a student. Referrals must come through a school.

The LA have stipulated which schools Nacro Leeds is to work with. These are schools in the most deprived area with high levels of unemployed youth. The local community that they serve is however mixed. Although the North of the city is probably the most affluent part it does have quite large pockets of deprivation. It is ethnically diverse, with a large West Indian community and a large Asian community. This diversity is reflected in the centre’s student intake. They have girls attending the go-karting course. There were no girls on the MVM course in 2014, but they have attended in the past and performed well

The students attend for two days a week so the rest of the week the students will be attending mainstream school or other providers if they are no longer in school.

Students remain on the school roll and many do some GCSEs. Nacro Leeds liaise with the mainstream school, who often use the Nacro course as a ‘carrot’ to encourage young people to try harder in school. In the best cases, schools support with behaviour management by discussing any issues raised by the Nacro team with the student’s parents

When a new young person arrives Nacro Leeds get relevant information from the referring school, including information about the risks and challenges posed by the young person. The centre seeks comprehensive information because they work with quite challenging young people. The young people come for a ‘taster day’ early in year 9, where staff can assess them and begin to get to know them. Since many of the young people come from the same schools each year some of them may already know about the provision before they arrive. Students begin with a six week trial, and only at the end of this are the schools committed to paying for the placement. Nacro Leeds staff keep in touch with the referring schools. Usually they have a relationship with a couple of members of staff at each school; schools are updated school daily on student attendance.

Because schools pay for a place and not a particular learner if the placement doesn’t work for one student they can send another.

Relationships with Students

Relationships are important to the smooth functioning of the motor vehicle course. In the session we observed the group was calm, focused and respectful of the teacher. The teacher has been commended by the LA. He is seen as a good role model for the young people.

Relationship with parents

Nacro expect support from the school with behaviour management. If there are problems the school will sometimes contact the parents and the centre finds that this approach tends to work well.

Resources and Networks

The LA representative present during the research visit said that there is a good relationship between the LA, Schools and alternative providers in Leeds and that the LA functions to provide guidance and challenge.

The LA team produce a termly newsletter which includes success stories, policy information and relevant news. This includes opportunities that providers can take up, for example training around Child Sexual Exploitation. The LA are also making a learner film that will be available on the website from June.

Relationships with other Services and Agencies

Nacro Leeds are subcontracted by Igen to provide some NEET training. They work closely with the 11-19 LA team at Leeds, who provide support and challenge.


The Motor Vehicle Maintenance facilities were excellent, providing the young people with the opportunity to work on different kinds of vehicles, and to learn in an environment that closely mirrors a working garage. They learn how to use a range of equipment and are overseen by a teacher with relevant work experience and a passion for the subject (Researcher field notes,

The rest of the Centre consists of classrooms and a canteen where staff and students make and eat lunch together.


Schools pay for places on the MVM course. Nacro Leeds also earn further funding by sub-contracting to other AP providers and through providing relevant training to schools and other APs.

Well-managed, led and accountable

Nacro Leeds are hoping to work with On Site Youth Zones – a group of youth clubs in the North West – to provide some programmes for young people during the daytime, when the centres are relatively un-used.

Evaluation and Quality Assurance

Nacro’s education centre in Leeds is subject to various QA systems as it has different contracts and sources of funding. Fore example, the go-Karting project sits outside the council’s quality framework and instead comes under Igen’s quality framework as an Ofsted inspected provider. The centre is observed by Igenstaff, and Igen will inspect Nacro Leeds CPD and annual appraisal systems to see how they maintain the quality of staff.

Leeds LA Quality Assurance:

Leeds Council has brought in a quality framework for AP, which includes learner progress checks, a biannual review process, regular observations of teaching and learning; attainment against targets and a full annual self-assessment process. Prior to this there were varying arrangements across providers; now they are all subject to the common QA system if they want to be part of the LA framework.

LA tenders are the beginning of the QA process for APs. The tender documents are substantial. All AP applicants are scored independently by three people, who then moderate their scores. Successful AP tenders have to score over 50%.

