Young Glaswegians from deprived backgrounds may be aiming higher in life than previously thought, according to a new study.
The report, from Glasgow University, suggests a fundamental flaw in government policy aimed at tackling inequality by boosting what was thought to be low aspirations among young people.
The team, led by Professor Ralf St Clair and Keith Kintrea, found that levels of aspirations amongst young people surveyed in areas of deprivation in Glasgow, Nottingham and London were consistently higher than expected.
Although the specifics of the aspirations varied from place to place, many expressed the desire to attend university and find work in professional and managerial fields.
However, the interviewees lacked a clear understanding of how to achieve their goals, suggesting policymakers should shift to their focus to better informing young people.
Prof Ralf St Clair said: “What the study shows clearly is that government policy needs to go beyond long-held assumptions about low levels of aspirations in certain communities and instead address the barriers which are preventing young people from achieving their ambitions.
“By the time they reach 15, most young people aren’t consumed with thoughts of being pop star or footballers. Instead, they have fairly realistic ambitions about their careers but don’t feel they are receiving adequate support to help them get on the right path.
“The full range of possibilities for educational outcomes and jobs is unclear or confusing, particularly when there is little experience in families of higher education and professional jobs.
“This means that young people need informed and detailed help to take the pathways that are likely to lead to the longer term ambitions. This requires better career advice and more access to work experience.
“There is a need for continual support at every stage of young people’s development, and there have to be mechanisms to ensure that young people who do not take advantage of opportunities at traditional school age are not marginalised for life.”
The researchers interviewed 490 young people aged 13 between 2007 and 2008 and followed up with 288 of them in 2010.The interviews were supplemented by focus groups with young people and further parents, teachers and community representatives.
The study, called ‘Shaping Educational Attitudes and Aspirations: The Influence of Parents, Place and Poverty’, is available from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation website at http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications
Another study conducted recently found Glasgwegian youngsters to be the ‘grittiest‘ in the UK.