An Exploration of Young People’s Experiences of KS4 in Alternative Provision and their Perceptions of the Transition to Post-16

  • Ellice Macro

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Educational Psychology (DEdPsy)


In the UK, Young People (YP) leaving Alternative Provision (AP) at the end of Key Stage 4 (KS4) are more likely to have negative post-16 outcomes than their mainstream peers. Government reports and wider literature suggest that AP pupils may find the transition to post-16 difficult, however a review of the literature revealed few studies which specifically explored YPs’ experience of this.

The overarching aim of the present research was to understand YP’s experiences of KS4 in AP, their perceptions of transitioning to post-16 and the perceived impact that attending an AP has had on them. The study was located in one Local Authority (LA) in the North West of England. An Interpretative Phenomenological methodology was adopted which involved a two-part approach to data collection and analysis. Part one involved interviews with Year 11 pupils from two APs which were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Part two involved focus groups (FG) with staff from three APs which were analysed using Thematic Analysis (TA). Findings from both analyses were drawn together in the discussion to address the research aim.

The analyses indicated that the YP experienced a ‘fundamentally different’ environment in the AP, compared to mainstream. This was characterised by their relationships with staff, a sense of belonging and an understanding of mental health (MH), which had a largely positive impact on the pupils. However, there was divergence in how the YP perceived their transition to post-16 and the notion of a ‘trade off’ (between qualifications and MH support) was identified in their accounts. Perceived barriers to transition were considered from both pupil and staff perspectives. Staff perceived that more could be done to support pupils’ transitions. To respond to this, the study concludes by offering a model to support YP in their transition to post-16. The implications for practice are discussed.
Date of Award26 Nov 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorJohn Franey (Supervisor) & Sandra Dowling (Supervisor)


  • Transition
  • KS4
  • Post-16
  • Alternative provision
  • IPA
  • Mental Health

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