Young people’s education choices and progression to Higher Education: A comparison of A-Level and Non-A-Level students in Key Stage 5, their subject choices and transitions to university

By Bursnall, M.,  Naddeo, A., & Speckesser, S. (NIESR) (published January 2019)

Young people’s education choices and progression to Higher Education: A comparison of A-Level and Non-A-Level students in Key Stage 5, their subject choices and transitions to university

This new discussion paper from Bursnall, Naddeo and Speckesser analyses students’ choices when leaving Key Stage 4 to Key Stage 5 for pupils progressing to either academic A-level or vocational Level 3 programmes. Using data published by the Department for Education and linked administrative data, the authors examine 650,000 pupils’ education routes after Key Stage 4 and subject specialisation and how they associate with progression into Higher Education. This report found significant differences in the educational choices for different groups of learners. Of the 650,000 pupils who left Key Stage 4 in the 2009/10 academic year, 37% did not progress to Level 3/Key Stage 5, while 27% progressed to their A-Levels. Girls were more likely to choose an A-Level subject than boys, although, girls were less likely than boys to have at least one qualification in a STEM subject, a gap of 18 percentage points. Gaps were also found in subject choice, particularly in STEM subjects, according to ethnic group. Free school meal eligibility produced no differences in educational choices.

Progression to Higher Education was found to be determined in part by the school type Key Stage 5 students attended and choice between following A-Level or non-A-Level routes. Students leaving an independent school were least likely to start an apprenticeship and are more likely to attend a Higher Education Institution. Higher education is much more favoured by A-Level students. More A-level students with low Key Stage 5 performance were found to attend Higher Education than compared to higher performing non-A-Level students. Non-A-Level routes lead to a much higher proportion of students not progressing compared to the academic routes.

 

Download the report here.