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Progression to the post compulsory education is important for the individual learners, their parents as well as their teachers. It is important because a smooth progression spells out the future prosperity of not only the individual learners, but the society at large, and even so according to Pring et al (2009), it has some indication as to how the system is preparing its young people for the world of work. As Cropley (1978) suggested, society in general demands that education should facilitate the learner with full and satisfactory personal growth and increased self actualisation, in that
'it should develop individuals who as part of the process of growth towards maturity, become psychologically equipped to cope with the personal tensions resulting from rapid economic, vocational , social and cultural change' (Cropley, A.J, 1978:13)
The responsibility of training and preparing young people for this purpose lies primarily with the government, Liz (2001:2), before passing it on to schools. This study sets out to investigate programmes introduced in recent years by the Department of education in past and present regimes, aimed at improving education provision as well as widening options for the 14-19 year olds. This was to ensure that school leavers are ready for either the world of work or progression to higher education whatever their choices may be, (The Nuffield Report, 2005-2006). The study will examine all options and identify challenges that cause many young people to be neither in employment nor education and training in spite of the government's efforts to reform the system.
Statement of Purpose
The purpose of this study is to investigate the opportunities and challenges presented within the process of progression to higher education institutions in England. The study will be done by reviewing the reforms in education introduced during the past decade in order to identify any challenges that exist within compulsory and post compulsory education. This review will reflect on past achievements in order to give a sense of direction as to what lies ahead for the learners. Analyses of present issues faced by both the learners and their teachers will be done with the intent to get to the root of any identifiable challenges, to be proceeded by a critical discussion and subsequent recommendations. In order to accomplish this, the study will employ multiple methodologies which will include the use of questionnaires and personal interviews with teachers and learners. This will be conducted within schools once permission is secured from the administration of participating schools. A section of parents will be accessed through an arrangement with the school administration, to get their views on the current reforms in education and their implications with regard to available options for progression to post compulsory education.
The study will further explore documentary evidence on education reforms aimed at responding to the needs of a changing world. Documents to be reviewed will include among others, various scholarly reports produced by different committees commissioned with the responsibility to develop programmes for the 14-19 year olds, such as the Nuffield Review commission,(2005-2006), and the Tomlinson Report (2004).
This study aimed at investigating the options and challenges presented within the process of progression to further education will involve the following major questions:
What counts as an educated young person under the current system of education?
What are the current reforms in the education system in England?
Are the current reforms in education sufficient to meet the needs of all young people as well as the social and economic needs of the wider community?
Focus of the study
Schools, according to Liz, (2001) play a very important role to determine the future of pupils in further and higher education. This, she asserts, is achieved through academic attainments as well as through the school ethos which is the main source of inspiration for the learner, (ibid). It is within the interest of the stake holders within the education system that the school environment provides the learner with experiences that contribute to the image they have of themselves. However, Pring et al (2009) suggest that as studies in educational attainment and social mobility indicate, the role which schools play in changing lives can be limited in a sense that 'family background continues to be a major determinant' (Coffey, 2001:68, 69), and that performance in schools is largely influenced by the social class background. Regarding social class, Pring et al (2009) had this to say:
'…the more disadvantaged the social class background, the lower the level of educational attainment that is likely to be achieved… Moreover, young people from less advantaged class backgrounds are less likely to take up opportunities available to them to progress through the educational system even where they are sufficiently qualified to make the progression' Pring et al (2009:32)
Firstly, this study will seek to define what is meant by 'socially disadvantaged' and identify such an area within the location from which a cross section of schools will be selected to participate in this study. It is the understanding of this author that a population of socially disadvantaged communities in England will be beyond the scope of this study within the limited timescale, therefore, a representative borough will be randomly selected for this purpose. Investigation will focus on this social class of students because of the sociological reasoning quoted earlier in this section.
Objective of the study
The objective of the study will be to discover the options and challenges that are presented within the process of progression to higher education in England and how they have engaged learners particularly those from socially disadvantaged communities. As a result of the study, recommendations will be made for consideration by the stake holders within the education system; these may include LEAs, parents, schools and the major components of the system, the learners themselves. The study will also serve as a basis for further study and research into implementation of similar programmes for developing countries.