Do as I say, not as I do

Parents advise their kids not to follow in their footsteps after GCSEs and A-levels

11 August 2014

As teenagers around the country await their A-Level and GCSE results, research by City & Guilds reveals that the vast majority of parents do not want their children to pursue a similar educational path to the one they took. In fact, the survey of 750 parents – many of whom left school at 16 – shows that 72% don’t want their children to do what they did after leaving school.

The new research, published today, also shows that nearly half of parents (49%) own up to the fact that they do not fully understand what educational alternatives are available outside of GCSE, A-Level and university. This confusion means a third (34%) feel ill-equipped to advise their children on what to do when they leave school.

We are gradually seeing more young people waking up to the benefits of further education routes

Commenting on the report Kirstie Donnelly, UK Managing Director of City & Guilds said: 'The educational landscape has changed enormously since these parents were sitting their exams. It is worrying, but understandable given the pace of change, that so many parents are not fully aware of all the options available at each stage of education. Clearly, parents want their children to pursue the right path for them. My fear is that they are not clued up on what this could be; meaning young people are not encouraged to consider the many different pathways that lead to success. 

'Although there is still a bias towards A-Levels and university, we are gradually seeing more young people waking up to the benefits of further education routes. What’s important for parents and young people to understand are the real opportunities for progression available through further education. For example we’re launching our TechBac this September – a new curriculum that sits alongside   A-Levels and has industry endorsement to help young people develop the necessary skills to get work ready.  The technical qualifications which sit within the TechBac also carry UCAS accreditation for progression to higher education, meaning no pathway is closed off.

In 1990, when many of the parents surveyed were making their educational choices, the number of students obtaining university degrees was 77,163. In 2011, that figure had risen four and a half times to 350,800.

Yet university remains just one of many routes into a career – in fact, 55% of employers agree that young people who have taken a vocational route are better equipped for the workplace than those with an academic qualification. And almost half (44.1%) of last year’s university graduates were predicted to be unemployed or underemployed six months after leaving full time education – compared with just 4.5% of those with at least a Level 4 apprenticeship. 2

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • University is considered the best option for an 18 year old, with 49% of parents agreeing this
  • Higher level/advanced apprenticeships comes second, with nearly a quarter (24%) of parents saying these are the best options
  • Teachers are judged to have the most responsibility for advising young people on their options after school (47%). Parents come next with a third (33%) saying they have the greatest responsibility for giving educational advice to their children.

The parents surveyed came from a range of educational backgrounds. The highest proportion (31%) left school at 16, 17% had a bachelor’s degree and 12% left school after A-levels.

Find out more about City & Guilds TechBac and other qualifications and courses available for 14-19 year olds, including apprenticeships.

Research in pictures: see our infographic showing education routes and options for 16 and 18 year olds.

(1) City & Guilds – Making Education Work (October 2013)


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