IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


New report recommends extending upper secondary education

6 July 2017

Pupil writing in class. Image: Phil Meech for UCL Institute of Education

A new report from the Centre for Post-14 Education and Work at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) explores the idea of extending upper secondary education in England to 14-19, rather than the current 16-19.

Co-authored by Dr Lynne Rogers, Professor Ken Spours and Professor Ann Hodgson, the report argues that the current socioeconomic context in England, together with raising the participation age (RPA) to 18, requires a re-examination of upper secondary education in England. The researchers note that there is relatively low employer engagement in the education of 14-19 year olds in England, in comparison with some other European countries. 

The report suggests that an extended and more unified phase would better aid young people's transition from child to adult, more fully support individual transition needs and offer a meaningful choice to all young people. Increased opportunities for work experience or placements during this phase would support young people in making positive decisions about their futures based on authentic understandings of different professional and technical occupations.

If these changes were to come into effect, the report recommends that an expanded and extended 14-19 phase should involve the broadening of general education learning and the enrichment of vocational learning. It also suggests that this system should be served by strong local learning systems underpinned by heightened social partnership and institutional collaboration.

Speaking of the report, Dr Rogers said:

"Putting the curriculum at the centre of 14-19 education whereby all students have access to theoretical and practical learning would enable all young people to progress to their full potential. This would require building on the strengths of successful institutions but expecting them to work in a collaborative manner with social partners in their localities to deliver a more comprehensive and cost-effective provision for all 14-19 year olds." 

The researchers also explore reducing the emphasis on summative assessment at age 16+. They note that selection at 16 could have detrimental effects on post-16 participation and attainment because it forces young people to reach a certain level of attainment in general education at a single point, rather than when they are ready.