Investigating the experiences of young adults who were educated in Alternate Provisions

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Education


In 2017, approximately 48,000 young people in the UK were educated in Alternate Provision (AP) instead of mainstream education. This does not include young people who remain on roll at mainstream schools but are educated in segregated internal AP programmes. It also does not include the young people who leave mainstream education to be home educated, but many children who are recorded as being home schooled are likely to be amongst the tens of thousands of pupils who leave school rolls in what appear to be instances of illegal exclusion. This 48,000, which all estimates show is rising year on year, is therefore likely to be a gross underestimate that represents at least one in every 200 young people of compulsory school age.

In 2012, only 1% of students in AP achieved 5 A*-C grades at GCSE (the generally accepted minimum standard of academic success at age 16) compared to 59% in the general population of their age-mates, and this discrepancy is unlikely to have changed significantly since. This leaves young people who were educated in AP at a disadvantage in accessing work. In fact, IPPR research estimates that the cost of exclusion is around £370,000 per young person in lifetime education, benefits, healthcare and criminal justice costs, suggesting that the official £2.1 billion per year governmental estimate of the ensuing cost of exclusion is also underestimated. There is of course a personal cost to each of those young people in addition to the economic.

But the question is, however, to what extent does their educational experience in AP drive these issues? What happens to the young people after they leave AP at age 16? We don't know, as there is a dearth of research in the area. Does their experience of exclusion from mainstream schooling cause any subsequent exclusions from mainstream adult society, or is it symptomatic of underlying issues that persist into adulthood? In this research, I propose to track, over a six-year part-time PhD, the trajectories of 40-60 young people from age 16 and into young adulthood in a series of in-depth interviews, to investigate their post-AP experiences. I will also use a novel methodology designed to compensate for some anticipated difficulties inherent in researching with this cohort.

Can a more holistic, student-focused experience disrupt pre-existing patterns and successfully prepare young people to access post-16 opportunities? Or is AP an alienating pathway that perpetuates social, economic and academic disadvantage through isolation from peers, reduced curriculum, and significant barriers to future opportunities? With this lack of information, how can educational equity be assured when we have no records of its outcomes? How can anyone be held accountable? How can local or central government focus their self-improvement and development of provision, strengthen gaps in the offered AP, and plan for the future?

My experience as a teacher in AP is that each of the individuals in that 48,000 statistic has a story, and I intend to help some of them to tell it through this research. However, extant research shows that there can be problems of accessing and retaining these young people as research participants, and methodological problems around the self-selection of those who choose to continue to participate. So, my two research questions are:

1) What happens to young people after AP?
2) What are possible ways of investigating what happens to young people after AP?

This PhD is intended to make two contributions: one in giving voice to the experiences of young adult AP graduates where no imprint of this voice currently exists in academic research, and one in trialling a new methodological approach.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000711/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
2271561 Studentship ES/P000711/1 30/09/2019 22/10/2026 Helen West