Making better sense of post‐16 destinations: a case study of an English shire county

Fergusson, Ross and Unwin, Lorna (1996). Making better sense of post‐16 destinations: a case study of an English shire county. Research Papers in Education, 11(1) pp. 53–80.



This paper summarizes and reports on a study of the patterns of destinations followed by eligible leavers at the end of year 11 for 59 of the 61 secondary schools in the English Midlands county of Derbyshire. The study examines the data for more than 10 000 eligible leavers in 1991 and 1992 by use of multiple regression analysis, examining patterns of association between three main destination categories (staying on, becoming economically active, unemployment) and three key variables (academic performance, low income, local unemployment). Although a number of highly significant patterns of association were found, their absence in some cases and imperfectness in others raise major questions about factors influencing young people's decisions at 16, and their appropriateness. In particular, the driving forces behind the boom in staying on are considered. This is undertaken by more detailed examination of the destination patterns of several schools, notably those whose patterns diverge to an aberrant degree from the predicted range for schools with the same characteristics. These analyses are supplemented by findings from interviews with a small sample of eligible leavers from the 1992 cohort in six of the schools analyzed. The study introduces the hypothesis that the absence of association between staying on and the proportion of pupils from low‐income households reflects a complex pattern of behaviour among pupils not qualified for advanced study, and that this contributes substantially to explaining why, in some cases, over 50 per cent of the variance in staying on cannot be traced to academic performance. The dilemmas faced by this group are considered, and some possible implications of the ways in which they respond to them are discussed.

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