chapter  4
England: working with the lower attainers
Pages 16

Having established that lower attainers in England run from those not attaining the offi cial requirement of fi ve ‘good’ GCSEs to those regarded as having special educational needs, learning diffi culties and disabilities, this chapter records the discussions held with a range of participants who were in infl uential positions to defi ne and deal with the range of young people, and discuss what they thought the future of lower attainers would be in a global economy. In a small-scale study it was only possible to be selective from the wide range of people who, although infl uencing the young people on a daily basis, were still subject to the barrage of central government initiatives, legislation and funding changes which have occurred over the years. Discussions were mainly held during the year 2010. In May that year the government changed from New Labour to a Coalition of Conservative and Liberals, with many policies, as noted in the previous chapters, being quickly abandoned by the incoming government, and new policies initiated. Participants in discussion worked in three local authorities, one the county of X, a large rural county with several large towns, one the urban conurbation of Y, and in two colleges of further education, located in county Z, but taking in students from a wide area. Visits were also made to a Studio school in a southern county, and to seminars introducing UTCs. Principals and administrators participating in the discussions were all very well aware of the social class backgrounds of the families and students they served and referred to middle and working class as a main delineator of probable attainments and behaviour of students. In the various institutions visited, students themselves were observed and spoken to informally but not in formal discussion. There is a literature that indicates that many students on vocational courses are misled about the actual opportunities for employment

after their low-level courses (Bathmaker 2005, Atkins 2010), and that far from having choice and opportunity they are socially and economically positioned to be denied wider opportunities. There is also evidence that many young people, while keen to work, increasingly fi nd their social identities outside the workplace in social and leisure activities (Ball, Macrae, Maguire 2000, Lawy, Quinn, Dement 2009), although historically this may not be a new occurrence.