London Metropolitan University Research Institutes


Inner-city pupils' identities, aspirations and post-16 routes

Funded by:

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation


July 2003 — July 2005

Current education policy is particularly concerned with young people who 'drop out' of education after the age of 16, especially since the creation of the 50% target for HE participation. However, these young people are a 'hard-to-reach' group and relatively little is known about their views and experiences of schooling, the barriers they face to 'inclusion' and the processes through which they come to leave education. Indeed, the views of disadvantaged young people and their teachers, schools and parents are rarely given a prominent voice within policy-making arenas. Earlier research has suggested that pupils from under-represented groups may resist 'top-down' educational policies that they consider to have little interest or relevance to their own lives. They may also encounter a complex range of barriers, costs and risks when making choices and decisions about education.

This study explored inner city pupils' views about the policies and strategies of which they are targets. It mapped the impact of a range of factors upon the likelihood of the pupils staying at, or leaving, education. Special attention was given to issues of 'race', class and gender in order to produce recommendations that captured the lived complexity of the young people's social worlds. The research identified factors within the curriculum, careers advice and the young people's personal lives that contributed to expanding or contracting their horizons and aspirations. The project focused upon the final two years of compulsory education.

The study was conducted in 6 selected schools from across London — sampled to provide a mixture of institutions. Data collection included:

        • Tracking 53 Year 10 and 11 pupils who were identified as 'unlikely to progress in education post-16'. These pupils were interviewed 3-4 times over the course of the project.
        • Focus groups with an additional sample of 36 pupils who were also identified as 'unlikely'/ 'at risk' of not progressing.
        • Interviews with teachers
        • Interviews with Connexions staff
        • Interviews with parents
        • Periods of observation in schools
        • A photographic diaries exercise with 8 pupils


Project Team:

Louise Archer

Anna Halsall

Sumi Weldon-Hollingworth

Heather Mendick


Louise Archer —


   Company Information    Page last updated 28 February 2008     Contact Page Owner (Angela Kamara)