Vocational Diversification and Influences of Social Class and Gender in Educational Decision-Making: The Case of University Technical Colleges in England
University Technical Colleges (UTCs), introduced in 2010, represent a new form of vocational education for young people in England. They contribute to an increasingly complex landscape of education and training, promoted as a creative means of meeting the diverse educational needs of young people (Fuller and Unwin, Lond Rev Educ 9(2):191–204, 2011). UTCs respond in particular to national and international policy agendas that seek to promote participation in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and maths). They have been championed by the UK’s Edge Foundation as providing a “highly regarded” course of study “with clear progression routes into higher education or further learning in work,” especially careers in technician and degree level engineering.
However, there is very limited research evidence to show whether young people and their parents understand the different options available, how decisions to attend a UTC are made, nor whether the education offered in these new institutions enhances or conversely limits the opportunities of students who attend them.
This chapter draws on data from a project that carried out detailed case studies in two UTCs in England during 2014. The project addressed the following core question:
What impact does vocational diversification in the form of UTCs have on the decision-making and experience of boys and girls from different class backgrounds?
The research used a holistic approach focusing on the whole institution in relation to the introduction and development of new educational policies. This encompassed analysis of “the situated, material, professional and external dimensions” (Braun et al., Discourse 32(4):585–596, 2011, p. 585) of the schools, recognizing the schools’ origins (and that of their communities), their ethos and culture, their physical environment and resources, and their staff, students, and families as well as external influences. The chapter offers an analysis of policy enactments (Ball et al., How schools do policy: policy enactments in secondary schools. Routledge, 2012) in the two case study institutions and considers how these enactments may reinforce or challenge historical patterns of gender and class divisions in vocational education in England.
KeywordsVocational education Social class Gender Decision-making
This study was funded by a British Academy Small Grant in 2013–2014.
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