When successful applicants join the framework agreement they are subject to ongoing audits and quality checks by the LA team. This begins with a health and safety check. Then the 11-19 quality team do an audit visit using the Quality Assessment framework. Audits are done at a mutually convenient time and take approximately half a day. Information is prepared ahead of the visit including; awarding organisation approval; staff policies and performance data; delivery and assessment materials. The audit team examine the young people’s files, and Nacro will supply a report on each student’s progress including an action plan.

The QA checklist that is used for visits considers all areas including:

  • Assessment of suitability/Inspection Evidence
  • Initial booking procedures for new students
  • Key safeguarding Policies including child protection arrangements
  • Risk assessment/Health and Safety
  • Pupil attainment, progression and teaching and learning.
  • Monitoring

There is then space for general comments, a summary of strengths and weaknesses, and a list of recommendations. There is a place to record a decision about whether the provider should be included on the framework with immediate effect or asked to address some weaknesses and have a further audit before a decision is taken. The providers are informed of the outcome and an audit summary sheet is posted on Leeds City Council 11-19 Quality website. If providers are not approved they are invited to submit an action plan within 2 weeks. This is reassessed within 4 weeks. Only successful provisions are included on the approved AP provider list.

The LA also uses a specific QA document outlining the observation of teaching and learning. This was developed to include the standards outlined in the September 2012 OfSTED inspection framework. Following a formal observation by members of the LA quality team , the teacher is provided with summative feedback and the centre manager is invited to give feedback. The teaching observation is moderated anonymously and a lesson grade is awarded by a team according to the evidence and judgements made. The observation form includes the following six points which are graded as either Outstanding, Good, Requiring Improvement or Inadequate:

  • Students achieve intended outcomes
  • The tutor demonstrates knowledge and expertise
  • Teaching strategies challenge and enable all students to learn effectively
  • High expectations are set and students’ behaviour is managed to ensure learning
  • Evidence of ongoing assessment to enable continual learning and progress
  • The tutor makes effective use of time and resources (physical and staff)

The observation also includes a student feedback section, which includes the following questions:

  • Are students able to identify what they have learned in this session?
  • Are students able to identify what this session contributes towards?
  • How do students know what progress they have made in this session?

There is then space for comments on strengths, areas for improvement and an overall grade. The following two pages provide space for evidence.

All providers on the approved list of Leeds Children’s Services 11-19 offsite learning are required to abide by a set of guidelines. These guidelines clarify the legal requirements, responsibilities and commitments of all parties involved, help to support the quality of provision, and to help safeguard learners. They discuss:

  • The duty of care that all adults have in relation to the young people; safeguarding policy; health and safety policy; child protection policy
  • The commitment to QA that all providers should have
  • Financial arrangements
  • Insurance and liability
  • Support for learners and parents
  • Data protection and confidentiality
  • Equal opportunities
  • Recruitment and selection
  • Attendance and monitoring
  • Planning
  • Results and Accreditation Systems
  • As part of their quality checks the LA have a learner voice process and gather the views of a selection of students

It is considered best practice for approved providers to complete an annual self-evaluation process. The LA quality team review the self-evaluation form and respond to it within 4 weeks. They provide feedback, highlight issues and expect these to be resolved within a designated time scale. If they are not, the provider will be removed from the approved list.

There is also a bi-annual review where the quality team looks at all of an AP’s systems, processes and policies. Providers must engage in this comprehensive review and be successful at all stages to maintain their provider status. The LA tries try to mirror what OfSTED look at, for instance the embedding and assessing of literacy and numeracy. They also look for a consistent approach to marking work and mechanisms for boosting literacy. The LA also have a learner voice component as part of their QA process.

Transformation (choice and autonomy)

Nacro Leeds Centre uses a learner feedback tool to check that the young people are happy with the course and that the work is pitched at the right level. Their learner feedback tool is paper based. They use it twice a year. It includes ‘soft’ questions about how difficult it is for the young people to get there in the morning, and some questions about session delivery to check that it is pitched at the right level for the young people.


Staff use this tool to advise on changes. They look carefully at the learner feedback to see what they can learn. If a placement is not working out then they look at the situation carefully. If a learner is turning up but is not engaged, or is misbehaving, then that tells staff that the learner wants to be there but that they aren’t doing something ‘right’.



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