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Researching school and college strategies to ‘raise aspirations’: Issues in a DfE funded study Professor Carole Leathwood Institute for Policy Studies.

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Presentation on theme: "Researching school and college strategies to ‘raise aspirations’: Issues in a DfE funded study Professor Carole Leathwood Institute for Policy Studies."— Presentation transcript:

1 Researching school and college strategies to ‘raise aspirations’: Issues in a DfE funded study Professor Carole Leathwood Institute for Policy Studies in Education (IPSE) London Metropolitan University Researching school and college strategies to ‘raise aspirations’: Issues in a DfE funded study Podcast available via

2 This study Commissioned by the DfE in 2012 Conducted by TNS-BMRB and IPSE Londonmet Project Team: – Alex Thornton, Emily Pickering, Mark Peters (TNS- BMRB) – Prof Carole Leathwood, Dr Sumi Hollingworth, Dr Ayodele Mansaray (IPSE) Final project report published January 2014 Final project report

3 Aims of the Study To investigate the strategies used by schools and colleges to support high-achieving disadvantaged pupils to pursue Higher Education and, in particular, to apply to Russell Group universities; To provide evidence on the extent to which high- achieving disadvantaged pupils are already supported in schools and colleges and identify best practice and where support could be improved; To assess whether the Pupil Premium is being used by schools and colleges to support these activities.

4 Methods Telephone survey of 400 schools – with a boost sample of those known to send high proportions of disadvantaged students to HE A telephone survey of 100 FE/6 th form colleges Case studies – 8 schools and 2 colleges (from survey responses) + one pilot school.

5 A strong commitment to encouraging students to apply to HE The survey found: Encouraging students to apply to HE was one of the highest priorities of schools and colleges Almost all schools and colleges undertook some aspiration-raising work – 98% of colleges, 97% of schools Staff talked to students about different types of university; encouraging applications to Russell Group institutions was widespread. Almost unanimous agreement that it was more important to think about all the opportunities available to students, and not to only focus on higher education.

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7 Strategies and activities Of schools and colleges surveyed: Over 90% reported one-to-one and small group work; over 80% work with whole classes and school assemblies. Invited speakers, advice on applications/subject choice, visits to universities were reported by over 89%. Discussions about HE in timetabled lessons, careers events/fairs, mentoring, events for parents were reported by over 70%. 86% reported in/formal partnerships with specific HEIs.

8 Activities that make a difference A whole school/college culture of aspiration raising and high expectations Well-organised, varied, structured and timetabled programme of activities Advice on subject choice Addressing concerns about finance with parents and students Specialist staff Visiting speakers and alumni Personalised one-to-one support Mentoring University visits (especially subject-specific visits), residential trips and summer schools

9 And off they went and actually when they were there they actually thought wow I could come to university and this is really interesting. And they went and listened to various speakers about healthcare or issues and they really liked that. So they came back full of it and ‘I think I could go now’ and it’s not full of people with two heads, it’s actually normal people!

10 ‘The majority of state schools are failing to push bright pupils from poor families towards top universities amid fears they are full of “posh” students, according to Government research.’

11 Encouraging Applications to Russell Group Universities Among surveyed schools: 92 % of schools and 82% of colleges stated that they encouraged applications to Russell Group universities 28 % of schools and 29% of colleges reported encouraging applications to Russell Group universities amongst high-achieving disadvantaged students. The equivalent figure for high-achieving disadvantaged students in 11-to-16 schools was 14%.

12 Defining disadvantage

13 Limitations to the Quantitative Analysis ‘The report references strategies to raise aspirations both among students generally and specifically among high- achieving disadvantaged students [but] it is not always straightforward to disentangle the two. Indeed the evidence suggests that schools and colleges may work with high-achieving disadvantaged students as part of their wider strategy; i.e. they are not targeted but are included in activities and strategies that the school or college has for all students. This being the case the prevalence of strategies to raise aspirations among high- achieving disadvantaged students may be underestimated.’

14 ‘I'm always aware that you want these kind of opportunities to be open as much to perhaps underrepresented groups. I mean undoubtedly you know the empirical evidence would suggest that you know if you are on free school meals you are much less likely than you know another student of a sort of equivalent academic ability to progress onto university. Now it would be foolish not to try and promote these opportunities amongst groups you know who are under-represented.’

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16 ‘Poor white British children... do less homework and are more likely to miss school than other groups. We don’t know how much of the under performance is due to poor attitudes to school, a lack of work ethic or weak parenting.’ (Graham Stuart 2014)

17 ‘None of my family members have gone to Uni and so it just motivates me because they don’t all have successful jobs.’ (Inner London Comprehensive: focus group B) ‘Personally my parents are really pushy because they haven’t done it and they wish that they did. […] my mum, is sort of harsh on me. It’s been a sort of dream that we’ve both shared that I’d go to university.[…] Obviously your parents are going to be proud, I love that experience’ (Outer London Boys Year 12)

18 ‘I don’t want to miss out on that. Doing what you want all day and then learning to stand on your own two feet that’s a big important thing for me, getting independence. I’d be the first to go to university in my family and I also want to set an example for my younger siblings. Anything’s possible even if you don’t have the most money or whatever your circumstances you can still achieve what you want to achieve.’ (North West Comprehensive: year 11 focus group)

19 Some key Issues Benefits of mixed methods study – breadth and depth Limitations of both the survey and case studies Evidence base – monitoring and evaluation Issues of definition and conceptualisation Underpinning assumptions No simple answer


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