Memorandum submitted by Ofsted

 

 

1 Strategies for the identification of young people at risk of falling into the not in education, employment or training category

 

Summary

 

1. There is no typical disengaged young person. Nevertheless, some groups of young people are more at risk of non-participation. Ofsted's recent small scale survey on good practice in reducing the proportion of young people who are not in education, employment of training highlighted strategies used by local authorities to identify young people at risk. [1] These strategies enabled local authorities and their partners to develop focused and targeted provision.

 

High risk groups

 

2. Groups of young people who are prone to become not in education, employment or training included:

 

n those with low levels of literacy and numeracy

 

n those with poor attendance at school

 

n those with poor behaviour records at school and who are at risk of exclusions or have been excluded

 

n looked after children

 

n those with a learning difficulty or disability

 

n teenage mothers

 

n young carers

 

n those with health problems, especially mental health

 

n those from disadvantaged and challenging family backgrounds

 

n those with complex social and emotional needs

 

n those at risk of offending and young people leaving a custodial establishment post 16

 

n gifted and talented young people who had become bored and disengaged at school

 

n those, especially white working class boys, from low-income families where there was an established culture of adults not participating in employment, training or further and/or higher education

 

n and, in some areas, some young people from minority ethnic backgrounds.

 

Identifying those at risk of non-participation

 

3. Successful strategies in identifying young people at risk of non-participation include:

 

n analysing the achievement, attendance and behaviour of young people from potentially vulnerable groups

 

n identification and rigorous monitoring of the participation trends of particular groups

 

n developing good knowledge of local communities including identifying "hot spots" where there is an established history of non-participation in education, training or employment amongst families

 

n multi-agency teams working in localities developing very good knowledge of individual young people which is widely shared between workers from different disciplines to build up a thorough picture of individual needs

 

n key workers developing good knowledge of 'at risk' young people and families and collaborating with other agencies to reduce barriers to their participation

 

n schools working closely with Connexions services to identify risk factors for individuals at an early stage and put in place measures to minimise the risks.

 

2 Services and programmes to support those most at risk of becoming not in education, employment or training, and to reduce the numbers and address the needs of those who have become persistently in this category

 

Supporting those at risk

 

4. In 2008 Ofsted published a survey report on good practice in re-engaging disaffected and reluctant students in 29 secondary schools.[2] Key features of effective practice were identified as follows:

 

n Robust monitoring of academic, personal and social progress, and close collaboration with primary schools and other services for children and young people ensured that students who were likely to become disaffected were identified early. They received appropriate support before and after they entered secondary school.

 

n Teaching assistants provided vital support for individuals, helping them to maintain their interest and cope successfully with any crises.

 

n Pastoral support was managed by assigned support staff. They acted as the first point of contact for all parents and carers and they directed them to the most appropriate member of staff if they could not deal with the issue themselves.

 

n Communication with students and their families was very effective. It ensured that they were fully involved in the process and had confidence in the decisions that were made. Students knew they were listened to and felt they could contribute to decisions about their future. Home-school liaison staff played a critical role.

 

n Specific support, such as temporary withdrawal from classes and training in life skills to help students change their attitudes and improve their learning, was effective.

 

n At Key Stage 4, a high-quality, flexible curriculum, involving a range of accredited training providers outside the school, was effective in engaging students more in their learning.

 

5. The schools visited perceived three common factors that worked against the re-engagement of disaffected students:

n unwillingness on the part of parents to work with the school and, in some cases, collusion with the students against the school;

 

n external influences and attractions that were more compelling for the students than school, such as gangs, criminal activity and drug-taking;

 

n weaknesses in the provision made by the schools and other services for their students. Some of the schools surveyed felt that significant delays from specialist services, such as child and adolescent mental health services, had contributed to students' continuing disengagement.

 

6. As has been highlighted in the 2007/08 and 2008/09 Annual Reports of the Chief Inspector, inspection evidence has also identified that an emphasis on the development of literacy skills is of crucial importance to young people's engagement and further development.

