Education, Employment and Exclusion: a research project on innovative strategies (2000-2002)

Contact: Gaynor Attwood

This two-year, £40K project was funded by the Life Long Learning Foundation.

This was a collaborative research project between the University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE) and University of Reading (UofR).  The project directors were Gaynor Attwood (UWE) and Paul Croll (UofR) supported by a research associate, Jane Hamilton (UWE). 

The research was focused on an innovative project at City of Bristol College which offered educational opportunities to pre-16 students who, for a variety of reasons, were not having their educational needs met in the school system.  Such reasons included exclusion, persistent failure to attend and/or achieve in their secondary schools, failure to find school places and other factors.  The study looked at the outcomes from the project and the factors associated with success and failures.  However, it went beyond the immediate in considering ways of addressing the learning needs of potentially educationally and socially excluded young people.  It also investigated the motivations for the approaches to learning of this group of students and their orientations to lifelong learning. 


As lifelong learning becomes increasingly important for the acquisition and development of employment skills and, perhaps, for social participation more generally, the consequences of exclusion from such learning becomes increasingly significant.  This raises the possibility that a significant group of people may be economically and socially disadvantaged by an agenda which, in principle, extends educational opportunities.

The importance of the Bristol project was that if offered a route back into education and learning for educationally excluded and marginalised young people for whom existing provision has proved unsuitable.


The aims of the project were:

  • To conduct a research study of the COBC project which:  identifies its main features, analyses outcomes for students and perspectives of tutors, looks for correlates of positive and negative outcomes, documents the strengths and the problems of the program and maps its development over time.
  • To place the experience of the COBC Project in the context of initiatives of this sort more generally through an analysis of published and unpublished material available nationally.
  • To respond to the aims and needs of the project team and look for project team input to research questions and methods.


The three broad themes of the study were:

Exclusion:  The young people involved were not in secondary school for a variety of reasons and were in danger of educational exclusion leading to occupational and wider social exclusion.

Vocationalism:  The students were following vocational programmes although they were pre-16.  Were such programmes experienced more positively than conventional school curricular and did they have outcomes for employment?

Life Long Learning:  A life long learning agenda is increasingly emphasised as changing the relationship between learning, work and other life-experiences.  Can such an agenda work for young people who have not succeeded in formal education?


The main activities carried out were:

An analysis of documentary and statistical analysis of the project cohorts to date and an analysis of documentary evidence available on the project.

An interview study of the current and, where possible, past students looking at areas such as their educational experiences in school, their responses to COBC, aspects of motivation, approaches to learning and aims for the future.

An interview study of the staff associated with the project dealing with their perspectives on the project and the students.

A literature search of material on initiatives of this kind elsewhere.

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