• Opportunity and aspiration, or the great deception? The case of 1419 vocational education

      Atkins, Liz; University of Nottingham (Power and Education, 01/01/2010)
      The policy discourse around those young people who are the focus of the 1419 agenda in the United Kingdom is one of negativity which frames them as low achievers with low aspirations. In tension with this deficit model, policy offers these young people opportunities' in the form of a vocational education which, according to the rhetoric, will lead to high-skill, high-paid work and a lifetime of opportunities. Drawing on original empirical research, this article contests the assumption that these young people have low aspirations, arguing that constrained by discourses of negativity and lacking the agency for change, their chances of achieving their aspirations are almost non-existent. Further, it suggests that the rhetoric of opportunityis merely smoke and mirrors, a massive deception whereby young people are channelled into the low-pay, low-skill work market in readiness to fulfil economic demands for cheap labour as and when it is needed. It concludes with proposals for change in the 1419 and post-compulsory education and training systems which could provide a more equitable and effective framework for young people to achieve their hopes and dreams.
    • Practical matters: What young people think about vocational education in England

      Atkins, Liz; Flint, Kevin; Oldfield, Ben; University of Huddersfield (City and Guilds Centre for Skills Development, 01/06/2011)
    • Pride and Prospects: Developing a socially just level 1 curriculum to enable more positive school to work transitions

      Atkins, Liz; University of Derby (iCEGS, 2019-06-19)
      This paper reports on an ongoing project, being conducted in Guernsey, which is evaluating the medium term impact of a new curriculum model designed to enable more successful, and less precrious transitions to work for young people undertaking broad vocational education at level 1. Careers Education and Guidance (CEG) forms a central plank of the curriculum, in response to earlier research (Bathmaker, 2001; Atkins, 2009; Atkins et al, 2015) suggesting that young people undertaking programmes at this level have aspirations similar to their higher achieving peers, but lack the support, and cultural and social capital to realise those aspirations. The paper highlights the particular challenges faced by these young people, of whom 33% became NEET in 2015/16 (Guernsey College data), with particular reference to their career aspirations and the ways in which these are supported by the college. The paper positions the study as research for social justice, rather than socially just research (Atkins and Duckworth, 2019), but draws on theoretical concepts of social justice to inform the conduct of the study (e.g. Lincoln and Denzin, 2013). Theoretically, it draws on, amongst others, the work of Bourdieu (e.g.1990) Bourdieu and Passeron (1990) , Hodkinson et al (1996) and Hodkinson (e.g. 1996; 1998; 2008).
    • Professionalism in vocational education: international perspectives

      Atkins, Liz; Tummons, Jonathan; Northumbria University (Taylor and Francis, 18/12/2017)
      This paper explores notions of professionalism amongst vocational teachers in the UK and Australia, through an analysis of voluntarism/regulatory frameworks and professional body frameworks. In terms of empirical evidence, the paper reports on data drawn from a documentary analysis of government policy documents, standards for the education of teachers, and regulatory frameworks in both countries. It is located within a broad range of literature exploring contemporary concepts of professionalism amongst vocational teachers.
    • Qualitative research in education

      Wallace, Sue; Atkins, Liz; University of Huddersfield (Sage, 01/01/2012)
      This accessible and practical book is a perfect quick guide for postgraduate researchers in education. Looking at the interdependence of teaching and research, the authors show that a critical and analytical exploration of policies and practices is a necessary part of what we mean by being a 'professional' in education. This co-authored book is structured around a range of methods applicable to educational research and appropriate for use by practitioners at all stages of their professional development. It takes recognisable, 'real life' scenarios as its starting point for each discussion of method, so that readers are able to start from the known and familiar. As well as exploring theoretical aspects of research method, each chapter provides practical tasks and points for discussion and reflection. These approaches, taken together, are designed to build confidence and encourage reader engagement and enjoyment.
    • Reflective practice for VET teachers

      Atkins, Liz; Brennan Kemmis, Ros; Northumbria University (David Barlow Publishing, 01/10/2014)
    • Research Methods for Social Justice and Equity in Education

      Atkins, Liz; Duckworth, Vicky; Northumbria University (Bloomsbury, 21/02/2019)
      Research Methods for Social Justice and Equity in Education offers researchers a full understanding of very important concepts, showing how they can be used a means to develop practical strategies for undertaking research that makes a difference to the lives of marginalised and disadvantaged learners. It explores different conceptualisations of social justice and equity, and leads the reader through a discussion of what their implications are for undertaking educational research that is both moral and ethical and how it can be enacted in the context of their chosen research method and a variety of others, both well-known and more innovative.
    • Researching with, not on: engaging marginalised learners in the research process

