Adviser on the Edge

careers in island communities: research, theory and practice

Orkney school leavers (2010-11) – the impact of gender

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The dive into statistics continues…. Today I have been looking at the School Leaver Destinations for Orkney, compiled by Skills Development Scotland. I have been focusing on the 2010-11 cohort, as many of these people will graduate in 2015 and will be part of the sample I interview in the future. Here is what I have found:

  • The percentage of leavers entering higher education was low at 30.5% compared to a national average of 35.8%.
  • The proportion entering further education was also lower than the national average (20.6% compared to 27.1%).
  • The proportion entering employment was significantly higher than in the rest of Scotland (33.8% compared to 19.3%)

So far, quite interesting, although not earth shattering – with employment levels relatively high in Orkney, it could be predicted that more leavers would enter employment than elsewhere in the country.

Here is what I found surprising: the gender split in those entering higher education and employment. For school leavers in 2010-11 73% of those in employment were male, and 27% were female. In contrast 31% of those going on to Higher Education were male, and 69% female. Now, I had expected a gender split (in the same year, nationally, 54.5% of Higher Education entrants were female) but nothing quite so acute.

I had previously read about more acute gender divisions in school leavers in rural communities – particularly in Corbett’s study of a remote community in Canada from 1963-1998 where he found that women were consistently about twice as likely to complete secondary school as men, and also more likely to move away for further education (p.94). Corbett links this to the nature of the economy – with the dominance of the fishing industry which ”presents a gendered structure of opportunity” (p.89). In terms of Orkney, the labour market may play a role in the gendered choices of school leavers, with the SLDR report showing that the construction industry was the most common employment destination for male leavers (36%) but also showing that no girls found employment in the construction industry.

However, understanding the interrelation of migration, education and gender is likely to be a lot more complex than talking about the ‘structure of the labour market’ may suggest. After all, it is not so much the opportunities themselves that create a gender division than the social and cultural expectations that deem some jobs ‘male’ and some ‘female’. And with such an acute difference between male and female choices in the 2010-11 cohort of school leavers from Orkney, it seems that this may bear further research….

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