Memorandum submitted by Fairbridge (E&S 16)
· The Bill currently states that all 16-18 year olds would be required to participate full time in education, training or work with training, or else face sanctions of some description. As stated in our oral evidence, we do not believe that compulsion will work with the group of young people that we work with.
· We would therefore like to see the Bill reflect more of a realistic approach to engaging with socially excluded young people by being more flexible in applying compulsion to certain groups. For a young person who has been disengaged from mainstream education for a significant amount of time, turning up to an organisation like Fairbridge for one or two days a week is a significant achievement and a step along the path to re-engagement with mainstream provision - they should not be penalised for this.
The Bill needs to allow for a 'gateway phase' to re-engage the most difficult to reach
· The Bill currently requires young people to be in full time education, training or work with training. As stated in our oral evidence, we deal with the most difficult to engage NEETs - we take referrals from the Prince's Trust and we take people who have failed to engage with Entry to Employment schemes - and we do not think full time engagement with mainstream provision is immediately appropriate for much of our client group.
· Therefore, we would like the Bill to include non-formal education within the scope of the participation requirement - so that organisations like Fairbridge can work on the personal and social development of young people during a 'gateway phase'. This phase would aim to secure the commitment of the young person and re-engage them with mainstream provision when they are ready. Without this 'gateway phase', there will be a lot of non-attenders from our cohort. The 'gateway phase' should also be open to any young person who drops out of the education or training options at any stage.
Local Authorities must be required to engage with the voluntary sector in order to target NEETs
· Clause 56 of the Bill says that 'a local education authority may provide, secure the provision of or participate in the provision of services for encouraging, enabling or assisting the effective participation in education or training of' young people - and as such opens up the possibility of Local Authorities commissioning to voluntary sector organisations. However, we do not believe that this clause goes far enough and we would like to see a requirement placed on Local Authorities within the Bill to engage with organisations with a proven track record in working with difficult to reach young people.
· If voluntary organisations that have been proven to be effective at re-engaging NEETs with mainstream services are not able to secure regular core funding from Local Authorities, this provision could be lost and there could well be a rise in the number of NEETs rather than a reduction. This will be compounded by the fact that such organisations will no longer be able to access private sector funding for under 19s because they will be seen as a statutory responsibility by private funders.