New research suggests children are positive about their education and value it


 The government, we know, is keen to encourage continuation in education post 16 and to reduce inequalities between different groups. Children are known to make early decisions about their educational intentions.

In fact, what they say aged 11 is a good prediction of their actual educational behaviour aged 16, which would seem to suggest that they should have access to professional advice earlier than they do now. Educational choices vary by social background, which some researchers argue is due to differences in children’s values and attitudes towards school and how they relate this to their future in education and employment. However, new research from the Economic and Social Research Council – Children’s Perceptions of the Value of Education: A Study of Early Orientations to School suggests there are grounds for optimism, given that a vast majority of children are positive about their education and there is little evidence of an anti-education culture among children whatever their social backgrounds. Most pupils who participated in the ESRC study had clear ideas about their future. Above all they wanted to secure a ‘good’ job. And children saw education as the means to achieve this, possibly via university.

 Attitudes to school were generally very positive, both as something which would be useful in the future and as enjoyable in the present. Three-fifths of pupils planned to remain in education after 16. One-fifth planned to leave, with the remainder undecided. What is perhaps most encouraging about the findings of this report was the overall view that there were “few meaningful differences in attitudes to education according to children’s backgrounds. The children had definite ideas about their future in education and employment.”

However, the report found that there was confusion about later stages in the education system disproportionately among children from certain backgrounds. Crucially, it suggested that providing relevant information as soon as pupils start secondary school would address this issue. But what reasons do children give for wanting to leave school at 16?

There are three main reasons. Firstly, a few children thought that school was not for them personally, even though they thought school was important in principle. Secondly, some children were confused about the options available to them and how these were tied to different employment outcomes. (hence the call for earlier advice) And a third group had well-defined plans to leave school to begin skilled manual jobs. http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/ViewAwardPage.aspx?awardnumber=RES-062-23-0204


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