Education (

What is about?

  • Reducing Early School leaving in Europe is a five-year EU-funded project running from 2013-18
  • The consortium involves nine countries: Austria, Belgium, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK
  • Longitudinal quantitative and qualitative data have been collected over a three year period

The project aims to:

¨ provide insights into  the complex, diverse and dynamic trajectories of young people from school to training and into employment

¨ explore how gender, class, ethnic background and local context shape their opportunity structures and choices

¨ inform wider policy debates about educational trajectories, training pathways, including apprenticeships, and the risk of young people becoming NEET, on local, national and EU level

How is Early School Leaving defined in the UK context?

¨ In the UK policy discourse, the focus is primarily on youth unemployment and young people not in education, employment or training (NEET)

¨ For England and Wales, the EU definition of early school leaving is having left education without a minimum of 5 GCSEs at grades A*-C, including English and math

¨ From this definition, it is clear that does not exclusively address young people dropping out of school but also those who complete their studies without having achieved a minimum level of education.

What research has been done so far?

  • employs a mixed methodology, combining quantitative surveys of young people and educational staff with qualitative interviews and focus groups of young people, parents, teachers and other education and training professionals, as well as policy makers on local, national and EU level
  • In 2013/14, an extensive survey was adminstered to almost 20,000 young people across the partner countries. The UK team surveyed more than 3,000 students in schools and colleges in two research sites: London and the North-East of England, with whole cohorts of pupils in Year 10 & 12
  • In the UK, qualitative interviews and focus groups have been conducted with over 180 participants, including young people, parents, teachers, school and college staff, apprenticeship providers, policy makers and youth workers
  • Over 120 young people took part in the research. A sample of them are re-interviewed to gain a longitudinal perspective on their experience of transitioning from school to work
  • An online survey of educational staff was used to collect data on the attitudes and practices of teachers in regards to institutional and national-level policies aimed at reducing early school leaving
  • We are approaching the completion of a follow-up survey of the young people surveyed in 2013/14 as a means of tracking their trajectory as they make their transition from school to further studies or labour market entry

What have been the preliminary findings of the project… so far?

¨ Survey of students focused on the extent to which difference profiles of young people were engaged with school (as an early-predictor of potential NEET/ESL):

  • Disengagement appears to be about White British students, particularly those from lower SES backgrounds and in single-parent families
  • However, there is a complex interplay between these so-called risk factors and the protective effect of social support, particularly from teachers which is shown to have a strong positive effect on school engagement
  • Follow-up survey will enable us to examine in more depth the actual outcomes and pathways of young people, including those who have left formal education and/or are in alternative learning arenas

¨ The interviews and focus group data illuminate young people’s experiences of education, training and labour market entry; their aspirations, choices and constraints in austerity Britain

  • While the majority of young people have high aspirations regardless of their socio-economic background, their choices are embedded in, and bounded by structural inequalities
  • Churning between unemployment; training schemes; voluntary, insecure, unpaid and low-paid jobs
  • Many schools and career advisers seem to promote the academic route, while offering very little, if any, information about alternative pathways such as apprenticeships
  • Some young people however actively choose apprenticeships over higher education as a good way of earning while learning ‘real world’ job skills and avoiding debt

¨ We also uncovered examples of good practice implemented in schools, colleges and apprenticeships; as well as risk factors on an individual and institutional level