Student and Staff Perceptions and Experiences of Employability at an English School Sixth-Form

Robinson, Ian Wright (2021). Student and Staff Perceptions and Experiences of Employability at an English School Sixth-Form. MPhil thesis The Open University.



There appears to be a disparity between school perceptions of student employability and the expectations of employers. Traditionally, statutory careers guidance has relied upon robust and reliable academic qualifications and transmitted knowledge of employability to prepare students for entry to the workplace. While there has been previous research into student employability, there have been few studies that have explored this notion in the secondary school context and even fewer that have explored the views of both staff and students. The aim of this study is to fill this gap in knowledge, by exploring staff and student perceptions and experiences of employability at a UK sixth-form.

In order to address the study’s research questions, staff and student expectations and experiences of employability were explored through a case study of an English school sixth- form. The study was situated in the interpretive paradigm, with qualitative data being collected from face-to-face interviews with the sixth-form vocational education co-ordinator, 11 sixth-form tutors, and four group interviews with a total of 18 sixth-form students. The data were analysed using established thematic analysis techniques, framed by the inter-related concepts of social and cultural capital, the agency of change, vocational habitus, and the workplace community of practice.

The key implications for developing student employability in the case study school-sixth form are that: (i) staff should act as mentors in order to develop student employability; (ii) each student should be given the opportunity of being mentored on a regular basis; (iii) each student should be made aware that their expected social goals from employment are likely to depend upon contributing to the organisation of work; (iv) each student should be made aware that their social and cultural capital is untried in the workplace; (v) each student should enter the workplace with a strategy for becoming an employee; (vi) statutory careers guidance should recognise the importance of individual student mentoring for all students in order to encourage an adequate allocation of school resources.

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