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Title: The role of social ties in the school decision making processes at the end of compulsory schooling in England
Author: Forestan, Elisa
ISNI:       0000 0003 6236 9009
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis considers the role of parents, teachers and peers in the school decision making processes of children at the end of compulsory education in England. This stage represents, in fact, the first and most important school transition when pupils will have to choose whether to enter post-secondary education or not, and in cases where they do, whether to choose an academic course or a vocational one, knowing that this will affect their next transition at the age of 18. This thesis is amongst the ones to most fully analyse the role of significant others in children’s education. All the quantitative analyses in this thesis are done using the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE). Most of the statistical modelling of this data is done using multivariate regression analysis. Some of the results are also based on evidence from qualitative interviews with children in their last year of GCSEs in two comprehensive schools in England and children attending an apprenticeship scheme in the London area. With regards to educational aspirations, minority students are those who show the highest and most stable aspirations during years 9 to 11, while White English working class students, especially boys, have lower and unstable aspirations. Among the explanatory factors for these results, along with social class and ethnicity, parental aspirations, friends’ plans and individual attitude to education have the strongest correlation with the intentions to stay on in school after year 11. Moreover, parental aspirations did not appear to differ with regards to social class, suggesting a different mechanism than the one indicated by Breen and Goldthorpe (B&G) (2000). Also, the fact that minority students have very high aspirations (and are high achievers), do not confirm the principles of the relative risk aversion theory by B&G. Among the types of parental involvement in children’s education, participation in school-related activities and feelings towards school and supervision of children’s school work seemed to have a positive impact on children’s entering A-levels in year 12, although the results did not highlight differences with regards to social class and ethnicity. Evidence from the qualitative interviews showed different results with regards to helping with homework - only educated parents do that – and with regards to supporting and encouraging their children’s aspirations, which is more effective with minority and middle class parents. Considering peer relationships, the evidence from qualitative interviews suggested a very small influence of peers, especially schoolmates, in children’s school decision processes; peers are, in fact, perceived as someone to share plans and common interests with, but not as well-informed and trustworthy sources such as family. Moreover, interviews suggest that school choices are not the results of long-term plans, and children treat school transitions as separate stages. This does not support Morgan’s model of prefigurative and preparatory commitment.
Supervisor: Heath, Anthony Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Children and youth ; education inequalities ; social class ; school choices