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Likely results lie in the past

David Henderson reports on the latest research into the factors that determine pupil performance The key to predicting children's achievements still lies in their parents' education, according to Scottish Office-funded research into a cross-section of 19-year-olds.

Children whose parents stayed in education to at least the age of 17 are almost three times more likely to be in education themselves aged 18 and 19 than children of parents who both left at the age of 15.

If both parents stayed in school until at least the fifth year of secondary school, their children have a 75 per cent chance of being at college or university at the age of 18-19, against 26 per cent for children of parents who left at the earliest leaving age.

Children of the least well educated parents were more than twice as likely to be out of work than those of the best educated parents: 13 per cent compared with 5 per cent.

Stage of leaving school and levels of qualification remain the two factors that determine the activity of 18 and 19-year-olds, although parents' social class, how often pupils truanted in S4, number of brothers and sisters, parents' housing and their jobs, are other strong influences, the Scottish School Leavers' Survey concludes.

The report, carried out by the London-based agency, Social and Community Planning Research, sampled 10 per cent of all Scottish 18-19 year-olds in the spring of 1995. Two-fifths (39 per cent) were in full-time education and more than one-third (36 per cent) were in full-time employment. A further 6 per cent were on training schemes and 4 per cent said they were doing part-time work. One in eight were unemployed and 3 per cent said they were doing something else.

Of those in a full-time job or training scheme, almost half (47 per cent) of the men were in craft and related jobs, whereas almost half the women (44 per cent) were doing clerical and secretarial work.

Looking ahead, the majority thought by the spring of 1996 they would be in a full-time job (49 per cent) or in full-time education (40 per cent). Even among those out of work, more than half (54 per cent) expected to be in a full-time job in a year's time and only 14 per cent thought they would still be unemployed. Some 86 per cent who were in full-time education expected to continue in their studies a year later.

A second survey into 1994 school-leavers by the agency has also revealed increasingly positive messages about their attitudes to school. The proportion who agreed school helped to give them confidence to make decisions rose from 57 per cent of 1992 leavers to 63 per cent of 1994 leavers.

Opinions about teachers were generally positive with 72 per cent reporting staff had helped them to do their best. However, one in six leavers (16 per cent) thought their teachers did not care and a third said teachers could not keep order.

The findings confirm Government anxiety about truancy levels, particularly in S4. More than half (58 per cent) admitted to truanting in fourth year and nearly one in ten (9 per cent) had truanted for several days at a time or weeks at a time.

The leavers' surveys have been administered by data processing agency, since 1992 after the Government removed the contract from the Centre for Educational Sociology at Edinburgh University. Surveys have been conducted since 1971 and are envied for their impartial data. No other part of Britain has similar evidence about long-term trends.

Scotland's Young People - 19 in '95 and The 1994 Leavers are published this week by the Scottish Office Education and Industry Department. Copies are available from the Scottish Council for Research in Education, 15 John Street, Edinburgh EH8 8JR.

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