Peer Effects and Social Influence in Post-16 Educational Choice – November 2017

Practice area:
Client: Centre for Vocational Education Research
Published: 20 November, 2017
Keywords: quantitative analysis

Following the increase in the education participation age, individuals are now required to study towards either a vocational or academic qualification until their 18th birthday once they have completed their GCSEs. However, there is currently relatively little understanding of the factors which determine which route learners choose to follow. Attainment in secondary school is clearly important, given that most A Level courses generally require a high level of GCSE achievement as a prerequisite, but there remain students with strong exam results who choose to pursue a vocational route. Furthermore, it is not necessarily the case that the pupils following a vocational trajectory are veering away from pursuing education at a high level; although it is less common than for A Level students, there are a significant number of individuals who proceed into higher education after achieving vocational qualifications. In order to better understand such education choices, in our new discussion paper we investigate one of the factors which might drive the transition into vocational or academic routes. Specifically, we examine whether the composition of somebody’s secondary school, in terms of the attainment of their peers, significantly influences which pathway is chosen. Our main results indicate that the composition of secondary school peers is an important determinant of a student’s post-16 education choice: the more able one’s peers are, the less likely one is to choose a vocational course after completion of their GCSEs, after controlling for the individual’s own ability.

The full report is available from the Centre for Vocational Education Research website (here).