London Metropolitan University Research Institutes


Aspirations of inner city school leavers

Funded by:

The British Academy (Grant no. 31647)


March 2001 - February 2002

Young people who leave learning for good at 16 have become a main focus of educational policy (DfEE 1998, P8). Young people from working class, inner city and certain ethnic group backgrounds feature particularly highly within these debates due to their low levels of achievement and low rates of participation in post-compulsory education. Recent research has begun to explore the processes through which working class groups may ëchooseí educational routes, such as secondary schools (Ball et al, 1998), FE (Maguire, Ball et al, 1999) and HE (Reay 1998; Reay, Davies et al, 2001). But still little is known about how inner-city, working class young people drift away from education and ëchoose otherwiseí.

This pilot research study explored the views of a small group of ethnically diverse, working class, inner-city young people who had been identified as unlikely to continue in post-compulsory education.


  • To map the horizons of possibility and desirability of young working class, 16 year olds who intend to leave education and to locate these discourses in terms of racialised, gendered and classed identities and inequalities.
  • To trace onto these, teachers constructions of the young people's horizons.
  • To explore and analyse the implications of the young peoplesí (and their teachers') constructions of government policies of Life Long Learning and Widening Participation/ Access.
  • To answer questions about the research design to inform a subsequent larger study, for example with regard to ëmatchingí between interviewers and respondents.
  • To disseminate findings to both academic and user audiences, and to all respondents.
  • Fieldwork was conducted in one inner-city, multi-ethnic school (City Park) in a deprived inner-London borough (Harkton) during the summer term 2001. Individual and focus group interviews were conducted with 20 boys and girls from Year 11 (15/16 years old). They were selected by teachers as being from working class backgrounds and as unlikely to continue in education after the summer. All respondents were followed up in the autumn.


Project Team:

Louise Archer
Hiromi Yamashita


Louise Archer -


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