A comparison of 16 to 19 year old student experiences, in rural and urban schools, FE and sixth form colleges
This study investigates the experiences of 16- to 19-year old students in different educational environments: in school sixth forms, general FE colleges and a sixth form college, taking both A levels and Advanced GNVQs, and in rural (Cornwall) and urban (Southeast London) areas. Firstly, a framework for the study was established, with a consideration of the development of different courses and institutions from an historical perspective. A study of quantitative data, relating to the destinations of young people between the ages of 16 and 18, followed, including an in-depth look at the case study areas of Southeast London and Cornwall. This led into the main study, where interviews were carried out with 138 students, including 16 students who produced photographic diaries of their experiences, in nine institutions. These interviews and photographic diaries explored the experiences of the students in all aspects of their lives, including their time in education as well as their lives beyond the institutions. On the basis of the interviews and diaries, students were classified as either jugglers (those who mixed studying with other interests); workers (those who focussed mainly on their studies) or players (those who did not put a great emphasis on their studies). It was discovered that there were more jugglers in schools, and more players in FE colleges, with figures for the sixth form college falling roughly between the two extremes. Several differences were noted between students in rural and urban areas; for example, as those in relatively remote areas were often forced to remain at the school or college throughout the day, regardless of free periods, both the educational and social aspects of their lives were altered accordingly. There were fewer differnces between those on GNVQ and A level courses, although there were more players among those on GNVQ courses. Although students taking GNVQs and A levels reported different preferred learning activities, the subject had more of an effect on the teaching style used than the type of course, with both GNVQ and A level students typically experiencing similar classroom activities. Students in FE colleges were less likely to report feeling tired or stressed than those in schools and sixth form colleges, but were also more likely to complain that they were not pushed enough by the college, and were therefore not realising their full potential. The implications of these, and other results, are discussed, with suggestions for further research.