Memorandum submitted by Leicester College

 

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

Leicester College provides for around 1,120 young people each year who are, or are at risk of becoming, NEET

It has developed a model for supporting young people pre and post 16 who might fall into the NEET category. This involves two strands:

o Pre-16 school collaborative programmes

o Launch Pad which provides a choice of pathways for young people to enter skilled employment or full-time education

Programmes are designed around the individual

Working with Connexions and other agencies, the College cross-refers young people to the most suitable provision in the City, operating a no closed door approach

NEETs are the most expensive group of individuals to attract, retain and take to success

The College anticipates demand for College-based provision to increase; such may be hard to sustain in the face of funding cuts

There is a concern that a gap in work-related training may open up with the loss of E2E, although other routes such as European Social Funded programmes may help

Apprenticeships offer one route for young people and the Government's support is very welcome. There is however a need for a range of alternative alternatives to ensure individuals' needs are met.

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

1. This paper provides evidence from Leicester College to the Children, Schools and Families Committee inquiry into young people not in education, employment or training (NEET).

 

BACKGROUND

 

2. Leicester College is one of the largest colleges in the Country. The College serves mainly the City of Leicester and surrounding subregion. In 2008/09, it provided for 26,000 learners, of whom 4,160 were aged 16-18 and 1,000 were aged under 16. Included within these were 1,120 young people who were or were at risk of falling into the NEET category.

 

3. The City of Leicester has a large and growing 14-19 population. It is one of the most deprived Cities in the Country, containing several of the most deprived wards. It has a high population turnover and is a Home Office dispersal site.

 

4. Although Leicester has a high proportion of young people who are NEET, significant success has been achieved in reducing this figure. The number of NEETs within Leicester City continues to show an overall downward trend at 10.0% in August 2009 compared to 11.1% in August 2008; County figures are considerably lower at 5.6%, down from 5.9% in 2008. The local area agreement target is for 7.7% by 2010.

 

5. Close joint working across agencies including Connexions, the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), the Local Authority (LA), schools and colleges underpins the NEET reduction strategy in Leicester, with the twin focus of preventative work to reduce the numbers becoming NEET and rapid response and re-integration for those who become NEET. Throughout, there is a focus on vulnerable groups. This work is co-ordinated through the multi-agency cross authority NEET Action Forum. Leicester College is instrumental in reducing the number of NEETS in Leicester.

 

 

STRATEGIES FOR THE IDENTIFICATION OF YOUNG PEOPLE AT RISK OF FALLING INTO THE "NEET" CATEGORY

 

6. The College employs a range of strategies to identify young people who are at risk of becoming NEET.

 

7. Central to the College's approach has been the creation of a New Opportunities Unit which is tasked with supporting and engaging young people with previously poor experiences of education. This unit supports learners from the age of 14, some of whom attend College on day release from school, and some of whom are engaged in programme, Launch Pad, designed specifically to improve their confidence and social as well as vocational skills.

 

8. The College receives direct referrals from schools through the Increased Flexibility programme where schools identify young people before the age of 16 who are at risk of becoming NEET and who they think would benefit from a College experience. The collaborative and constructive nature of the College's work with schools means that this is now a well understood route for many young people and there is a regular flow of referrals. The College supports over 1,000 young people a year through this route.

 

9. It also maintains close contact with Connexions, working with Personal Advisers to support young people who are identified as or are at risk of becoming NEET. Connexions refer young people to the College and supply the College with a profile for each young person. This includes details of their previous attainment, behavioural issues and support needs so that the College is able to direct them to the most suitable programme and provide the appropriate support.

 

10. In addition, the College's New Opportunities Unit links into the College's own disciplinary panels. Where a learner is at risk of being excluded from College as a result of poor behaviour, the New Opportunities Unit makes contact with Connexions. A Connexions Personal Adviser is brought in to work with the young person to identify alternative options across the City that might be more suitable and might help them overcome their behavioural barriers to education and enable them to come back to College. While the College does not operate a 'no exclusions' policy, it does endeavour, working with other agencies, to ensure a 'no closed door' policy for young people, providing them with alternative routes and support.

 

 

SERVICES AND PROGRAMMES TO SUPPORT THOSE MOST AT RISK OF BECOMING "NEET", AND TO REDUCE THE NUMBERS AND ADDRESS THE NEEDS OF THOSE WHO HAVE BECOME PERSISTENTLY "NEET"

 

11. Leicester College has developed a model which involves two primary strands.

 

Pre-16 School Collaborative Programmes

 

12. This involves a range of programmes delivered by the College that extend or enhance the home school's offer to include curricula which schools cannot provide. This includes:

 

The Increased Flexibility (IF) two-year Level 2 course in a choice of curriculum areas

Young Apprenticeships (YA) two-year courses in retail and construction offered in collaboration with a school and an employer

Pre-16 Diplomas

Future Pathways (FP) offer taster sessions to year 10 and 11 students in nine-week blocks

Schools Links working as lead for year 10s to undertake a qualification in year 11.

