Conference paper Open Access

Pride and Prospects: The Impact of the Implementation of a More Socially Just Vocational Curriculum at Lower Levels

Atkins, Liz; Misselke, Louise

Evidence shows that the level 1 (L1)[1] curriculum is impoverished, with minimal exchange value in the labour market (Keep & James, 2012; Wolf, 2011), & that lower-attaining youth experience significant social & educational exclusion, lacking access to valorised capitals (Atkins, 2017), issues which are contrary to notions of social justice. Curriculum changes in response to policy initiatives addressing these issues have not been research-based or rigorously evaluated. This paper reports the impact of a new L1 curriculum model designed to confer greater social & cultural capital & awareness of the world of work. Key results include improved retention, especially amongst the most socially excluded students, with a much smaller proportion becoming NEET (7/39 (18%) of the cohort, compared to >30% in previous years) & positive employment outcomes, including progression to apprenticeships.  We conclude that in addition to positive educational outcomes, the young people have accrued significant personal & social benefits from engaging with the programme in its revised form, and that the curriculum offers a model with potential to be adapted to local need and implemented nationally. Final outcomes of this study will be reported in 2020.


[1]       Level 1 programmes are positioned at the lowest mainstream point in post-16 education in the UK, and represent the expected attainment level of the average 14 year old. Ambivalently positioned, some education providers include them as part of a Special Needs offer.

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