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Education Research Programme Research Findings No4/2004: Findings from the Scottish School Leavers Survey: 17 in 2003

DescriptionResearch findings from the Scottish School Leaver Survey Cohort 4 sweep 1 (17 in 2003)
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Official Print Publication Date
Website Publication DateDecember 06, 2004

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    No.4/2004
    Research Findings
    Education Research Programme

    Findings from the Scottish School Leavers Survey: 17 in 2003

    December 2004

    Andy Biggart, Kirsty Deacon, Fiona Dobbie,
    Andy Furlong, Lisa Given and Kerstin Hinds

    This document is also available in pdf format (124k)

    Introduction

    The Scottish School Leavers Survey (SSLS) series aims to describe the experiences of young people at school, the decisions they make about staying on or leaving, and their transitions and experiences after leaving school. The Scottish Centre for Social Research (formerly NatCen Scotland) has run the SSLS since the early 1990s when the series succeeded the Scottish Young Persons Survey (SYPS). This summary provides findings from the first survey sweep of the latest cohort (Cohort 4), based on young people aged 17 in 2003.

    The Research Finding is funded jointly between the Education Department, and the Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning Department Research Programmes.

    Main Findings
    • A large majority of the sample were still in some form of education in spring 2003, with two-thirds still at school.
    • Most young people were positive about the extent to which school had prepared them for the future, although there were important differences by stage of leaving, educational attainment and social class.
    • Parental social class was a powerful predictor of leaving school later, for example, 88% of those with a parent in a higher professional or managerial occupation staying on.
    • Fifteen per cent of those who stayed on at school said they had been in receipt of an Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) or some other form of grant.
    • There is no evidence of change in levels of truancy, as measured by the SSLS, since 1999. In 2003, there were small differences in truancy levels between males and females, but males were twice as likely as females to have been suspended or excluded.
    • Young people were most likely to receive advice from their parents about what to do after S4, and were most likely to consider advice from parents as the best they received from any source.
    • Over two-thirds of the sample lived with their natural parents at the time of the survey. Around 7 in 10 lived in owner-occupied accommodation, while 28% were in rented property.
    • Results highlight a continued upward trend in the overall qualification profile of young people in Scotland at Standard Grade. However, social class still remains a considerable source of difference in attainment.
    • Income for those in employment was clearly related to qualifications, with median income rising with number of Standard Grades obtained.
    • Jobs held as part of a training programme were considerably less well-paid than those without a training element. Females in jobs which included training programmes earned less than their male counterparts.
    • Ten percent of males and 9% of females were classified as NEET (not in employment education or training). The majority were out of work and looking for a job. One in five females classed as NEET were caring for children and families.
    The Scottish School Leavers Survey Series

    The current format of the SSLS consists of recruiting a sample of young people in a year-group cohort at S4, on a three yearly cycle, to be surveyed four times - at ages 16-17, 18-19 21-22, and 23-24.

    This current cohort was recruited in the autumn of 2003, via a self-completion questionnaire sent to a sample of young people who had completed S4 the previous year. The survey had the dual aim of collecting representative information about the characteristics and circumstances of that age group and of establishing a new longitudinal panel that could be revisited in future years.

    Methods

    The sample was drawn from lists of young people who were in their fourth year of secondary school in June 2002, provided by the Scottish Qualifications Authority. One in five of all eligible young people were selected to take part in the survey.

    Before fieldwork started, addresses were checked for correct postcode and, where telephone numbers could be matched, telephoned to make sure the respondent still lived at that address. If the respondent had moved, correct contact details were collected, where possible.

    Having checked addresses, the questionnaire was mailed to 12,007 young people in early November 2003. Those who had not responded within three weeks were sent a second copy of the questionnaire along with a reminder letter. Finally, attempts were made to contact non-respondents by telephone in order to encourage them to either return their questionnaire or to answer questions over the phone. Telephone follow up continued until the end of January 2004. A reminder postcard was sent to those respondents for whom we had no telephone number.

    Questionnaires were eventually completed by 5,088 young people: 4,169 were received in the post and a further 919 completed over the telephone. Taking account of 'deadwood', 1 this represents 45% of the original sample drawn of young people aged 16-17.

    Response to this survey was lower than in previous years (the last survey of this age group was carried out in 1999 with a response rate of 65%). This is likely to have reflected several factors. Response rates are generally declining to social surveys in Britain. On all previous SSLS surveys, fieldwork has been carried out in the April after young people have left school. However, because of changes in the contracting the survey, fieldwork for the 2003 survey was not started until the October. This had two possible effects on response: firstly, the address information for the young people was more out of date, so we could not track some of the people sampled; secondly, because some of the questions asked about experiences at school, they may have seemed less relevant, so some young people may not have responded.