 

13. In 2008/09, the College provided for over 1,000 learners on these programmes.

 

14. Success rates for 14-16 learners on the Level 2 courses are at 85%.

 

Launch Pad

 

15. Leicester College has also created a programme called Launch Pad which is designed specifically to re-engage young people at risk of becoming, or who are NEET and which provides a choice of pathways for young people to enter skilled employment or full-time education. Launch Pad offers flexibility in meeting the needs of individual learners and the programmes allow young people to join at various points during the year.

 

16. All learners undertake learning in three interdependent core areas: functional skills, vocational development and personal and social development. The extent of learning required within each is dictated by the learners' needs and introduced at the appropriate point. Consideration is given to learners' preferred learning styles and interests in order that creative learning solutions can be developed. Learning takes place in a range of settings and styles including classrooms, outdoor activity learning, one to one coaching, group activities, discussions projects, external presentation, work placements and volunteering.

 

17. These young people are supported through two routes, set out in Figure 1:

 

Qualification Pathway: (72 students planned for 2009/10)

Skilled Employment pathway: E2E (50 students planned for 2009/10).

 

18. The Qualification Pathway is designed for young people with a clear vocational goal to access the curriculum at the appropriate level. Learners are entered onto a Foundation Learning Progression Pathway either directly in a curriculum area or discretely with Launch Pad on a National Open College Network (NOCN) qualification. In addition, they are on a carousel of vocational tasters delivered by sector skills specialist staff. Learners engage in the whole carousel giving them the opportunity experience the wider College. Learners receive tailored support to maximise engagement and potential.

 


Figure 1

 

19. Progression to further full-time study or skilled employment among the participants in this programme has been around 97%.

 

20. The Skilled Employment Pathway (E2E) is also based on the needs of each individual. It is recognised that there can be no 'quick-fix' for many of the re-engaged young people. Some individuals need relatively short periods of time to prepare for entry to an Apprenticeship, employment, or further vocational learning opportunities; others, with more complex personal and social needs, require much longer periods before they are ready to enter and sustain training and employment. Young people can join programmes at any point during the year and are offered 'Getting Connected', a curriculum framework designed to help young adults on the margins of education and employment to reconnect with learning and to foster their self development and self-esteem. E2E will be replaced in 2010 by the Progression Pathway into Skilled Work as part of the Foundation Learning Tier.

 

21. The College is also developing its offer under the Work-Focused Training strand of the Young Person's Guarantee using a model similar to Launch Pad

 

Other Activity

 

22. The College's work complements a range of other activities to support young people and reduce the number of NEETs in Leicester.

 

23. The area prospectus (Coursefinder) and the common application process (Le Cap) operate across city and county; this has been held up as good practice by the Department for Children Schools and Families (DCSF) and was the focus of a DCSF 14-19 learning visit.

 

24. The September Guarantee aims to ensure that all 16 and 17 year olds are made an appropriate offer of a place in learning. In Leicester, 95.4% of all Year 11s and 84.8% of all 17 year olds were made an offer. Overall, Leicester and Leicestershire have the highest offer rates in the region. Part of the success of implementing the guarantee was achieved through the 'Big Match', aimed at getting all providers and all potential learners together, in one place on one day, supported by appropriate information, advice and guidance (IAG) to match learners to opportunities. The Big Match had 290 attendees and resulted in 83.1% taking up a place in learning.

 

25. Work Highcross, the training and employment initiative for the Highcross shopping development in Leicester delivered 2,075 new retail and hospitality jobs to December 2008. Of these new employees, 141 were aged 16-19 and were previously NEET. The model is now being developed with other sectors including business/contact centres, construction, food and drink manufacturing, hospitality and the public sector.

 

 

THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE GOVERNMENT'S NEET STRATEGY

 

26. The College fully supports the Government view that no single agency holds all the answers. The diversity of young people's needs means that the solution must be equally diverse and cannot be delivered by individual agencies or providers alone. While local authorities need an oversight of how young people are being supported, one of the fundamental issues about NEETs is that their experience of school has not been successful or positive. The success of any strategy will rely on offering an entitlement to new and different choices for young people with identifiable and purposeful progression routes. FE colleges and their local partners are ideally placed to do this; under the machinery of government changes, there is a concern that, in some areas, that the extent of FE colleges' contribution to reducing NEETs may be overlooked or not well understood.

 

27. The College's own work reflects the four strands of the NEET strategy. However, there remain issues about the timely transfer of data between organisations and agencies, which would enable better tracking of young people at risk of becoming NEET.

