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Differences between post-16 trajectories of young people from lower socio-economic groups Institute for Education Policy Research Staffordshire University. Kim Slack and Heather Eggins. Equitable access to HE. An Important International Policy IAU Policy Statement on Access

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kim slack and heather eggins

Differences between post-16 trajectories of young people from lower socio-economic groupsInstitute for Education Policy ResearchStaffordshire University

Kim Slack and Heather Eggins

equitable access to he
Equitable access to HE

An Important International Policy

IAU Policy Statement on Access

13th General Conference 2008

‘Access and participation in higher education are essential for the empowerment of all, especially those often excluded.’

the statement calls on governments to develop
The Statement calls on governments to develop:

‘targeted strategies and policies to increase access to, and success in higher education by individuals who are traditionally under-represented by:

social background

economic status


ethnic origins


low quality of prior schooling

the context of the research
The Context of the Research

Concern with the need to analyse the relation between social structure and inequalities in access to higher education

Concern to examine and understand the relationships between family background structure,

the changing education and occupational profile and social status of their parents

and the changes in the impact of various family background factors.

social class and participation in he6
Social Class and Participation in HE

Strong Association between class background, participation and university type…

Which disappears when account is taken of other factors such as examination grades

social class and participation in he7
Social Class and Participation in HE

The effects of class on participation come earlier

So, therefore examine life history of students from similar backgrounds who have taken different routes.

the project
The project
  • Urban area with high levels of deprivation; low achievement compared to national figures; low staying on rate
  • Interviews with 28 young people who:
    • Had a family history based locally
    • Attended local schools
    • Achieved at a level which would have enabled them to progress to HE
    • Had followed different routes post-16
theoretical aspects


Disposition to learning

Communities of Practice

self efficacy is
Self-efficacy is:

The judgement we make about our ability to perform a specific task

A key element in determining behaviour

Not necessarily related to self-concept

Influences and is influenced by human behaviour and environmental factors


Bandura emphasised the interplay with the environment, theorising that personal, behavioural and environmental factors influence self-beliefs which then inform and shape behaviour and subsequent environments.

approaches to learning


Attempts to understand the whole

Linking new ideas to existing knowledge or concepts

Beginning with the intention to understand

Supports higher quality learning outcomes

surface learning

Attempts to memorize key facts and figures rather than underlying patterns in the argument

Beginning with the intention to reproduce


approach to learning
Approach to learning ....

Is not fixed

Is a relationship between the student and what is studied which may change over time

The perceived learning environment is the crucial factor in determining the approach taken

communities of practice
Communities of Practice

A shared enterprise understood by all members

Practice which develops around a specific activity or area of knowledge which generates relationships and a sense of shared identity

located within a specific cultural context and may reflect certain values inherent within that culture

form part of this context but may also be much more dynamic in that they both draw on and shape this context



What did you learn about yourself in those (school) years?

That I could keep improving myself. Keep on taking all this knowledge in and keep working my way up to another level. Keep improving myself and keep all my good marks up. Still keep in the top sets.

So it’s really important to you to keep in the top set?


Would you have been gutted if you’d have dropped marks?

Er… yeah I think I would, yeah. If I’d have come out of the end of it with really bad GCSEs it would have been a disaster.



‘It was just … the teachers were more on your level and …... you felt like you could go and talk to them about things. Whereas I couldn’t at (name of first school) I was so petrified of them that I couldn’t go and approach them’

‘I think all teachers you see them as being quite posh and lah de dah. But then on another way, especially a few teachers at (name of second school), who were very … you know you feel like you could go and talk to them about anything. You felt like the support was there. You hadn’t got to go home and worry about it… … keep it all in your head. You felt like you could go and talk to them’



‘I think it was just ‘cos i knew I had my little circle of friends. I knew everyone who was staying on. We all got on really well and I just thought ... we all sort of supported each other and you’d got that support network of friends.


I think once I’d got up there...... once I knew everyone who was going to go to (name of her school) would be going up to the (school) sixth form, that was good because you’d got that little support network there still.



because I had a different upbringing to them. They used to get away with murder at home and I wouldn’t get away with half of the things that they’d do. Like my mum and dad always said I wasn’t allowed through the gate. I knew they used to go out and play in the streets. I mean go and hang about on corners and things. I was never allowed to do that so I never went.

… you know you have your tea and do your homework and then you go meet your mates. You’re not allowed hang about on the street. You either go in the house, or their back yard or you come home. Not hang about the streets.



‘I thought I was quite a good student. I always went. I never had a bad attendance at anything. And I’ve always give me best and to be honest I’ve never failed anything. I might not have walked away with the best grades but I’ve never failed’.

…None of us are thick, we all walked away with GCSEs that will get us a job. But that’s what we worked for. We went to school, we didn’t truant. We weren’t angels but we did what we were told’.



That’s another thing I can remember, at primary school, cos I was no good at my 7 times table she made me stand up in the middle of the room and do my table and now I can waffle that on now! The new teacher that I had used to sit with me …and say to me this is how you do it, you’d only have to stick your hand up and say I don’t understand and he’d go through it again. He wouldn’t bite your head off where the other teacher would.



My confidence dropped a lot...I just wasn't bothered about doing anything. Lost the will to do anything to tell you the truth.

I did all my school work but not to the best of my ability.  A few teachers kept me behind and talked it through.'

My parents "pushed me to doing plays and to speaking up in class because the teacher used to write 'Rebecca is very quiet, keeps herself to herself.' "

'I'm just safe at the moment, living with my parents and paying them board and I've got a job that's steady.'

relationships between

Disposition towards learning


Communities of Practice


Fitting in – creates a sense of personal meaning

Disposition towards learning

Community of Practice

I’m an insider

I can really understand this…


the contribution of the research to policy on widening participation
The contribution of the research to policy on widening participation

Offers a new approach to considering the factors involved in an individual’s decisions

Aligns with other contemporaneous research which is using data from the European Social Survey to develop an Inequality Index

Namely the work of the Education Policy Centre, Charles University, Prague

- 2010 publication of ‘Tertiary Education Between Origin and Destination’

change in the character of inequalities
Change in the character of inequalities

‘As tertiary education has entered a mass and even a universal phase, inequalities have become more subtle and less discernible as they changed their focus from quantitative to qualitative characteristics.’

Who is more equal? Access to tertiary education in Europe

Koucky, Bartusek and Kovarovic (Prague 2009)

the findings aim to bring new perceptions to

‘ Develop and strengthen admission policies and practices that emphasis the potential of each applicant and address equity of access and successful participation.’

IAU Policy Statement on Access 2008