Memorandum submitted by the National Union of Teachers (E&S 7)

 

 

SUMMARY

 

1. The achievement of participation of all young people in post-16 education is long overdue. It was a commitment first made in the Education Act 1918. Ensuring that young people have access to high quality education and training until the age of 18 will help more young people get the best possible start to their lives and help benefit society as a whole. The NUT is concerned, however, that the Bill's focus on penalties for non-participation in post-16 education disguises what should be the main thrust of the Bill: that of making material the right to high quality education and training which is both relevant and appropriate.

 

2. The NUT's main concerns are to ensure:

 

more emphasis on the rights of young people to high quality post-16 provision as opposed to too great a focus on punitive measures for non-attendance;

 

identification of individual need and suitability of provision;

 

adequate provision of personalised support and incentives; and

 

proper audits of available provision to allow for effective targeting of resources.

 

INTRODUCTION

 

3. The National Union of Teachers is the largest teachers' organisation in Europe. The Union organises teachers across England and Wales and as an independent organisation not affiliated to any political party seeks to influence through its liaison with parliamentarians across all parties.

 

4. There are two foci with respect to achieving involvement in education and training for 16 -18 year olds. The first group are those who have left school with some or no qualifications but who are in employment. They stand at 12.4% of the total 16-18 year old population. A further 10.3% are not in education, employment or training (known as 'NEETs'[1]).

 

5. While the Bill addresses the needs of those groups, the NUT's submission focuses principally on those classified as 'NEETs'. The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) have a Public Service Agreement target to reduce the proportion of 16 -18 year old NEETs to 8.3% by 2010. There are significant regional variations in the percentages of those who are NEET. The South East of England has the lowest percentage and the North East the highest. There are, therefore, major implications for the way resources are targeted to achieve the offer for those who are NEET prior to 2013.

 

6. The briefing is intended to highlight the main concerns of the National Union of Teachers in relation to the Bill's proposals and to provide some suggestions for amendment.

 

KEY CONCERNS

 

The issue of 'compulsion'

 

7. The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families emphasised in his speech to the Fabian Society on 5th November 2007 that this is a Bill which "sets out to achieve - new rights for young people to take up opportunities for education and training, and the support they need to take up these opportunities; alongside new responsibilities for all young people - and a new partnership between young people and parents, schools and colleges, local government and employers". He also made it clear that the Bill "is a bill of responsibilities as well as a bill of rights" and that "if young people fail to take up these opportunities, there will be a system of enforcement" albeit "very much a last resort".

 

8. The research undertaken by the Learning and Skills Network, 'Raising the leaving learning age; are the public convinced?'[2], showed there is very little support among parents and even less among teenagers for hard measures to be taken against young people who refuse to participate in learning.

 

9. Nevertheless the international evidence (OECD - PISA 2006 and 'Education at a Glance' (2006)) overwhelmingly shows that the premium enjoyed in later life for those who have good offer secondary and higher education qualifications is far greater than those who leave school without qualifications. In the UK it is double the meagre wage of those leaving school without qualifications.

 

10. The NUT believes that as long as all reasonable steps to secure voluntary participation have been taken (i.e. the necessary support has been made available) then the consequence of non-participation should be an enforceable expectation that the young person must attend. However, to ensure that enforcement measures are indeed a last resort, the NUT is considering an amendment which in effect delays the implementation of the punitive elements of the Bill while maintaining the entitlement to post 16 provision. For example: if there was a shift in emphasis at clause 2 which meant that all young people were afforded a right to participate in post-16 education or training rather than have a duty thrust upon them this would perhaps address some of the concerns around compulsion. In addition, chapter 5 of the Bill could be amended to introduce a duty to comply with an attendance notice - as opposed to a duty to participate.

 

11. The difference such amendments would make to the overall effect of the legislation would be largely cosmetic. However, the NUT believes that such a presentational difference is vital if the overall message is as the Government clearly intends - and if the system of enforcement is to be seen as "very much a last resort".

 

Resourcing post-16 participation in learning

 

12. The stated intention to get 90 per cent participation in education or training among 17 year olds by 2015 is an ambitious benchmark. At present the participation rate of 17 year olds is 77 per cent. Undoubtedly additional resources will be required to make this aspiration realisable.

 

13. To ensure that resources are effectively targeted and all young people have post-16 opportunities, the NUT is keen for the Government to place a duty on local authorities to audit available provision in their areas.

