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'Schools for All?' - new report

A girl wearing a school uniform sits at her desk in a school classroom with her head resting on her hand. She looks as if she is falling asleep.

The Young People, Young Lives project have published a report on their findings on young people’s experiences of alienation within the English secondary school system. The team found that young people from low-income backgrounds and those in minority categories are more likely to experience school as discriminating, unsupportive or alienating.


The report draws from a 2021 national survey of over 10,000 young people and interviews with over 100 young people, carried out from 2020-2022. These young people are the first cohort of students to have spent their entire secondary school career studying a curriculum affected by the 2015-2016 GCSE and grading reforms.


The findings of the Young Lives, Young People research suggest that many young people who don’t have traditional academic interests or aptitudes feel left out by the current system. There is also evidence that students from lower-income families or minority backgrounds (especially those with SEND, or who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and/or non-binary) experience school cultures as discriminatory.


The Young Lives, Young People team believe we need to think more broadly about the purpose of education, and how we define success within it. This would involve developing new approaches to the design of school curricula. We also need to create more resources, space and time for teachers, so that they can develop more meaningful relationships with their students – particularly those most at risk of alienation. The situation is urgent, and this should be a policy priority in the coming years.


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