Skip to main content
University of Bath

Young people at risk of poor education and labour market outcomes

Analysing and assessing the educational and labour market pathways followed by the half of young people who do not pursue university level education.

This project contributes to the government's social mobility agenda, first emphasised by former Prime Minister David Cameron as a key priority for government in his October 2015 conference speech and subsequently reaffirmed by Theresa May. The research proposed here is of key interest to government and the Social Mobility Commission charged by the government to address Britain's poor record on social mobility.

As well as finding out what impact truancy has on a young person's performance at school, up to the age of 16 when they get their GCSE results (and results from other equivalent qualifications) we examined if this truancy continues to have an impact even when they leave school.

We shed new light on the extent to which disadvantaged young people, with a good set of educational choices facing them at age 15, are seen to make bad choices, when compared to their more advantaged peers, facing the same choice sets.

Similarly, this study looks at 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; and how these differ to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds facing the same limited choices.

Research aims

This study addressed 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 used a unique dataset that represented the census of all state school pupils’ Key Stage test results along with school and individual characteristics, linked with higher and further education destination and attainment information, and linked with HMRC earnings information and benefit receipt information.

Proposed outputs

As the current study developed, Professor Urwin and Professor Gregg used their continuous engagement with policy colleagues across the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Department for Work & Pensions and the Department for Education to ensure the work described in this submission remains policy relevant and that the findings were disseminated widely across policy communities.

During the initial 5 months of the project we discussed the work with Resolution Foundation colleagues and then designed events and outputs that would be supported by the foundation over the remaining months and beyond.

Professor Urwin has advised Skills Development Scotland on how Scottish educational datasets might be used to carry out the sort of analysis we have carried out for England. Dave Thomson has worked on production of post-16 value added indicators for schools and Further Education in Wales. Matt Dickson has also worked with the Welsh Pupil Level Annual Schools Census - National Pupil Database data on a project supported by the Welsh Assembly.

We used these links to ensure that our research findings have impact beyond the geographical focus of data analysis, which are be NPD cohorts of young people in England. In addition, Professors Urwin and Gregg have presented at Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Global Forums in recent years; colleagues at Westminster are currently working on parts of the European Qualifications Framework; and Professor Gregg has written on issues of unemployment for the OECD and EU.

As the work developed we engaged with our various contacts in these international bodies to ensure that the work has impact beyond the UK.

A key aim of the research was identification of impacts of pupil background characteristics on performance, but also choices made through the post-compulsory education system. As well as alerting policy and practice communities to the results of this research, we communicated messages to young people and their families, via a range of media.

Project team


This project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.