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University of Bath

Identifying pupils at risk of poor socio-economic outcomes: the role of educational institutions

An analysis of the educational and employment pathways followed by the half of young people who do not pursue higher education.

At its heart, this project analyses and assesses the educational and labour market pathways followed by the half of young people who do not pursue university-level education. The project contributes to the government's social mobility agenda, first emphasised by former PM David Cameron as a key priority for government in his October 2015 conference speech and subsequently reaffirmed by Theresa May. The research will be of key interest to government, and the Social Mobility Commission charged with addressing Britain's poor record on social mobility.

The project sheds light on the extent to which disadvantaged young people, with a good set of educational choices facing them at age 15/16, are seen to make ‘bad’ choices when compared to their more advantaged peers, who face the same choice-sets. Similarly, the study sheds light on the choices made by young people from age 16+ who are from more advantaged backgrounds, who we see facing a more limited set of educational choices at 15/16 – and how these differ to the decisions made by young people from disadvantaged backgrounds facing the same limited choices. We seek to establish the routes through further education that lead to successful educational and labour market outcomes, including pathways that lead back to higher education for those who initially do not pursue this route.

The study addresses the following key research questions:

  • What are the key factors that emerge throughout a pupil's school history that lead to poor educational and labour market outcomes?
  • What are the impacts of different types of post-16 institution, and course achievement, on labour market outcomes?
  • How accurately are we able to predict such outcomes, using information gained from analysis of these relationships to create a predictive tool?

The project utilises the Department for Education’s Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) dataset which links together a number of administrative datasets, allowing researchers to follow individuals’ pathways through the education system, including post-16 further education and higher education, and then on into the labour market. The project combines this rich dataset with state-of-the-art multi-level econometric methods in order to shed light on the pathways that are associated with poor outcomes in the labour market, providing policy-relevant insights for the Department for Education, providers of further and higher education and individuals themselves.

Research team


Economic and Social Research Council