      Atkins, Liz; Northumbria University (Taylor and Francis, 15/02/2013)
      This paper discusses practical and methodological issues arising from a case study exploring the hopes, aspirations and learning identities of three groups of students undertaking low-level broad vocational programmes in two English general further education colleges. Working within a social justice theoretical framework the paper outlines the participative approach which was adopted as part of the research process from the initial development of interview questions to the early data analysis. It explores the advantages and limitations of the approach in the context of the broader methodology and the social justice theoretical framework arguing that, despite the intention to collaborate with the participants, the ultimate control over the study was vested in the researcher, raising questions around the nature and extent of empowerment through the medium of research. The paper draws two key conclusions. In social justice terms, the young peoples contribution was limited by their lack of previous experience of any type of research and, to some extent, by difficulty with the written word. Despite this, the participative approach was effective in demonstrating value and respect for the young participants and provided an opportunity for them to make their voices heard from beyond the model of disadvantage and disengagement in which government policy seeks to confine them. Further, in purely methodological terms, the approach provided insights which could not have been obtained by researching on, suggesting that it provides a useful means of exploring the lives and identities of marginalised youth.
    • Smoke and mirrors: Opportunity and aspiration in 14-19 education

      Atkins, Liz; University of Huddersfield (01/03/2010)
      The policy discourse around those young people who are the focus of the 14-19 agenda is one of negativity which, in its use of language such as non-academic, disaffected, disadvantaged places young people firmly within a deficit model. This model frames these young people as low achievers with low aspirations, routinely dismisses them as non-academic yet claims to offer opportunities in the form of a vocational education which, according to the rhetoric, will lead to a lifelong (nirvana?) of high skill, high paid work, personal satisfaction and opportunity (providing they continue to engage in lifelong learning), something which many young people take on trust. Drawing on original empirical research, and working within a framework informed by Marxist and social justice concepts, this paper contests the assumption that these young people have low aspirations, arguing that falling within a deficit model, constrained by discourses of negativity, powerless to change a system which militates against them and lacking the agency for change their chances of achieving those aspirations are almost non-existent. The paper poses a number of questions: What are 'high' and 'low' aspirations? What is 'non academic'? Why, every year, are nearly half of all young people characterized in this way? What is, or is not, an 'opportunity'? It argues that notions of opportunity are, in fact, smoke and mirrors, a massive deception which enables the channelling of these young people into the low pay, low skill work market in readiness to fulfil government demands for cheap labour as and when it is needed. Finally, it concludes with proposals for change in the 14-19 and PCET systems which could provide a more equitable and effective framework for young people to achieve their hopes and dreams.
    • Social class

      Atkins, Liz; University of Huddersfield (Oxford University Press, 01/01/2009)
      Education is of relevance to everyone but it involves a specialised vocabulary and terminology which may be opaque or unfamiliar to those new to the field. The new UK-focused Dictionary of Education provides clear and concise definitions for 1,250 terms, from A* to zero tolerance, that anyone studying education or working in the field is likely to encounter. Coverage includes all sectors of education: pre-school, primary, secondary, further and higher education, special needs, adult and continuing education, and work-based learning. It also includes major legislation, key figures andorganisations, and national curriculum and assessment terminology. The dictionary features entry-level weblinks, a timeline summary of landmark educational legislation since 1945 and a glossary of acronyms. In addition, there is a useful, fully cross-referenced section of comparative terms used in the US, Canada, Australia, and South Africa. This up-to-date and authoritative dictionary is essential for all students of education, teachers, and lecturers ondevelopment programmes, and it is strongly recommended for governors, classroom assistants, and parents.
    • Social control in practice: the impact of learning employability skills

      Atkins, Liz; University of Huddersfield (03/04/2012)
      This paper explores notions of employabilityin further education, a concept which is at the basis of much government policy associated with marginalised learners. Drawing on earlier empirical work by Atkins (2009) Atkins et al (2010) and Simmons and Thompson (2011) and working within a framework informed by Marxist concepts of Power and control, the paper problematises the term employability, arguing that in policy terms the term is ill-defined yet associated with a positive rhetoric about high pay, skill work which is in tension with the prospects of the marginalised group of students at whom it is directed. Despite the rhetoric, most employability programmes are far removed from the genuine work experienceadvocated by Wolf (2011:130). They offer little in the way of conceptual knowledge or exchange value, but are resonant with earlier concerns about the structure of vocational PCET programmes as producing users who are socialised to work, rather than as citizens (Tarrant, 2001). The paper argues that employability prgrammes are little more than an exercise in social control which are productive of false hope that engagement with them will offer a route into high pay, high skill employment with the prospect of financial and career security. The paper concludes that this hope obscures the reality that such programmes at best may lead to low pay, low skill work and, at worst, form another stage in the churnof young people who are NEET (not in education, employment or training). The impact of such programmes is unlikely, therefore, to be one of progression to high pay, high skill careers, but rather to be one of class and labour (re) production as students are socialised into particular forms of casual and low pay, low skill employment.
    • Teaching 14-19 learners in the lifelong learning sector

