Vocational courses 'aid retention'

21st October 2011 at 01:00
A mix of academic and practical subjects increases staying-on rates, study finds

Pupils who do not generally achieve their potential are more likely to stay on at school if they study a mix of vocational and academic subjects, a new study has found.

Researchers at Stirling University revealed that pupils who were offered a vocational course along with standard subjects were motivated to continue at school post-16, leaving instead at 17 or 18 to go on to tertiary education, employment or training.

The results suggest that adopting a mixed curriculum can help reduce the number of young people who are not in education, employment or training (Neet).

Lead researcher at the university's school of education, Roy Canning, said: "The evidence suggests that vocational subjects, when offered within a mixed-mode curriculum, can actively engage young people.

"One of the major unexpected outcomes of the study is the degree to which the provision of vocational courses can lead to under-achieving pupils being retained within the upper secondary school."

The study focused on the experiences of "work-related" learning among 14 to 16-year-olds in all North Lanarkshire secondary schools between 2009 and 2011.

The vocational courses, taught to pupils in schools by college lecturers, included subjects such as professional cookery and early years education.

Dr Canning said the findings also supported the Scottish Government's Curriculum for Excellence policy, with evidence that studying vocational subjects helped pupils develop the four CfE capacities, including being an effective contributor.

Teachers taking part in the research reported that pupils benefited from being taught vocational subjects at school. Some voiced concerns that vocational programmes were not more widely available due to lack of funding and availability of qualified staff.

julia.horton@tess.co.uk.

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