    To correct for any bias caused by non-response to the survey, the data were weighted; this and other technical information about the survey, including a copy of the questionnaire, is described in detail in the technical report.

    Findings

    About S4

    Most young people were positive about the extent to which school had prepared them for the future, but there were important differences by stage of leaving, educational attainment and social class. Those who stayed on at school and did well in their exams were much more likely to feel confident and well-prepared for the future as a result of their schooling.

    Similar patterns were evident in relation to experiences of S4 itself. Most young people were broadly positive about their experiences of schoolwork and teaching, and slightly more ambivalent about their experiences of the school as a community. Response to all these measures, however, was strongly patterned by social class, attainment and stage of leaving.

    Young people were generally satisfied with the help or advice that they received from teaching staff - although late leavers tended to express higher levels of satisfaction than those who left before the end of S5.

    They were most likely to receive advice about what to do after S4 from their parents, and were most likely to consider advice from parents as the best that they received from any source. Those who left before the start of S5 were noticeably less likely than late leavers to have received advice from teachers, but were slightly more likely to have received advice from careers staff.

    Table 1 Best advice about what to do after S4

    All respondents

    Total

    %

    Parents

    48

    School guidance teacher/tutor

    18

    Careers service

    16

    Friends:

    6

    Other teachers

    6

    Siblings

    5

    Combination of people

    2

    Bases (weighted)

    5088

    Bases (unweighted)

    5088

    There is no evidence of change in levels of truancy since 1999. Just over a third of young people in 2003 reported that they had missed a lesson or a day here and there; 7% that they had missed several days or weeks at a time. Social class, educational attainment and stage of leaving were all powerful predictors of truancy.

    Table 2 Truancy: 1999 & 2003

    All respondents

    1999

    2003

    %

    %

    No - never

    57

    57

    Yes - A lesson here and there

    19

    20

    Yes - A day here and there

    18

    16

    Yes - Several days at a time

    4

    5

    Yes - Several weeks at a time

    2

    2

    Bases (weighted)

    7503

    5071

    Bases (unweighted)

    7508

    5072

    Although small differences were evident in truancy levels for males and females, males were twice as likely as females to have been suspended or excluded. Not surprisingly, suspension/exclusion was strongly correlated with truancy, with 44% of those who had truanted for several days or weeks at a time having been suspended or excluded at some stage during S4 (compared with just 3% of those who had not truanted at all).

    Two-thirds of young people reported that they had undertaken unpaid work experience during S4, though this figure was lowest among those closest to entry to the job market.

    S4 standard grade qualifications

    The analysis conducted on the current sweep highlights a continued upward trend in the overall qualification profile of young people in Scotland at Standard Grade. Females have for some time now overtaken males in their overall results at Standard Grade and appear to be maintaining this lead, an advantage that is largely a reflection of their better performance at the highest levels of attainment.

    Table 6 Number of Standard Grades by Sex

    All Respondents

    Male

    Female

    Total

    %

    %

    %

    5+ at grades 1-2

    34

    41

    38

    3-4 at grades 1-2

    14

    12

    13

    1-2 at grades 1-2

    24

    22

    23

    1 or more, all at grades 3-7

    25

    23

    24

    None

    3

    2

    2

    Bases (weighted)

    2494

    2434

    4928

    Bases (unweighted)

    2198

    2760

    4958

    Although females continue to outperform males, when we consider the extent of these differences compared to the results according to social background, the size of the latter represents a considerably greater source of difference. The analysis highlights the effect of social class on attainment and in particular the cumulative advantage among the higher social classes, who despite rising overall levels of attainment, appear able to maintain their competitive advantage over other groups.

    The individual grade analysis confirmed the overall advantage of females and in particular their better performance at the highest grades. However, it showed a more complex picture than that illustrated by the aggregate Standard Grade results.

    The core skills of English and Mathematics were examined, and the interaction between social class and gender highlighted. The considerable size of the gap between the highest and lowest social classes in English was very evident as well as the better performance of females compared to their male social class equivalents.

