23 SES 03 C, Policies on Early School Leaving and Participation in Education
This research paper aims to add to the European discussion about early school leaving (e.g. Lyche, 2010; European Commission, 2013) by focusing on how English education system factors affect the progression of 16-19 year olds within upper secondary education (USE) and their successful completion of this phase. The English education system is itself undergoing a transition from ‘medium’ to ‘high’ participation as a result of the Raising of the Participation Age to age 18 by 2015. Previously young people were able to leave the education system at 16.
As most young people now stay on in full-time education at 16, scrutiny has move to transition at 17. This is a significant point because data in England on student progression suggest that those who successfully navigate this transition are more likely to attain an advanced level qualification that opens up access to higher education and skilled employment (Hodgson and Spours 2014a). Failure to show significant educational gain at age 18/19, compared with attainment in lower secondary education could be interpreted as an aspect of ‘early school leaving’ in EU terms (Brunello and De Paulo, 2013).
Our empirical work was focused on London, a global city that combines a dynamic labour market and affluence with high levels of youth unemployment and social deprivation. London is interesting from an educational perspective because it performs well in outcomes from lower secondary education (i.e. for 14-16 year olds) compared with England as a whole, but fails to sustain this performance in USE (i.e. for 16-19 year olds). London also constitutes an extreme example of an educational marketplace because of both the diversity of USE providers and highly developed transport links that allow young people to travel across the Capital to access post-16 provision. It thus provides a good illustration of what Sahlberg describes as the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ neo-liberal model of education (2007).
Research objectives and questions
Our hypothesis is that the curriculum and governance of the English education system, which was designed for minority post-16 participation, is out of synch with the new requirements of a universal USE system. This paper examines the ways in which policy levers - funding, inspection, performance management and national qualifications – have affected the behaviour of USE providers, with particular reference to the transition of young people at 17. In order to explore these objectives we ask four research questions:
- What are the main patterns of 17+ participation, attainment, retention and progression of London learners?
- What are the main factors and dynamics behind 17+ transition?
- Given these factors and dynamics, what strategies are being put in place to improve 17+ participation and progression outcomes for London learners?
- What implications do these findings have for the transition of English USE to a universal system and, more broadly, add to the discussion on early school leaving across the different countries of the EU?
Building on past published ECER conference papers (e.g. Hodgson and Spours, 2014b), we will further elaborate the concept of ‘the Anglo Saxon model’ of education that, in different ways, impacts on national systems. In applying this model to the 17+ transition in London we will bring together a number of theoretical dimensions into an enhanced explanatory framework. These will include: recent developments in the Anglo Saxon model in England that we suggest is developing into a more extreme type (Hodgson and Spours, 2014b); theories of curriculum and qualifications based on the distinction between ‘track-based’, ‘linked’ and ‘unified’ systems (Raffe et al., 1998); and the ways in which institutions mediate policy levers to shape transition for learners (Coffield et al., 2008).
Brunello G. and De Paola, M. (2013) The costs of early school leaving in Europe EENEE Analytical Report No. 17, Prepared for the European Commission, www.eenee.de/dms/EENEE/Analytical_Reports/EENEE_AR17.pdf - accessed 8 January 2015. Coffield, F., Edward, S., Finlay, I., Hodgson, A., Steer, R. and Spours, K. (2008) Improving learning, skills and inclusion: the impact of policy on post-compulsory education (London: Routledge/Falmer). European Commission (2013) Reducing early school leaving: Key messages and policy support. http://ec.europa.eu/education/policy/strategic-framework/doc/esl-group-report_en.pdf accessed 8 January 2015. Hodgson, A. and Spours, K. (2014a) What is happening with 17+ participation, attainment and progression in London? Report to London Councils. http://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/policylobbying/children/education14to19/17plusparticipationattainmentprogressioninlondon.htm accessed 8 January 2015. Hodgson, A. and Spours, K. (2014b) ‘Heavy fog in the Channel; Continent cut off’ - reform of upper secondary education from the perspective of English exceptionalism, European Educational Research Journal, 13, 6, 683-698. Lyche, C. (2010) Taking on the Completion Challenge: A Literature Review on Policies to Prevent Dropout and Early School Leaving, OECD Education Working Papers, ISSN: 1993-9019 (online). Raffe, D., Howieson. C., Spours, K. and Young, M. (1998) The Unification of Post-Compulsory Education: Towards a Conceptual Framework. British Journal of Educational Studies, 46, 2, 169–187. Sahlberg, P. (2007) Secondary Education In OECD Countries Common Challenges, Differing Solutions. Turin: European Training Foundation.
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