This paper considers the views of young people aged 14 to 16 about their future education, training and occupation. It is based on a study of around 3,000 year 11 pupils in 45 educational settings in England during 2007/08, supplemented by documentary analysis, official statistics, and interviews and surveys with staff and parents. Pupil-reported plans to continue in formal education and their aspirations for professional occupations are heavily stratified by individual and family background, including prior attainment. This is as expected. But once this variation has been accounted for, in a logistic regression model, there is both a small school mix ‘effect’ and a much larger school experience effect. The patterns in the pupil stories suggest that there are some simple levers available to policy-makers and to practitioners for the improvement of young peoples’ plans to participate.