22 SES 09 C, Paper Session
The previous phase of our research (Burnell, Roffey-Barentsen and McMahon, 2021) focussed on widening graduate employment opportunities for students on early childhood and education studies degrees in the UK, using a case study from a School of Education at one London university.
The purpose of this small-scale study was to explore the aspirations and intentions of a final year cohort of students on Early Childhood and Education Studies degree programmes at one School of Education. These programmes attract candidates who are almost always aspiring for a career in the teaching profession, and in particular, the primary sector. The responses collected via a survey revealed that thirty per cent of respondents were going to take up jobs in non-graduate employment, a job that they could have secured without a degree. In the UK, the Office for Students (OfS), the new higher education watchdog in England and other parts of the UK, is scrutinising universities for providing students with value for money degrees, not just degrees that ensure jobs, but degrees that ensure a rate of return for the money spent on fees (Dandridge, 2019).
Previously we reported that most European countries have seen a significant expansion of HE provision (OECD, 2014). In the 28 countries of the EU there were 19.5 million tertiary education students in 2015, with approximately 4.7 million students graduating that year (Eurostat, 2017). These graduates are competing for the 29% of jobs that are classified as graduate jobs (Henseke and Green, 2015). Therefore, it has been of the utmost significance for European universities to explore opportunities for graduate employment. In the UK, The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA, 2020) released the latest statistics from its UK Graduate Outcomes Survey in June 2020. These were graduates from the 2017/18 academic year, 15 months after completion of a HE course. Results of the inaugural survey show that 81% of graduates were in employment or unpaid work. 76% of graduates who were working in the UK were in highly skilled occupations earning at least £24,000. Teaching is considered to be high skilled employment.
The School of Education, in a bid to increase the graduate employment opportunities, widened the choice of career routes into teaching by providing two additional teacher training courses, for the post compulsory sector. The school added the Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) teacher training course in Post Compulsory Education and Training, and the Cambridge Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) course to its portfolio of teacher training provision. Follow up research, in order to evaluate the popularity and success of these courses was planned for last summer. In March 2020, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, educational institutions closed their doors and teaching and learning took place online. This interrupted the planned progression for those students hoping to take up places on teacher training courses, and especially those who were going to be placed in schools and colleges.
This research project has now taken an unexpected turn. Previously we had intended to track the early childhood and education studies undergraduates through their teacher training, and into their careers, in order to assess and evaluate whether these new teacher training provisions were proving to be successful. Now, we intend to examine and evaluate the effect that the pandemic has had on these progression plans, and how the School of Education has managed the crisis.
The participants were chosen from one School of Education where progression from early childhood and education studies degrees to post compulsory teacher training is taking place. The participant sample was a convenience sample of all students who had expressed an interest whilst on their undergraduate degree; as a long term project participants were asked to be committed for 12 months or more. The research takes a qualitative approach, including interviews and focus groups. We anticipated the participant sample to be approximately 10. Each participant was to be interviewed three times during the course of the project: 1) In their final year of study at undergraduate level; 2) during their teacher training course; 3) at the end of their teacher training course. A group focus interview will also be conducted with five participants to allow them to share their experiences and motivations, and to enable the researchers to gather further data and findings. The data analysis approach will be interpretivist in nature, capturing the lived experiences of the graduate trainees as they progress into their careers.
Our research involves following the early childhood and education studies undergraduates through their training, and tracking them into their careers, in order to assess and evaluate whether these new teacher training provisions have proven to be successful. In addition, our research explores the motivations and aspirations of the students, and why they chose to pursue a career in the post compulsory sector, as opposed to the other sectors of education. However, our research was interrupted by the Coronavirus pandemic. We have adapted our project and now we intend to examine and evaluate the effect that the pandemic has had on these progression plans, and how the School of Education has managed the crisis. We anticipate that the findings of this research project will also assist us in the marketing and recruitment to these courses, in increasing the number of graduates into professional employment, and to enriching the student experience.
Burnell, I., Roffey-Barentsen, J. and McMahon, A. (2021) Widening graduate employment opportunities for students on Education Studies degrees: a case study at a School of Education in one London university. Currently under review. Dandridge, N. (2019) The Office for Students: reflections on our first year, Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education, 23:4, 158-161, DOI: 10.1080/13603108.2019.1591538 Eurostat (2017) Tertiary education statistics Available online at: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Tertiary_education_statistics (accessed 24/01/18) Henseke, G. and Green, F. (2015) “Graduate Jobs” in OECD Countries: Development and Analysis of a Modern Skills-Based Indicator. Centre for Learning and Life Chances in Knowledge Economies and Societies. Available online at: http://www.llakes.ac.uk (accessed 27/01/20) HESA (June, 2020). Experimental statistics from the new Graduate Outcomes survey released | HESA (accessed 11/01/21) Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2014) Education at a glance. Paris: OECD
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