As 16 year olds across England and Wales await their GCSE results, education charity Future Frontiers says there’s a ‘lottery of opportunity’ for disadvantaged children who don’t achieve 5 grades C and above.
Over half of all London 16 year olds leave school after GCSEs and in the rest of England, the proportion is even higher, with 70% switching to another form of higher education.
For the first time ever, students on the Future Frontiers new Key Stage 4 programme are promised support on results day to make sure they can access the best opportunity that’s right for them.
Why does this matter? Because if you’re not in the minority staying at school and taking A levels - the provision of post 16 education is a patchwork of the good, the bad and the indifferent, and navigating this landscape is a minefield for the students involved.
‘Students who don’t pass the entrance criteria to stay on at Sixth Forms face a complex and bewildering array of post 16 education options. Even specialists in the field describe it as confusing and overwhelming’, says Founder and CEO of Future Frontiers, Dominic Baker.
‘Timing is crucial and there’s often a mad scramble on results day, with a very short space of time between them finding out their grades, and enrolling on courses. So we’re delighted to be piloting on the day career support with students at Lilian Baylis Technology School in Kennington.
Careers Adviser Miriam Keith has been integral to the development of the new pilot.
‘GCSE results day can often be overwhelming and confusing for students that fail to get the grades needed to progress to their chosen post-16 pathway. Without robust advice and guidance in place, many young people will choose unsuitable courses, which can have a huge impact on their future educational and career options. ‘
Gary Phillips, Head teacher at Lilian Baylis, says the support provided by Future Frontiers is essential.
‘By providing additional support on GCSE results day, we can ensure that students are supported to make informed, ambitious choices about their next steps, and are guided through what can be a complicated and challenging process.’
The link between disadvantage and opportunity
For Dominic Baker - the link between disadvantage and opportunity is obvious.
‘Lots of students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, have limited awareness of their career options, don’t have the ‘social capital’ and family connections to support them with this process. Students often haven’t really thought deeply about what they’re going to do post-16. Many of them expect to stay at school and are shocked when they’re not offered a place there.
‘These young people are less likely to have parents or carers who understand the myriad of options available, and many young people themselves don’t have the knowledge or confidence to advocate for themselves. ‘As a result, many students are funneled into unsuitable courses - often with limited teaching time - that result in poor qualifications, perpetuating the cycle of low paid work and lack of opportunity .
‘This is why we’ve introduced our new Key Stage 4 Career Coaching programme - specifically targeting children who are at risk of not achieving the grades to stay on at Sixth Form.
‘And why - for the first time ever - we’re piloting the on the day support scheme.
The new KS4 programme
The new KS4 programme works with GCSE students to create a plan A, which requires them to achieve 5 GCSEs at grade C and above, and could see them staying on at school, and crucially, a Plan B, in which they research the best options for them outside of the school environment.
‘Through partnerships with local businesses, we match volunteer coaches to schools and each pupil selected for the programme is given 6 hours of 1 to 1 coaching, plus a chance to speak to someone working in one of the sectors they’re interested in. These employer interactions are crucial, and have been proven to impact directly a young person’s likelihood of securing employment as an adult.
‘Each student is also guaranteed an hour long 1-1 session with a level 6 careers advisor. These professionals provide absolutely critical, expert, local and personalised knowledge to help young people select high quality courses they are likely to thrive in.
‘We also support students through the application and enrollment processes. If they’ve applied to courses in Year 11, and they get the grades, their place is guaranteed. But if they haven’t applied in advance, they are at the back of the queue for courses and just get whatever’s left. So we prioritise making sure they have good applications in the bag so they have genuine choices come results day.
‘And now we’ll be there to help them navigate their options so they do a course they engage with, find a career they love, and have the chance to break the link between disadvantage and opportunity’.