Released this week was a slew of data on the destinations of 2015 Key Stage 4 & 5 leavers that provides nerds like me hours of interesting noodling about in excel. There’s plenty to get through, not only focusing on the number of students taking up each type of route but also on the characteristics of those students.
This post looks at the trend from the data (now going back to 2010, although breakdowns that include ethnicity only start in 2012) in the percentages of KS4 & 5 leavers of different ethnicities going into apprenticeships. The charts below detail both the percentage of all leavers in that year accessing apprenticeships and the percentage of students from each named ethnic background accessing apprenticeships.
The first thing to notice is that these percentages are comparatively small compared to other routes. The 6% of KS4 students starting apprenticeships is well below the 38% starting an FE College and another 38% starting a school Sixth-Form. That 6% equates to approximately 34,000 young people while the 7% of KS5 leavers equates to approximately 25,400 students from this age group.
For all the talk from policy makers as apprenticeships solving youth employment concerns, it is largely the growth of 25+ apprenticeship starts that has allowed the previous Government’s target of 2 million to be reached. The starts of those under 19 are inching up, as evidenced by the slow growth in the Total bars in the chart above and this chart
and this year 130,000 under 19s commenced an apprenticeship. This is more than double the (approx) 50,400 combine leavers above which shows that many young people are accessing apprenticeships after the first two terms (the definition used by the destination statistics) after leaving their KS4 & KS5 providers.
What seems to be happening though is that the apprenticeship route is failing to find much growth with students from ethnic minority backgrounds straight out of school and college. While their White peers are eking up the percentage of students from that background pursuing this route, the percentage of black or Asian students is either stalled or lagging behind.
This is not to say that the numbers of students from these backgrounds taking apprenticeships has not increased, it has
but that, as a percentage of the total number of students from each of those backgrounds leaving KS4 & KS5, their progression is being outpaced by their White counterparts.
The reasons for this are going to be numerous and complex for different groups.
In Luton we have a diverse student cohort drawn from the local community and this wider trend in apprenticeship progression is reflected in the 2015 destination figures of the town. Of the four schools with highest percentage of students whose first language is not English (from Icknield High School at 64.9% to Denbigh High at 94.6%), only one reaches a 4% progression rate to apprenticeships while the figures of two of the others are so small they are suppressed to protect confidentiality. There is an attainment factor in play here, all four of those schools are in the top six in the town for academic progress. 86% of Denbigh’s leavers progressed to the local Sixth-Form college. The reasons for this huge majority are not only that these students (and their families) see this route as desirable but that the grades they have achieved make that route available. We also know that, comparably, white working class students (particularly boys) underachieve in their academic progress and so, find academic routes Post 16 harder to access. Does this mean that this ethnic group has fewer routes to pursue, so a greater percentage opt for apprenticeships?
Is the fact that the majority of apprenticeships on offer are at qualifications levels perceived to be accessible to (slightly) lower academic achievers but not offering challenge or progression to higher academic achievers a dissuading factor?
Another favourite tactic from policy makers when discussing destinations is to revert to the safe waters of “a lack of aspiration” for low progression figures but I’ve blogged in the past about this is a sound bite hiding a more nuanced situation. Could it be that students from White backgrounds actually have greater social capital around apprenticeships and are more able to access the networks of support to gain a foothold into this route?
Whatever the reasons, it seems that schools and colleges are not currently impacting on the trend for students from Asian and Black backgrounds to access apprenticeships despite a current, diverse advertising campaign. The numbers of young people of all backgrounds accessing apprenticeships needs to increase but the messages are so far struggling to reach all of the students in our schools.