Life was fairly predictable for young people in the past. They would attend school and then follow one of a number of options upon leaving school. What they did at this point depended on a combination of their social class and educational achievement. Many went into a range of differently paid and differently statused jobs while others pursued further or higher education. But the situation has radically changed during the past few decades. Getting a job upon leaving school is no longer a certainty. And if they do get one, unlike before, they are more likely to have to leave it and seek another. The process may continue at a regular frequency as there are few jobs for life. In between work, the person may have to cope with periods of unemployment, work flexibly, work part-time etc.
The modern life journey young people are increasingly likely to pursue requires them to have certain personal and social skills. Those who have such skills are at an advantage in the competitive world around them. “Our basic needs are ones for sustenance and care. But we also need capabilities- skills, knowledge, and wisdom- to help us navigate through life. These capabilities are the means through which we meet our other needs – finding a job, earning a living and coping with challenges.” The report goes onto refer to Amartya Sen who talks of “capability as a kind of freedom”.
The capabilities concerned are developed in early life but they have long lasting impact for the individual. Many are also developed through activities and learning beyond school. This has particular implications for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
According to Lexmond and Reeves “a substantial research literature shows that the development of … skills is influenced by socio-economic background with children from poorer families faring worse that children from middle class families” (2009).
According to Phil Parker, a senior teacher with many years of experience in White working class schools, “this is reinforced by the findings in our PASS survey, though not against these criteria explicitly. Our findings in 2005 showed self esteem, self confidence, readiness to learn (and to some extent attitudes to teachers) featured heavily”.