 

Reducing the numbers and supporting those who are not in education, employment or training

 

7. Ofsted's recent small scale survey, yet to be published, included visits to 12 local authority areas to identify features which had led to a progressive reduction in the numbers of young people in this category. The most effective approaches appear to include:

 

n strong leadership from senior managers of local authorities and Connexions services

 

n demonstrable political support from council elected members

 

n the will and determination to translate the vision into practice which enabled comprehensive partnerships to collaborate, to share ideas and to steer the work of providers

 

n rigorous commissioning practices which enabled providers to work towards clear priorities and targets and to promote high quality provision and good value for money

 

n offering provision in a wide range of settings through commissioning a diverse range of providers

 

n applying the best practice developed by local operational workers, such as Connexions PAs, youth workers and teachers

 

n tackling the tradition of 'worklessness' and the impact of the current recession which involved close working with the families of these young people and across generations

 

n collecting the views of disengaged young people and involving them in influencing policy and practice

 

n recognising that potentially vulnerable groups of disengaged young people have to overcome many hurdles, including welfare, social, personal and financial needs, before they can participate successfully in learning.

 

8. Young people interviewed as part of the survey identified and valued:

 

n the crucial role played by personal advisers, teachers and other trusted key workers which was a critical factor in their reengagement

 

n the flexible arrangements made to support their participation in learning

 

n the opportunities to achieve accreditation through a curriculum that they saw as relevant and vocational and that met their individual needs.

 

9. Inspection has identified a number of areas for improvement:

 

n insufficient provision targeted at girls

 

n a lack of engagement in learning by pregnant teenagers and young mothers

 

n insufficient range of post -16 vocational learning and employment opportunities for young people with learning difficulties or disabilities

 

n insufficiency of high quality programmes at all levels in Skills for Life, and in particular, literacy

 

n incomplete arrangements to quality assure and evaluate the overall effectiveness of strategies and actions

 

n the lack and use of data specifically about particular groups of vulnerable young people

 

n a lack of employer involvement in strategy groups which limits young people's understanding of the world of work and of the skills needed for specific occupations.

 

3 The effectiveness of the Government's NEET strategy

 

Data Analysis

 

10. The DSCF has a public service agreement (PSA) target to reduce the proportion of 16 to 18 year olds not in education, employment or training from 9.6% in 2004 to 7.6% in 2010. Progress towards this target is measured by the Statistical First Release (SFR) data published in June each year. Despite increasing numbers participating in education and training, the proportion of 16-18 year olds who are employed has fallen. Within the national picture, there is considerable variation between regions and, within regions, between different local authorities.

 

The national picture: summary of Ofsted evidence

 

11. Ofsted's evidence from Annual Performance Assessments and Joint Area Reviews of local authority children's services for 2007/08 and Comprehensive Area Assessments undertaken in 2009 is set out below. It presents a mixed picture of success in reducing the percentage of 16-18 year olds not in education, employment or training across and within local authorities at a time when the overall figure nationally was declining. Ofsted's survey report on the 14- 19 reforms pointed to good partnership working being instrumental in reducing the proportion of those young people who were in this category.[3] In addition, Ofsted's recent small scale survey on good practice in reducing the number of young people not in education, employment or training identified a number of factors which local authorities identified as hindering their efforts.

 

Annual Performance Assessments 2008

 

12. The reduction in the proportion of 16-18 year olds not in education, employment or training from 2005 to 2007 was noted in the Annual Performance Assessments (APA) of local authorities' children's services in 2007/08. The data used in these assessments was published data for 2007 and so pre-dates the recession. The proportion of young people aged over 16 not in education, employment or training continued to fall (based on 2007 data) in part as a result of:

 

n the improved tracking of young people

 

n the growth and effectiveness of September Guarantees (every 16 and 17 year old offered a place in education or training)

 

n improving information, advice and guidance systems

 

n more councils effective in ensuring that young people leaving care were well supported and involved in education, employment or training

 

n strong or improving 14 to 19 strategic partnerships including involvement of employers in over half the councils

 

n an improving range of post-16 opportunities such as vocational qualifications.

 

13. However, the improvements were far from universal. The national figures for 16-18 year olds masked variations in performance across local authorities and for different groups of young people, for example:

 

n In 71 (47%) council areas, some aspect of post-16 engagement was identified as an area for development indicating that there was substantial variation between areas.

