SHAPE (Shaping Educational Attitudes & Aspirations)

This in a two-stage study which aims to better understand the relationship between young people’s aspirations in relation to education and employment, and the contexts in which they are formed. In particular, the study seeks to explore how parental circumstances and attitudes, schools as institutions, and the opportunity structures in neighbourhoods come together to shape aspirations in deprived urban areas.

The term ‘aspirations’ is used to capture the various desires and ambitions held by young people about their futures. The research and policy literature is mainly concerned with the educational and occupational goals of young people. Do young people want to go onto further or higher education? Do they want to become doctors, pilots, footballers or musicians? Yet aspirations may also centre on lifestyle or self fulfilment, or revolve around roles in the family or community (such as performing a caring or leadership function).

There are five objectives of the research:

  1. To conduct a systematic review and original synthesis of the available evidence and ideas about the relationship between educational and vocational aspirations and factors associated with the individual, the family and ‘place’.
  2. To undertake a large-scale longitudinal survey of young people to identify the things they say influence their aspirations, and how these change between the formative ages of 13 and 15.
  3. To situate this in context and triangulate the responses with a parallel survey of parents, school support staff and teachers. 
  4. To develop a robust framework to explain how children’s aspirations are shaped and to help identify new and more effective ways of fostering positive and realistic aspirations.
  5. To use these insights to contribute to the development of policy and practice designed to raise aspirations in disadvantaged.





Joseph Rowntree Foundation