Almost all clients reported being satisfied with GOAL. They said they felt more motivated and surer of their next steps after counselling, and believed they would act on the advice they were given. Almost all clients agreed that their next steps were clearer after only a single counselling session, with nearly four in five saying they were definitely clearer and one in five saying they were were somewhat clearer. GOAL seems to have done a very good job of providing relevant information to clients – an important task in the complex, fragemented adult education landscape. From the clients’ perspective, this information made a significant difference to their understanding and ambitions. Most clients were held back by not by poor attitudes to learning but by lack of information and support to act on the opportunities available to them. In the GOAL counselling model (outside the Netherlands) clients were supported to develop their own educational plans and goals, rather than simply following the counsellor’s lead. This client-centred model takes more time than other counselling approaches, but appeared to help clients improve their education-related motivation and self-belief.
As part of the counselling process, clients developed plans for achieving goals such as enrolment on a course. As of the end of data collection for this evaluation, 38% of follow-up survey respondents reported that they had fully achieved their educational goals (e.g. by enrolling in or completing a course) and 50% said they had made some progress towards those goals. Progress data is also available from the GOAL monitoring instrument. Sixty-six percent of clients for whom we have programme exit data said that they had fully taken their planned steps by the end of counselling, and 23% they had taken at least some steps.
In supporting clients to take these steps, it was not enough simply to provide client-centred, context-specific information, but to support clients in acting on that information. In most cases, this meant providing multiple counselling sessions. A key aim of these sessions was to help clients take the intermediary steps needed on the pathway to enrolment in education and/or improved employment. For higher need clients, these intermediary stepping stones typically focused on noncognitive gains such as improved self-belief and self-confidence.
For clients with the lowest levels of readiness (e.g. those facing particularly severe personal and/or psychological barriers), it was generally not feasible to progress into education or employment. Looking at all clients for whom we have exit data, 48% entered education/training, 7% entered employment and 4% improved their employment. Amongst follow-up survey respondents who entered GOAL to pursue educational objectives, 71% had enrolled on a course by the time of their exit from GOAL. Of this group, 77% had enrolled on a course leading to a qualification.
This evaluation was hampered by the inability to track GOAL clients after they left counselling. In Flanders, however, 183 clients agreed to grant GOAL access to a Ministry of Education database. 49% of these clients had enrolled in an educational programme at a Centre for Adult Education as of April 2017. However, Centres for Adult Education are but one of the educational options available in Flanders. Counsellors at one Flanders site (de Stap) addressed this limitation by directly contacting educational institutions (including but not limited to Centres for Adult Education) to follow-up on clients. This effort showed that 74% of clients who attended more than one GOAL session had enrolled in an adult education course.