Further disadvantages for disadvantaged learners in England

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I just had the opportunity of presenting at the inaugural 'World Congress on Access to Post-Secondary Education' in Montreal. It was my first attempt at a synthesis of four projects that the Pearson Think Tank is involved in; on rising tuition fees, school-based careers guidance, university admissions and open education data. In different ways all of these projects explore the 'wicked problem' (complex, evolving and interdependent) of fair access to higher education.

The work highlights three of the common barriers that restrict fair access to higher education;
1) Information asymmetry
2) Unequal distribution of resources
3) Variable and sometimes unequal access

As well as three potential solutions that have been developed over the course of the projects:
1) Deliver truly personalised information and support
2) Develop sustainable local learning ecosystems
3) Make appropriate use of open data

This is an emerging strand of thinking so please do share your feedback.

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Further disadvantages for disadvantaged learners in England

  1. 1. Further disadvantages for disadvantaged learners in England 9th October 2013 Louis Coiffait @LouisMMCoiffait Head of Research The Pearson Think Tank (thepearsonthinktank.com) and Office of the Chief Education Advisor, Sir Michael Barber
  2. 2. Introductions - the Pearson Think Tank thepearsonthinktank.com  Independent think tank focused on education access and quality  Programme of research and commentary, new ideas and evidence  The Academies Commission (published Jan 2013)  Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education (live project)  Blue Skies, on the future of higher education (live project)  Working with Sir Michael Barber, more global projects, explore „8 big unanswered questions in education ‟, including one on access  Ongoing policy intelligence, analysis and comment e.g. Policy Watch  Participate in key education debates, provide a platform for ideas  All of our content and activities are free
  3. 3. Introductions – access in England Some success, but stubborn problems…  Recent tripling of fees, now up to £9k a year  32% of poor (Free School Meal) 15 year olds go on to get Level 3 qualifications (e.g. A-levels) compared to 57% who are not  One in five young people from the most disadvantaged areas enter higher education, compared to one in two from most advantaged  71% of state school learners reach university, compared to 87% of private school learners  Representation of disadvantaged young people at most selective universities flat since mid-1990s
  4. 4. Drawing on findings from 4 research projects With a variety of research topics and methods 1) Fair Shares, on rising tuition fees (published May 2013) Analysis of secondary data 2) Careers 2020, on school careers guidance (published Sep 2013) Four online surveys and literature review 3) (Un)informed choices, on HE admissions (published Sep 2013) Qualitative interviews and secondary data analysis 4) OpenEData, on open education data (live project) White paper and literature review
  5. 5. 3 common barriers to fair access Themes emerging across the 4 projects 1) Information asymmetry 2) Unequal distribution of resources 3) Variable and sometimes unequal access
  6. 6. Barrier 1: Information asymmetry Between different types of potential applicants  Among 11-15 year olds, compare where those with unemployed parents get info about future jobs from compared to those with employed parents:  celebrities (45% vs 6%)  online social networks (20% vs 10%)  People running businesses (0% vs 10%)  Vital that all learners can access a variety of information sources  Some learners already get a lot of information, but even they don’t know what they don’t know  Information is not enough, we have more info than ever, but what‟s needed is guidance and support
  7. 7. Barrier 2: Unequal distribution of resources Variable support for applicants and institutions  School-based careers provision hugely variable, postcode lottery  State secondary school careers staff far more pessimistic than private school staff, predict a 25% vs 10% drop in provision this year  Support also varies throughout school, typically building to a peak around 16 years (GCSEs) then dropping off. A „balanced profile‟ of support is needed, as already seems to take place in private schools  Every university (and sometimes department or even course) uses different systems and metrics – from how they look at student characteristics, to how they judge applications
  8. 8. Barrier 3: Variable, sometimes unequal access Particular challenges face some HE applicants  Growing emphasis on raw exam results (e.g. ABB at A-Level)  Highly variable (often incoherent) processes in HE admissions e.g. info on pre-requisite subjects, importance of personal statement  Those schools and families that ‘know the game’ of grades, subjects and processes tend to already hold the better cards  „blame game‟ between schools and universities, growing role of outreach (14% of £810m by 2016/17), but still tends to be local and ad-hoc rather than strategic  “Universities can still do more, the most selective can do much more”
  9. 9. 3 solutions that could help achieve fair access Proposals emerging from the 4 projects 1) Truly personalised information and support 2) Develop sustainable local learning ecosystems 3) Make appropriate use of open data
  10. 10. Solution 1: Personalised information + support One size fits all approaches inadequate  Gather and share systematic data on characteristics of individuals, access, activities and outcomes – rigorous evaluation  Evidence-based decision making about access  Identify and target resources at particular groups  All learners entitled to individual support (face-to-face, online, phone)  Pilot, evaluate and scale solutions – be innovative, look at international case studies  Life-long engagement; admissions, widening participation, achievement, alumni – a virtuous circle of access
  11. 11. Solution 2: Sustainable learning ecosystems Bringing local partners and resources together  Co-ordinate and utilise existing resources more effectively; parents, employers, governors and others (private schools already tend to do this)  Identify and fill gaps in available resources  Involve all relevant actors: schools, colleges, universities, local/regional/national government, third parties  Strong co-ordination role for government here, where are the most successful examples?
  12. 12. Solution 3: Make appropriate use of open data More data is a good thing, but how is it used?  Remember, data is ultimately owned by learners and citizens  Key processes should be more fair, consistent and transparent  Holistic ‘data’ includes: „contextual data‟ (learner characteristics), attainment, other outcomes, support, admissions,  Privacy and data protection technical issues, not excuses  Yes complex and time-consuming – but if Google can do it… we need common data languages and individual learner numbers  Need to improve ‘data’ literacy among learners, parents, educators, managers and policy-makers
  13. 13. Thank you! @LouisMMCoiffait thepearsonthinktank.com

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