 

n A disproportionately high number of those not in education, employment or training were the most potentially vulnerable young people, for example those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities.

 

Joint Area Reviews 2007/08

 

14. Between April 2007 and July 2008 Ofsted carried out 73 Joint Area Reviews (JARs) focusing on the needs of potentially more vulnerable children and young people. The JAR reports reflected the broad national pattern for 16-18 year olds who were not in education, employment or training. Numbers had reduced in areas which offered a broader range of opportunities for 16-19-year-olds and had improved take-up of such opportunities as a result of the good support, advice and guidance provided by the Connexions service.

 

15. Weaknesses included:

 

n limited training, employment and work-based learning opportunities for those over the age of 18, especially if they had complex difficulties

 

n high costs and/or transport difficulties limited the opportunities available to some potentially vulnerable young people.

 

16. A further 28 investigations covering the impact of 14 to 19 strategies on improving outcomes for young people identified a mixed picture. Most reports provided evidence of improvements in outcomes or provision. However, in 13 areas, attainment and achievement were still low and high numbers of young people, particularly from potentially vulnerable groups, were not in education, employment or training. For example, in some local areas there was low achievement by minority ethnic groups and white males from low-income families, high numbers of whom were not in education, employment or training.

17. Those areas where the number of 16-18 year olds who were in this category was reducing had some or all of the following strengths:

n improvements in levels of attainment

n a widening range of opportunities for 14- 19-year-olds, including vocational courses and alternative provision for excluded or potentially disaffected young people, as well as better advice and guidance for them

n increasingly effective collaboration between providers.

Comprehensive Area Assessments 2009

 

18. The Ofsted Children's Services ratings for 2009 indicate a similar picture nationally to that shown by the 2008 Annual Performance Assessments and Joint Area Reviews. In the published letters where the issue is reported in detail, 51 were deemed to have good performance regarding young people not in education, employment or training, with another 13 reported as average and 43 as poor. In each region, there were some local authorities where the proportion of young people in this category was high and some where it was below average.

19. Factors identified in individual Children's Services ratings which are effective in reducing the percentage of young people in this category include:

 

n effective partnership working with a range of post-16 providers and with employers

n early intervention

n successful targeted approaches.

 

20. Features of some local areas where the performance is good include some of the following:

 

n good educational attainment at age 16

n good sixth forms and/or colleges of further education

n a strong local economy

n relatively low proportions of young people with disabilities who were not in education, employment or training.

 

 

The 14-19 reforms

 

21. Ofsted published a survey report in August 2009 which indicated that in 19 out of the 23 local authority areas visited, the proportion of 14-19-year-olds who were not in education, employment or training had reduced in the last year, or over a longer period, although in a small number the rate was still relatively high. [4] Retaining potentially disaffected 14-16-year-olds in education and increasing progression to education and training beyond 16 was achieved most effectively by the flexible application of a variety of strategies. Typically, this involved effective partnership between a range of providers and agencies, including employers and voluntary, community organisations. Many of the consortia visited had a strong track record for collaborative work at 14-19.

 

Structural barriers to tackling the NEET problem

 

22. In the 12 local authorities visited for the 2009 good practice survey, barriers were identified which were not related to the characteristics of young people at risk or the work of individual providers. These included:

 

n poorly established links between the work of local authorities and Jobcentre Plus (JCP)

 

n differing eligibility requirements between funding bodies such as LSC and JCP which complicated the delivery of provision on the ground

 

n separate monitoring arrangements and targets attached to individual funding streams resulting in duplication of effort

 

n funding constraints restricting opportunities for providers to pool resources at local levels to meet local needs in new and innovative ways.

 

 

5 The likely impact of raising the participation age on strategies for addressing the needs of young people not in education, employment or training

 

23. In her Annual Report for 2008/09, the Chief Inspector recognises that "providers will have to be innovative in developing their provision to meet new priorities and manage future uncertainties around resourcing effectively". [5] In order to achieve the objective of full participation in education or training for all young people aged 16-18, there are a number of major challenges for the education and training system. These are set out below, but the list is not exhaustive and others may emerge.

