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Journal article
Post-Compulsory Education in England: Choices and Implications

May 2017
Paper No' :

Tags: post-16 education; progression routes

Most students do not follow the ‘academic track’ (i.e. A-levels) after leaving school and only about a third of students go to university before the age of 20. Yet progression routes for the majority that do not take this path but opt for vocational post-compulsory education are not as well-known, which partly has to do with the complexity of the vocational education system and the difficulty of deciphering available data. If we are to tackle long-standing problems of low social mobility and a long tail of underachievers, it is essential that post-16 vocational options come under proper scrutiny. This paper is a step in that direction. We use linked administrative data to track decisions made by all students in England who left compulsory education after having undertaken the national examination – the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) – at age 16 in the year 2009/10. We track them up to the age of 21, as they progress through the education system and (for some) into the labour market. We categorise the many different types of post-16 qualifications into several broad categories and we look at the probability of achieving various educational and early labour market outcomes, conditional on the path chosen at age 17. We also take into account the influence of demographics, prior attainment and the secondary school attended. Our findings illustrate the strong inequality apparently generated by routes chosen at age 17, even whilst controlling for prior attainment and schooling up to that point. © 2017, © 2017 National Institute of Economic and Social Research.