      Peart, Shine; Atkins, Liz; University of Huddersfield (Learning Matters, 14/01/2011)
      More and more, teachers in the lifelong learning sector are required to teach the 14-19 age group. This book is a practical guide to delivering learning to 14-19s. It begins by looking at the background to teaching 14-19 in FE and covers current pathways for achievement. Coverage of effective delivery of the new Diploma qualification is included, giving guidance on planning and assessment. It goes on to explore the challenges of behaviour, participation and re-engaging disaffected learners. Finally, it considers the wider context of building partnerships with schools and the needs of industry and employers.
    • Teaching for inclusion: pedagogies for the 'sector of the second chance'

      Atkins, Liz; University of Huddersfield (Learning Matters, 01/03/2010)
      This chapter considers the notion of inclusion, and of a 'second chance' education and its associated pedagogies. Presented in four key sections, it begins with an overview of the sector, going on to disucss the concept of second chance in the context of contemporary literature and theories of second chance. It finds a strong association between social class and second chance education. The chapter then moves on to a discussion of different pedagogical theories and approaches currently associated with the sector, again considering them in the context of contemporary literature. It concludes that, in the current climate, second chance all too often means second best.
    • Teaching Higher Education Courses in Further Education Colleges

      Tummons, Jonathan; Orr, kevin; Atkins, Liz; Northumbria University (Sage, 30/05/2013)
      As the number of higher education (HE) courses offered in further education (FE) settings increases, so does the need for teachers and trainee teachers to develop their teaching skills. This text is written for all teachers and trainee teachers in FE. It considers what it means to teach HE in FE and how an HE environment can be created in an FE setting. The text covers day-to-day aspects of teaching including planning and assessment, giving guidance on the unique needs of HE students. Chapters on research and quality assurance support the reader in developing some advanced teaching skills. This is a practical guide for FE teachers and trainee teachers as the sector adapts to the needs of education today.
    • Teaching in the VET sector in Australia

      Atkins, Liz; Brennan Kemmis, Ros; Northumbria University (David Barlow Publishing, 01/10/2014)
      Teaching in the VET sector is a complex and highly rewarding vocation. This book provides the reader with an in depth exploration of both the theory and the practice of teaching in this sector. Each chapter invites the reader to reflect on their own practice and offers practical examples and case stories to assist the teacher to develop their own professional expertise. The chapters have been written by highly acknowledged VET researchers and teachers and all the chapters have been reviewed by people with high levels of respect and credibility in the field. This book provides the new teacher or trainee teacher with an overview of the VET sector in Australia and introduces the reader to some of the issues that are part of our VET environment. The book explores some of the dimensions of teaching and the diverse range of learners that are characteristic of any VET classroom, workshop or enterprise setting where teaching is taking place. The book also introduces the reader to some of the major learning theories that are relevant in VET and provides practical guidance on the implications of theory for VET practice. High quality assessment is critical to the credibility of VET and the book includes a chapter where this controversial area is made accessible to the reader. Language Literacy and Numeracy are now an embedded feature of VET teaching and the chapter on this topic discusses different views of LLN and encourages the reader to interrogate their own skills and apply their learning to the their teaching. eLearning is increasingly part of VET teaching and this is discussed in detail. Similarly engaging with industry is fast becoming a significant part of the role of the VET teacher and the rationale and the practical and day to day implications for this development are explored.The act of teaching is investigated and this chapter brings together many of the themes raised elsewhere. Finally the reader is introduced to the benefits of reflective practice through an exploration of some of the ways that teachers can evaluate the effectiveness of their own teaching.
    • Tears of the phoenix: how nurturing and support became the 'cure' for further education