 

n The changes in responsibility for the funding and commissioning of provision for learners to age 18 from April 2010 challenges local authorities to bring greater coherence to the pattern of provision in local areas.

 

n Local authorities will need to be fully conversant with the range and quality of providers working in their local area - not just colleges and school sixth forms, but also private training providers, voluntary and community organisations.

 

n Partnership arrangements, within and between local areas, which Ofsted evidence identifies as crucial in reducing the proportion of those who are not in education or employment, will need to be highly effective. This will include developing a learning programme that is responsive and supports progression together with effective arrangements for information, advice, guidance and support.

 

n The overall system, including funding streams and targets to support strategies and initiatives aimed at reducing the number of young people in this category should be clear, consistent and sufficiently flexible to meet local circumstances.

 

6 The opportunities and future prospects in education, training and employment for 16-18 year olds

 

24. In her Annual Report for 2008/09, the Chief Inspector provides the following overview: "Undoubtedly there are tensions in the skills sector. The sector is complex and funding streams are changing; colleges are increasingly required to fulfil the roles of national experts, local community resource, collaborators with local partners, and competitors for resources. Nevertheless, the sector has a good track record of responding to changing needs, circumstances, funding and partnership arrangements. There has never been a better time to capitalise on the new and varied learning routes and the need of the population to learn. The best leaders are holding their strategic course through the current uncertainty, focusing on the needs of learners and making the most of their strengths, including strong links with employers. They are also clear about how to deploy their resources to have the greatest impact."

25. Summaries of inspection evidence on three programmes of particular relevance to this Select Committee Inquiry are set out below.

 

Diplomas

 

26. Ofsted's small scale survey report, published in August 2009, included an evaluation of the introduction of Diplomas. [6] It indicated that Diploma students actively engaged in, and took responsibility for, their learning; students were well motivated and worked well with students from different institutions. Students' behaviour and attendance were good and the standard of work in the principal learning within Diplomas was at least satisfactory.

 

27. However, quality assurance was not sufficiently comprehensive in two thirds of the consortia and consortia were slow to start formal assessment. Students lacked awareness of the links between the different elements of the Diploma. Functional skills teaching was not well coordinated and was inconsistent and additional and specialist learning was underdeveloped. Recruitment to the Diploma was low especially for Advanced and Foundation levels; many students made traditional gender based choices.

 

Apprenticeships

 

28. The most recently-available data for the numbers participating in apprenticeship programmes show an increase between 2006/07 and 2007/08, particularly among adults aged between 19 and 24. The average completion of full apprenticeships has risen from 45% in 2005/06 to 64% in 2007/08 and is set to rise further for 2008/09. Although improving, over a third of all apprentices fail to achieve the full apprenticeship framework and there are considerable variations between subject areas. Specialist providers, offering work-based learning provision in one or two sector areas, have been consistently high performing, but too much work-based learning provision is no better than satisfactory.

 

Entry to Employment[7]

 

29. The number of learners progressing to further training and employment varies between providers. It was poor in one third of providers inspected in 2008/09. Overall, there has been an increase in the achievement of units in a range of qualifications at different levels. The use of mentoring, work tasters and placement has improved.

 

30. Weaknesses include lesson planning which does not match learners' needs; poor programme planning and progress reviews and poor support for literacy and numeracy in too many providers.

 

December 2009



[1] This survey took place between May and October 2009 and the findings will be published in February 2010.

[2] Good practice in re-engaging disaffected and reluctant students in secondary schools, (070255), Ofsted, 2008.

[3] Implementation of the 14-19 reforms, including the introduction of diplomas,(080267), Ofsted 2009.

[4] Implementation of 14-19 reforms including the introduction of Diplomas (080267), Ofsted, 2009.

[5] The Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills 2008/09, Ofsted 2009.

[6] Implementation of 14-19 reforms, including the introduction of Diplomas (080267), Ofsted, 2009.

[7] Entry to Employment programmes aim to help young people take the initial steps from inactivity towards further training, apprenticeships, further education or employment.