    Table 7 Standard Grade English by sex

    All SQA Respondents

    Males

    Females

    Gender Gap

    %

    %

    %

    Grade 1

    12

    19

    7

    Grade 2 or above

    41

    53

    12

    Grade 3 or above

    74

    86

    12

    Grade 4 or above

    96

    99

    3

    Grade 5 or above

    100

    100

    0

    Grade 6

    -

    -

    -

    Grade 7

    -

    -

    -

    Bases (weighted)

    2043

    2075

    -

    Bases (unweighted)

    1779

    2220

    -

    For mathematics the social class gap for both genders remained wide even at General level or above. However, in contrast to the case of English, the gender differences within the social classes generally favoured the males.

    Table 8 Standard Grade Maths by sex

    All SQA Respondents

    Males

    Females

    Gender Gap

    %

    %

    %

    Grade 1

    20

    22

    2

    Grade 2 or above

    36

    36

    0

    Grade 3 or above

    60

    58

    -2

    Grade 4 or above

    76

    76

    0

    Grade 5 or above

    94

    92

    -2

    Grade 6 or above

    99

    99

    0

    Grade 7 or Above

    100

    100

    -

    Bases (weighted)

    2076

    2022

    -

    Bases (unweighted

    1855

    2345

    -

    After S4

    Around a fifth of the sample said they had left school before the start of S5. Slightly more females than males were 'later leavers' (70% and 65%, respectively). Parental social class was also a very powerful predictor of later leaving - 88% of those with a parent in a higher professional or managerial occupation stayed on, compared with just 48% of those whose parents were in routine or semi-routine occupations.

    Although the most commonly-mentioned reason for leaving before S5 was 'having had enough of school', it was rare for this to be the only reason, and leavers had usually also been offered a job, place at college or a training placement.

    Table 3 Reasons for leaving before S5 by sex

    Respondents who left school before S5

    Male

    Female

    Total

    %

    %

    %

    I had had enough of school

    78

    80

    79

    I was offered a job

    31

    21

    27

    I was offered a place at college

    50

    56

    53

    I was offered a Modern Apprenticeship or Skillseekers placement/training

    29

    11

    21

    Bases (weighted)

    2576

    2512

    5088

    Bases (unweighted)

    2255

    2833

    5088

    The most common reasons given for staying on at school related to later job prospects, qualifying for higher education and a positive interest in particular courses or subjects. Smaller proportions of young people who stayed on cited their own or others' expectations or a lack of alternative options.

    Fifteen per cent of those who stayed on said they had been in receipt of an Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) 2 or some other form of grant. Around a third of young people whose parents were in lower supervisory or technical, or routine and semi-routine occupations reported receiving the allowance.

    Main activity and circumstances at 17

    A large majority of the sample were still in some form of education in spring 2003, with two-thirds still at school. Continued participation in education was slightly higher than at the time of the last survey in 1999 (77%, compared with 73%), presumably as a result of a greater tendency for young men to remain at school.

    Table 4 Main Activity in April 2003 by Sex

    All respondents

    Male

    Female

    Total

    %

    %

    %

    Job - no training programme

    8

    7

    8

    Job - with Skillseekers

    2

    2

    2

    Modern Apprenticeship

    7

    2

    4

    Get Ready for Work programme

    1

    1

    1

    Out of work

    4

    4

    4

    School

    65

    70

    68

    College/university

    8

    10

    9

    Looking after child/family/home

    0

    1

    1

    Something else

    3

    3

    3

    Bases (weighted)

    2408

    2347

    4755

    Bases (unweighted)

    2148

    2690

    4838

    A quarter of those who were no longer at school said that they were studying at college or university, with the majority (72%) doing so full-time.

    Overall, those in jobs or training at the time of the survey were most likely to be working in the wholesale, retail or repair industry (19%) or the construction industry (18%), although there were important differences by gender.

    Four in ten (43%) of those in full-time employment took home 100 a week or less after deductions, with 7% taking home 50 a week or less. Jobs held as part of a training programme were considerably less well-paid than those without training. Women in jobs which included training programmes earned significantly less than their male counterparts (though there was less variation in relation to non-training jobs). 3 Income for those in employment was also clearly related to qualifications, with median income rising with number of Standard Grades obtained.

    Young people in employment or training generally held positive views of their jobs, though did not always envisage staying in that job in the longer-term. Those in Skillseekers or Modern Apprenticeship positions were most likely to see the job as a useful stepping stone.

    Over two-thirds of the sample (70%) lived with their natural parents at the time of the survey, with only 4% living with either their mother alone or father alone. Around 7 in 10 lived in owner-occupied accommodation, while 28% were in rented property.

    A high proportion of the sample (80%) had a computer available to use in their home, 70% of whom had access to the internet. More than four out of five also said they had a good place in which to study and a room of their own.

