The primary focus of this thesis is on whether there are any significant differences in the experiences of young people aged 16-19 studying GCE Advanced Level which result from whether they attend a school sixth form, sixth form college or tertiary college in England. The study uses quantitative and qualitative data to consider whether there are differences in examination achievement by young people or in their perception of their wider educational experience. The study also uses qualitative data on the views of senior staff in those institutions and of policy makers. The study is original in three respects: young people in the three different types of institution completed an identical questionnaire, and were interviewed on the same basis; an original analysis of value-added data for tertiary colleges, separated from general further education colleges; and the research makes use of the researcher’s extensive access to, and involvement in, contemporaneous 14-19 policy development. The study shows that educational policy development in England is undertaken within a complex educational, economic and political environment, and provides an overview of 16-19 provision and policy in the home nations and some European countries, together with a consideration of tripartism in education in England – both its historical origins and development, and its likely future direction. The main conclusion from the study is that there is little difference in the value-added to the examination performance of young people resulting from the type of institution they attend. The study also suggests that the young people, regardless of the institution they attend, are generally positive about their experience; however, students in school sixth forms are less positive about a number of aspects of that experience. As the research progressed, there were strengthening Ministerial steers towards tertiary tripartism – a strengthening of the divisions between academic, vocational and occupational learning
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