Memorandum submitted by Bertie Everard

 

This is a personal response to the CSF Committee's NEETs Inquiry. I am a member of various relevant groups in my Local Strategic Partnership; I chair a charity that runs a programme addressing the NEETs problem in Essex and East London and I am a trustee of a charity in the North West which helps to deal with the consequences of young people being NEET. My comments on your five points are the following:

 

1. Schools are well-placed to identify young people at risk of becoming NEET and should be the lead agency in giving early warning.

2. It has been clearly shown that it is far more cost-effective to invest in preventative measures than remedial measures, yet the allocation of resources favours the latter. Potential NEETs must be caught young. Some preventative measures of proven efficacy can even be taken in early years education, but recent government policies have made this more difficult by only emphasising scholastic attainment (like the three Rs), rather than emotional development, values education etc. Those who have become persistently NEET require a deep intervention, typically lasting for 12-18 weeks to get them to change their attitudes and courses of action for the better. By contrast, preventative programmes are shorter and effective.

3. The Government's NEETs strategy takes effect too late in adolescence and concentrates too much on cognitive skills and understanding and on vocational qualifications, at the expense of affective skills and attitudes. Employers confirm this. Achievement motivation is ill-developed in NVQ courses: commitment is more important than capability. The policy-makers should listen more to informal educators, like youth workers, and not only to teachers and lecturers delivering formal teaching programmes. Resources should be shifted from educational institutions like FE colleges to informal learning providers in the third sector.

4. Raising the participation age will only help if it goes beyond providing more of the same. Most NEETs are 'turned off' by formal education, which has not served them well. Raising vocational attainment to Level 3 will help, but not as much as nurturing a sense of purpose, changing attitudes and instilling the work ethic. There should be more focus on self-employment and enterprise, as it is clear that there will not be enough conventional jobs or apprenticeships in an employer's organisation to go round.

5. The opportunities and prospects in employment are of great concern: Professor David Blanchflower is one of the few public figures who seems to understand that we have a 'lost generation' of 16-25 year olds. The future effects of the economic crunch have worsened an already depressing situation.

 

December 2009