This study analyses students’ choices when leaving Key Stage 4 (KS4) to Key Stage 5 (KS5) for pupils progressing to either academic A-Level or vocational “Non-A-Level” Level 3 programmes. Using school-level data (published by the Department for Education) and linked administrative data, which follow 650,000 pupils leaving English secondary schools in 2009/10 until 2012/13, we describe the educational routes chosen after KS4, i.e. Non-A-Level, A-Level or mixed Level 3 education, and subject specialisation, and explain their association with progression to Higher Education (HE).
In the main part of the study, we describe educational routes chosen after KS4 and their relation to access to HE. We make use of descriptive and econometric methods, which can account for differences in learner characteristics and schools at much greater detail than previous studies exploiting the large scale data properties of the census-level education register.
Our main contribution is the investigation of how specific KS5 choices and subject specialisation affect subsequent progression to HE and the type of the Higher Education Institution (HEI) attended. This is done using multivariate regression models, which account for education performance since primary school and further important pupil characteristics.