 

28. The College's view is that for a national strategy to be most effective, it needs to be devolved to local 14-19 partnerships; these partnerships are best placed to identify and support the most appropriate solution for the locality and can bring together key local players to make it happen. For example, in working with young people the College may identify individuals on the autistic spectrum, have dyslexia or other learning difficulties and/or disabilities that have not previously been identified in school. In addition, many learners may have complex behavioural or social issues that mean they take longer to acclimatise to a learning environment. Deciding how best to meet the specific needs of individuals is best done locally, in order to draw on the strengths and expertise of local providers and match provision to individuals' requirements.

 

 

THE LIKELY IMPACT OF RAISING THE PARTICIPATION AGE ON STRATEGIES FOR ADDRESSING THE NEEDS OF YOUNG PEOPLE NOT IN EDUCATION, EMPLOYMENT OR TRAINING

 

29. In Leicester and Leicestershire, it is anticipated that an additional 5,000 young people will be in need of education or training following the raising of the participation age from 2012. A significant proportion of these may well be individuals who would not previously have wanted to remain in education or training; many may well have become NEETs.

 

30. While Leicester is currently well-served for 16-18 provision, there is the potential for a gap to develop in work-related training particularly when E2E ends. Although Diplomas offer one route, they have not so far been particularly popular and for some learners and indeed for young people who have rejected schools, they are unlikely to be a successful route. Apprenticeships offer a suitable alternative for some young people; more detail is given in paragraphs 33-34.

 

31. Leicester College currently experiences a high demand for its 14-16 provision in College and this is expected to increase up to and beyond 2015 as the participation age rises. The College anticipates that more schools will want to refer young people to College for vocational skills training. There may also be more demand for collaborative activity that bridges school, college and the workplace such as the Braunstone Skills Centre. This separate vocational centre focussing on motor vehicle and construction is financed by the local authority and run by Education in Partnership (EIP). Leicester College is the centre's main user, delivering ten sessions 30 hours per week, primarily to 14-16 year olds.

 

32. However, NEETs are the most expensive group of individuals to attract, retain and take to success. Such provision requires additional and higher levels of specialist staff, small class sizes to ensure learners have the support and attention they need to progress and different kinds of physical resource such as additional social space for pre-16 learners. Leicester College is currently looking to make this activity more cost effective as it sees it as a core part of its mission to support learners in a City with high levels of deprivation. However, in the current funding climate, other colleges may struggle to continue their pre-16 offer on the grounds of cost.

 

THE OPPORTUNITIES AND FUTURE PROSPECTS IN EDUCATION, TRAINING AND EMPLOYMENT FOR 16-18 YEAR OLDS

 

33. The College welcomes the Government's support for Apprenticeships. In addition to delivering a range of Apprenticeships, the College is also developing an Apprentice Training Agency targeted at the public sector. The College's role will essentially be an employment agency for young people, matching employers to prospective employees. It will also be responsible for identifying alternative employers if an Apprentice is made redundant, or finding another Apprentice for an employer if the need arises.

 

34. Nevertheless, there remain issues: the current economic climate makes the prospect of recruiting Apprentices difficult for many, particularly small, employers at a time when they may have to make other staff redundant. The College has already seen some of its Apprentices unable to complete their courses because they no longer have jobs. Although the College's development of an ATA should go a long way to making the process of recruiting Apprentices easier and transfer the risk from employers to the College, there are concerns about the general willingness of companies to take on Apprentices.

 

35. The College also has some concerns about the ending of E2E which provides an effective route for many young people. Although Foundation Learning will replace E2E, such programmes will not include the work placement and preparation for work element that has contributed to its success. It could be argued that when E2E goes, each provider will need to create appropriate alternative offers and that this ought to include work experience, but this is not mandatory. Functional Skills will also take longer to complete and there is a danger that these programmes will not fully meet the individual needs of some of the hardest to engage. While other funding streams such Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or European Social Fund (ESF) funded programmes may be able to support specific groups, there are issues about sustainability, the integration of employment and skills programmes, and how partner institutions and agencies work collaboratively to ensure that they are not competing for the same beneficiaries while others remain unsupported.

 

36. Although the development of University Technical Colleges (UTCs) may offer another route for some young people, they are unlikely to make a significant impact on NEETs purely because the UTC model is essentially a school-based one; the very environment that young people at risk of becoming NEET find least attractive.

 

 

CONCLUSION

 

37. Leicester College's model for supporting young people who might fall into the NEET category is proving effective in engaging and encouraging progression into further learning or skilled employment. Its success is due both to the multi-agency working which the College promotes and the supportive local structures in place, but also to the highly personalised approach which places the individual's needs, preferences and aptitudes at the heart of the programme. The diversity of the individuals and their attitudes and experiences means that no one single model could be imposed on this or any local area. Having a clear view of how young people can be supported and encouraged to reach their potential and how providers and agencies need to work imaginatively and collaboratively to make that possible will be key to reducing the number of NEETs.

 

December 2009