      Atkins, Liz; University of Huddersfield (03/09/2008)
      There is rising concern that the uncritical use of therapeutic educational interventions such as circle time or personalised learning in education is leading to a diminished self(Ecclestone, 2004; 2007) - individuals who are disempowered and whose potential for agency is reduced by the well intentioned but uncritical discourse of fragility and the implementation of pseudo-therapeutic interventions in schools and colleges. Existing debates identify a broad range of formal interventions such as those mentioned above, which might be described as therapy based. More informally, this paper, which is contextualised within the emerging literature in this field, (e.g Furedi, 2004; Cigman, 2004; Ecclestone 2004, 2007; Kristjansson, 2007) explores how teacher education, education policy and popular belief interact to generate and perpetuate an uncritical nurturing ethos amongst education professionals and considers its possible consequences for teachers and students. The paper draws on a range of qualitative data from an ongoing exploration of the changing identities of part-time inservice trainee teachers as well as from a recent case study of 30 level one students in two further education colleges. The paper finds a well meaning, nurturing mindset amongst teaching staff, supported not by research but by received wisdom such as the value of personalised learning and a belief in the need to build self-esteem. It argues that this mindset contributes to the pervasive ethos of nurturing and dependence in Further Education which forms the focus of this discussion. Further, it suggests that whilst in concert with current government rhetoric reflected not only in official papers but also in LLUK and OfSTED requirements, this ethos is at variance with the studentsperceptions of themselves as agent individuals working towards goodqualifications. The paper argues that the origins of such a nurturing mindset are two-fold, arising from the nature and purpose of teacher education in the Lifelong Learning sector and also as a consequence of the uncritical acceptance of a discourse of fragility by government and institutions desperate to resolve perceived problems around issues such as retention and achievement. It goes on to suggest that existing teacher education programmes engender an uncritical tick boxuncritical approach to the education of teachers, in which there is no requirement for trainee teachers to be encouraged to question contested concepts such as notions around self esteem, but where some contested concepts are required to be taught as fact. Further, this is compounded by government and institutional endorsement of more formal therapeuticinitiatives such as the use of learning styles questionnaires by integrating them into everyday practice as a matter of policy. In this way, the paper argues, research informed practice becomes indivisible from that based on assumption and guesswork, engendering and perpetuating an uncritical mindset amongst teachers, ultimately leading to a denial of the potential for greater agency amongst professionals as well as amongst students. Despite the rhetoric suggesting that pseudo therapeutic approaches will act in the same way as the tears of the Phoenix in respect of perceived personal and institutional difficulties, the paper concludes that this is not the case, and that the uncritical, nurturing ethos underlying many such initiatives leads not to empowerment but instead to low expectations which are legitimised in the context of often misunderstood notions and (mis)interpretations of inclusion. Ultimately, this limits the potential for agency and denies opportunity, according with Ecclestones concept of the diminished self and raising serious questions about the state of initial teacher training in England, in that such approaches are apparently taught, accepted and implemented as fact in all parts of the education system.
    • The Odyssey: School to work transitions, serendipity and position in the field

      Atkins, Liz; Northumbria University (Taylor and Francis, 15/02/2016)
      Little work on the significance and implications of decision-making has been undertaken since that led by Hodkinson in the 1990s and the experiences of young people on vocational programmes and their reasons for undertaking them remain under theorised and poorly understood. Drawing on the narratives of two young men who participated in a City and Guilds Centre for Skills Development (CSD) study, this paper explores the relationship between their positioning in fields and career decision making. It argues that social positioning is significant in its relationship to decision making, to the way in which young people perceive and construct their careers and to the influence of serendipity on their transitions. Drawing on a range of international studies, it also explores the implications of these findings in terms of young people's future engagement with the global labour market, giving consideration to (dissonant) international perceptions of VET as contributing to economic growth whilst addressing issues of social exclusion and promoting social justice.
    • Tom, Ollie and Emily reflections on inclusion as an exclusive experience

      Atkins, Liz; Northumbria University (UCL IOE Press, 01/12/2012)
    • Towards an epistemically neutral curriculum model for vocational education: from competencies to threshold concepts and practices

      Atkins, Liz; Hodges, Steven, Simons Michele; Northumbria University (Taylor and Francis, 08/12/2016)
      Debate about the benefits and problems with competency-based training (CBT) has not paid sufficient attention to the fact that the model satisfies a unique, contemporary demand for cross-occupational curriculum. The adoption of CBT in the UK and Australia, along with at least some of its problems, can be understood in terms of this demand. We argue that a key problem with CBT is that as a cross-occupational curriculum model it impacts too strongly on the way particular occupations are known and represented. Following this line of argument, we propose that more effective models will be those that are epistemically neutraland thus responsive to the inherent knowledge and practice structures of occupations. We explore the threshold conceptsapproach as an alternative that can claim to be sensitive to occupational structures. We indicate ways it contrasts with CBT but also note some difficulties with the approach for vocational education.
    • Travelling hopefully: an exploration of the limited possibilities for Level 1 students in the English further education system

      Atkins, Liz; University of Huddersfield (Taylor and Francis, 01/07/2008)
      This paper discusses the findings of a small?scale qualitative study exploring the aspirations and learning identities of three groups of Level 1 students in two English further education (FE) colleges. Emerging identities are explored in the context of classed and gendered dispositions and the educational positioning of the young people. Empirical sections show that the young peoples lifestyle aspirations have a heavy celebrity influence and that their occupational aspirations have an unreal, dreamlike quality associated with a lack of awareness of the trajectories they would need to follow to achieve their ambitions. Further, the paper argues that whilst the young people are developing identities in which learning, leisure, work and domesticity are synonymous, leisure identities assume the greatest importance to them. The paper concludes that this aspect of their young lives is significant since it provides an escapefrom the mundane drudgery of a low?value vocational programme and the inevitability of a future engaged in low?paid, low?skillled work.