 

Emphasise personalised support and incentives

 

14. The NUT believes that to engage with hard to reach young people, for example those currently NEET, an approach that emphasises personalised support and incentives rather than punitive measures would be more productive.

 

15. The Bill places a duty on local authorities to promote effective participation in education in education or training under clause 10. The NUT believes that if this is to be achievable an additional duty needs to be placed on local authorities to identify the individual needs of young people.

 

16. Last year Barnardo's conducted research[3] on young people's views on staying on in education or training until age 18. One of the key messages from the research was that 'young people need adequate financial support if they are to stay on in education or training, especially those who live independently or have difficult family relationships. Many struggled to access the education maintenance allowance (EMA) and other benefits'.

 

17. The NUT welcomes the intention in the Bill to extend the EMA to young people taking a wider range of courses but notes that the rate of EMA, 10, 20 or 30 per week depending on household income, has not changed since its national introduction in 2004.

 

Equality of access and opportunity

 

18. There are equality of opportunity implications when instigating training courses and vocational programmes for young people. Gender bias in careers advice and vocational education can also be detrimental for girls' and boys' career choices. A young person undertaking a Modern Apprenticeship in Information and Technology, for example, is paid more than a pupil following a health and social care course. This is already a ten per cent pay gap by the time boys and girls reach the age of 20.

 

19. The Government needs to consider strategies recommended by the Equal Opportunities Commission (now the Equality and Human Rights Commission), to break down gender stereotypes, such as 'taster days', whereby boys and girls are taken to a workplace traditionally associated with the opposite sex, or inviting people who have non-stereotypical careers to speak in schools, or holding discussions to single sex classrooms.

 

Appeal arrangements

20. The Bill provides for a young person to appeal against the giving of attendance and penalty notices but does not appear to allow for appeals on the grounds that the availability of the education or training available is not suited to their needs.

Academies

 

21. Academies are independent schools run by private sponsors such as businesses or religious organisations using public money. The Government hopes for at least 400 Academies to be established. The NUT is concerned that the Bill is inconsistent in relation to Academies. It is not clear why some sections of the proposed legislation appear to apply to all schools and others do not. For example why are Academies not covered by the proposed duty to promote good attendance?

 

Community cohesion

 

22. The NUT welcomed the statement in the Department for Communities and Local Government brief on 'Stronger Communities'[4] for the Queen's Speech that the 'Government is committed to promoting community cohesion and supporting local authorities in preventing and managing community tensions'.

 

23. The Education and Inspections Act 2006 introduced a duty on all maintained schools in England to promote community cohesion[5] and on Ofsted to report on the contributions made in this area[6]. The duty on schools came into effect from 1 September 2007 and the duty on Ofsted will commence in September 2008.

24. Guidance to support schools in implementing the duty was published by the DCSF on 19 July 2007. The guidance defines what is meant by community cohesion and how this relates to the role of schools. It also outlines the work that many schools are already doing in this area.

25. In view of the pivotal role envisaged for local authorities in ensuring young people participate in education, training or work-based learning the NUT believes that the Bill provides an ideal opportunity for the Government to introduce a similar duty on local authorities to be required to promote community cohesion.

 


Children's Services Forums

 

26. The NUT has argued consistently for Local Authorities to be required to establish Children's Services Forums. As set out in its Education Statements; 'Bringing Down the Barriers[7]' (2004) and 'A Good Local School for Every Child and for Every Community[8]' (2007), the NUT has argued that all those involved in using and providing co-located services in schools should be represented on the forums. Their purpose would be to develop collaboratively services which meet the needs of vulnerable young people including those NEET. Such proposals would provide a powerful buttress for introducing effectively the raising of the participation age.

 

January 2008



[1] Geoff Mulgan, 10 Downing Street 1997 to 2004, is credited as first classifying NEETs in the UK.

[2] Published May 2007 http://www.lsneducation.org.uk/news/press.aspx?ID=3187&back=/News/press.aspx

[3] Barnardo's 'School's out, or is it?' Published September 2007.

 

[4] http://www.number10.gov.uk/files/pdf/19.Stronger%20Communities.pdf

[5] Section 21(5) Education Act 2002 as inserted by Education & Inspections Act 2006

[6] Section 154 of Education & Inspections Act 2006

[7] http://www.teachers.org.uk/story.php?id=3232

[8] http://www.teachers.org.uk/story.php?id=4121