From education to employment

Exclusion and Achievement in Education in LSDA Report; but Some Resistance to Training Remai

The recent research published by the Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA) reveals the positive impact that Further Education can have on some of the students that have previously been looked upon as “unteachable”.

The researchers for the report examined the characteristics of young people who were frequent truants and performed badly in national tests, including GCSEs, at ages 11, 14 and 16. They then tracked these subjects through their late teenage years, paying close attention to the links between poor education achievements, gender, ethnic background, social deprivation, family circumstances and their school experience. A key area for consideration was of special interest to the FE sector; would vocational education bring these disengaged young people back to education, and then on into work?

Initial Assessments

It will come as little surprise to anyone who has read any article or listened to any expert speak on secondary education in the past that the report found boys were achieving lower marks than girls in school. The report paid attention to the demographic split amongst the boys, however; it was found that Black and Asian boys start to underachieve earlier, between the ages of 11 and 14, then stabilise, whereas White boys tend to start to underachieve later, between the ages of 14 and 16.

One curious finding of the report is that social deprivation (the assessment of which is based largely on eligibility for free school meals) appears to have a greater effect on the educational performance of white pupils than any other ethnic group. It would seem that being from a so ““ called “socially disadvantaged background” makes it harder for white youngsters to improve than for those from other ethnic groups. This, it would appear, is an issue that should be addressed not simply within education but also as a matter for society in general. Those concerned with the dissolution of the institution of the family and with a perceived lack of respect amongst youngsters for their peers might like to pay particular attention.

Underachievement Leading to Disengagement?

Truancy is another of the issues that the report considered when addressing the reasons for disengagement. The report found three key factors that lowered the impact of truancy on school achievements; are parental involvement (such as regular attendance at parents” evenings), school-based careers advice and work experience. This was found to have a limited impact however; for the more seriously disengaged these factors are unlikely to have an effect.

It is also important to define the term underachievement. This was defined as being those young people scoring below a certain level at Key Stage 3 and achieving less than five GCSEs at grades A* – C. The report found that this did not automatically mean disengagement; rather, the focus should be turned upon the link running from disengagement that leads to underachievement.

Vocational Training to Tackle Disengagement?

Which brings us to the question of the impact of vocational training on disengagement. The report found that a large number of former truants and those who left the school system without achieving five or more good GCSEs nevertheless do acquire some vocational qualifications. In demographic terms, the areas of the student body who were most likely to move from truancy to vocational education are girls, plus pupils (both sexes) from a non-white ethnic background, living with their mother (or both parents), who received careers advice and did some work experience whilst at school.

The picture is not universally positive, however. There are a number who go on to gain vocational qualifications, such as NVQs. These are often obtained either at colleges or through the Apprenticeship route which is becoming ever more popular. This often leads to work placements, helping them to climb the career ladder and make their way into a professional life. However, there remains what is termed a “hard core” of young people who leave school without qualifications and remain resistant to all efforts to engage in learning, despite efforts to engage them. This is the group that must be ushered back into education and training, if the Government’s drive to move people from “worklessness” into the workforce is to be a success.

Jethro Marsh

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