Born to Fail? Improving the literacy and numeracy skills of education’s Left Behind

Background

The aim of this work is to help improve outcomes for the third of pupils who leave compulsory schooling every year lacking basic English and maths skills.

Research details

Project title

Born to Fail? Improving the literacy and numeracy skills of education’s Left Behind

Project leads

Dr Sam Parsons, Centre for Longitudinal Studies and Professor Lee Elliot Major, University of Exeter.

Themes

Child development
Childhood adversity
Education
Family and social networks

Dates

June 2021 – June 2024

Funder

The Monday Charitable Trust – visit the project page on the University of Exeter website.

Summary

The aim of this work is to help improve outcomes for the third of pupils who leave compulsory schooling every year lacking basic English and maths skills.

Funded by the Monday Charitable Trust, this three-year research project will generate a series of reports to engage policymakers on this national challenge.

For this project the ‘Left Behind’ are defined as those teenagers in England who failed to secure a grade 4 or above in both their English Language and Maths GCSEs (with equivalent benchmarks for those in the rest of the UK).

The project will use data from the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) which has been tracking around 19,000 young people since they were born in 2000-02. It will assess the backgrounds of those who failed to gain good grades in English language and maths GCSEs at age 16 in 2016-17 and will consider their later life outcomes in education and employment. It will also examine how the pandemic has differentially impacted on the Left Behind.

The research team will also use data from the 1970 British Cohort Study and Next Steps to investigate the experiences of previous generations of children who failed to gain English and maths qualifications.

Using cognitive assessment data collected during childhood and adolescence, researchers will track the literacy and numeracy trajectories of children from different income backgrounds. They will document the family and individual characteristics associated with children who ‘buck the trend’ and achieve well despite their backgrounds. These are the so-called ‘protective characteristics’, and may include parents reading regularly to children, the home learning environment, regular bedtime, parents’ interest and involvement with their children’s education, types of schooling and other factors. These could point to possible policy lessons for children more widely. It will also document the particular risk factors associated with becoming the Left behind at early childhood.

The project will consider several important policy areas, and recommend evidence-informed reforms, citing good policy and practice in other countries where appropriate.

Researchers

Sam Parsons Research Fellow

Phone: 020 7612 6882
Email: sam.parsons@ucl.ac.uk

Sam has a long history of producing research based on the British Birth Cohorts, from the antecedents and consequences of poor basic skills in adult life, to more recent research focusing on poorer outcomes for children with Special Education Needs, the gendered occupational occupations of teenagers and the long-term advantages for men and women who attended a private school and/or an elite university.

Lee Elliot Major Professor of Social Mobility, Centre for Social Mobility, University of Exeter

Relevant studies

Contact us

Centre for Longitudinal Studies
UCL Social Research Institute

20 Bedford Way
London WC1H 0AL

Email: clsfeedback@ucl.ac.uk