    The disadvantaged

    There was a strong link between family circumstances and educational experiences, with 35% of young people who came from less advantaged backgrounds being disadvantaged educationally (i.e. having no Standard Grades at 1-2, been a regular truant, or having been suspended or expelled).

    Young people who left school before S5 or were Christmas leavers were more likely than later leavers to have truanted (regularly), been suspended or expelled, or have no Standard Grades at level 1-2. They were also more likely to: have parents classified in the lowest social class category; live in a Social Inclusion Partnership area; be less likely to indicate their parents encouraged them in their plans and hopes; and suffer multiple disadvantage. They were least likely to be employed and accounted for the highest proportion of the unemployment figure.

    Table 9 Indicators of disadvantage by stage of leaving school

    All respondents

    Before S5

    S5 Xmas leaver

    After

    Family circumstances

    %

    %

    %

    Low social class

    20

    17

    9

    Father unemployed

    10

    8

    4

    Mother unemployed

    11

    8

    4

    Lack of parental encouragement

    18

    16

    10

    SIP resident

    24

    20

    13

    Education

    No Standard Grades at 1-2

    67

    55

    14

    Regular truant

    21

    11

    2

    Expelled or suspended

    26

    12

    4

    Career management

    Lacks career direction

    17

    19

    15

    Multiple disadvantages

    Two categories of disadvantage

    63

    48

    25

    Three categories of disadvantage

    11

    13

    2

    Bases (weighted)

    1247

    338

    3420

    Bases (unweighted)

    902

    272

    3849

    There are various ways to define NEET (not in education, employment or training).

    In the report NEET is defined as respondents who were out of work or looking for a job, looking after children or family members, on unpaid holiday or travelling, sick or disabled, doing voluntary work or engaged in another, unspecified, activity.

    Ten percent of males and 9% of females were classified as NEET (not in employment education or training). The majority were out of work and looking for a job. One in five females who were NEET were caring for children and families.

    Young people were identified as being disadvantaged in some way by family circumstances, educational experiences and outcomes, and career management skills, and highlighted the links between different types of disadvantage.

    Young women who were out of work for three months or more, and those who suffered from multiple disadvantages, were least likely to move into education, employment or training.

    In the survey, young people who were working were asked to write in how much they earned from their job, after deductions. Analysis of this information suggests four out of ten young people who were working at the time of fieldwork received less than 3 per hour.

    Table 10 Young workers' wage rates

    Males

    Females

    Below 3 per hour

    43

    43

    Between 3 and 3.79

    26

    25

    3.80 and over

    31

    32

    Bases (weighted)

    646

    434

    Bases (unweighted)

    484

    402

    The future

    Over half the sample expected to be in full-time education in a year's time, with a quarter expecting to be in a full-time job (down from a third in 1999).

    Table 5 Expected activity in one year's time by sex

    All respondents

    Male

    Female

    Total

    %

    %

    %

    In a full-time job

    26

    24

    25

    On a Modern Apprenticeship

    17

    2

    9

    On a Skillseekers placement or training

    1

    1

    1

    Out of work

    2

    1

    2

    In full-time education

    46

    59

    53

    Full time education and part time job

    2

    4

    3

    In a part-time job

    1

    1

    1

    In part-time education

    1

    1

    1

    Full time job OR full time education

    0

    2

    1

    Working/travelling abroad

    1

    2

    1

    Gap year

    1

    1

    1

    Looking after the home or family

    0

    1

    0

    Bases (weighted)

    2535

    2499

    5034

    Bases (unweighted)

    2224

    2821

    5045

    The most common and widely-held aspirations were to engage in lifelong learning, have a career or profession, raise a family and to spend most of their adult life in full-time employment.

    In terms of social class, those whose parents were in higher managerial and professional occupations were markedly more likely than those whose parents were from routine or semi-routine occupations to aspire to a university education, but slightly less likely to aspire to running their own business.

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    This Research Finding along with a web only full report which accompanies this Research Findings can also be downloaded from the Publications section of the Scottish Executive website www.scotland.gov.uk.

    Other Research Findings and Reports and information about social research in other departments of the Scottish Executive may be viewed on the Internet at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/socialresearch

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    Footnotes

    1 Excluding from the sample those that could not reasonably be expected to respond e.g. sample member unknown at address.
    2 At the time this cohort was starting S5 EMA was only available in East Ayrshire, Glasgow, West Dunbartonshire and Dundee.
    3 In this analysis, male and female earnings were compared but 'type' of job was not controlled for.