How do young people make choices at 14 and 16?

How do young people make choices

This DfES commissioned study by the NFER explores how young people make decisions about their personalised pathways, and the ways in which structural contexts and individual attributes interact before and during the process. The research consisted of in-depth interviews with 165 young people in Years 9 and 11 (and most of these again in Years 10 and 12) across fourteen schools between February 2005 and February 2006.

The key findings are mostly to be expected:

  • schools with effective support and guidance practice enabled young people to make better decisions, based on school rather than external factors
  • young people make decisions in different ways
  • support needs to be differentiated
  • links between careers education and guidance activities and their own decisions about pathways need to be made more explicit
  • despite calls for schools, colleges and training providers to work more collaboratively, vocational courses are increasingly being taught in schools, which may signal a need for more training. Sometimes only offered to the ‘less academic’ and not always recognised for entry on to A-level courses, QCA equivalences are also often not understood by either parents or post-16 providers.

The key messages for policy-makers and practitioners are concerned with three main areas:

  • student choice, which young people perceive to be restricted. Clear information about subject options may improve this situation
  • provision of vocational (see above) as well as language (MFL) courses; the latter had retained its compulsory status in just two of the fourteen schools. The revised expectation that all schools should aim for a take-up of at least 50% in MFL at key stage 4 from September 2006 could well be hampered by the negative attitudes of students towards languages
  • the impact of teaching collaborations on provision.

It is also suggested that, as young people exhibit a lack of skill in the process of decision making, practitioners need to focus on addressing this skills gap.

The overriding message is that good quality and impartial advice is crucial for young people to make rational decisions, with which they will remain happy. Therefore, the training needs of professionals in order to deliver this, as well as the use of external experts, deserve further consideration.

This resource, whilst useful for policy-makers and practitioners, will also be relevant for trainees, who need to develop a grounded understanding of the 14-19 curriculum and qualifications reforms as part of their initial teacher education.

How Do Young People Make Choices at 14 and 16 Pupil Choices at Key Stage 3

Reviewed by:

Sue Field

Authors :

Blenkinsop, S., McCrone, T., Wade, P. and Morris, M.

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