Disengagement from education

Disengagement Research Paper

Last week The Careers and Enterprise Company published the prospectus to a £12 million mentoring programme that seeks to tackle disengagement and underachievement in young people in the lead up to their GCSEs.

The prospectus was accompanied by two research papers including my piece on mapping disengagement from education and my colleague Professor Tristram Hooley’s paper on Effective Employer Mentoring.

The disengagement paper was used to build a basket of indicators to measure the pattern of disengagement nationally. This informed the allocation of the £12 million fund which will be spent over the course of the parliament with the aim of reaching 25,000 young people a year by 2020.

The research first asked what is the disengagement from education? It’s a concept widely understood by teachers most of whom can tell you what a disengaged young person looks like, but it is difficult to define with precision. Disengagement is a multi-dimensional construct which was measured differently by each study we looked at. Measurement is dependent on theory, current policy, and available data. Our model used 6 publicly available data sources with national coverage, 2 for each of the following indicators:

  • Risk factors – characteristics that make someone more likely to disengage including poverty, and restricted access to informal mentoring through contact with individuals with high status social capital
  • Direct measures of disengagement – Truancy and exclusions
  • Outcomes – Not reaching ones potential attainment at GCSE, and poor progression to education and employment.

The data was turned into a map of disengagement in England. A strong North South divide is present with the most disengaged areas appearing in the North.

Although the map clearly shows that some areas are much worse than others, it is worth noting that a baseline level of disengagement exists even in the least disengaged areas. For example, Buckinghamshire Thames Valley has the largest number of pupils achieving expected progress in Maths and English at 77%, but this still means that 23% of young people are not making expected progress.

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