Students who do not achieve a grade C or above in English and Maths

This project aims to investigate the opportunities and trajectories for 16 to 18 year olds in England who have not achieved grade C or above in English and Maths at GCSE.

Success in GCSEs at 16 continues to act as the key watershed for further progression – in education, training and employment - nearly twenty years on since Pearce and Hillman (1998) highlighted the problem in their study of the nation’s low rates of post-16 participation in education and training.

The study will focus on three key areas:

  • Understanding the characteristics of this group of learners and identifying their different attainment profiles both prior to and after GCSEs
  • Identifying how learners with different characteristics and attainment profiles progress in the 16-18 phase
  • Investigating how different factors at the local level such as training provision and transport influence their opportunities and success in this phase

As part of the project, the researchers will bring together individual-level data with information on post-16 pathways and options provided in two city-regions in England. This will allow them to identify how new localised strategies for policy and practice might be designed to enable schools, sixth form colleges, Further Education colleges and training providers to improve social mobility in post-16 education and training.

The project also aims to provide important early evidence about how recent GCSE reforms and the introduction of Progress 8 may impact on this group of learners.

Project details



Professor Ruth Lupton, University of Manchester

Dr Stephanie Thomson, University of Aberdeen

Grant amount and duration:


January 2018 – October 2019