Case study: level 1 Skills to Succeed (S2S) students and the gatekeeping function of GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education) at an FE college

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Raising of Participation Age (RPA) legislation mandates English youth to participate in post-16 education, employment or training. However, how does this particular college accommodate youth that were so-called disaffected learners and previously not in education, employment and training (NEET)? The aim was to investigate the educational experiences of 26 Skills to Succeed (S2S) students to discover their trajectory and the extent to which they could access various provisions that facilitate higher academic and employment outcomes as per RPA discourse. Hence, classroom observations, semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions were conducted alongside documentation analysis. Key findings revealed that S2S students find themselves in a very competitive college environment that institutionalises a system of success and failure, and also brings them in direct competition with better qualified young people for access to desirable and limited provision. What’s more, embodied policies and practices used GCSE capital to construct an intellectual divide, segregating those with low GCSEs from those deemed more academic. Consequently, S2S students faced exclusion from a range of educational opportunities, placing higher levels of vocational courses, apprenticeship training and the opportunity to re-take GCSEs out of reach. S2S provision fundamentally contributed to exclusionary discourses and practices that constructed great ambiguity as to whether higher academic and employment goals could be accomplished in such a milieu.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-21
Number of pages15
JournalResearch in Post-Compulsory Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2017

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