Memorandum submitted by Skill-National Bureau for Students with Disabilities

The written evidence below has been submitted by the Policy team at Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities.

 

About Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities

1. Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities promotes opportunities to empower young people and adults with any kind of disability to realise their potential in further, continuing and higher education, training, volunteering and employment throughout the United Kingdom. Skill works by providing information and advice to individuals, promoting good practice and influencing policy in partnership with disabled people, service providers and policy makers.

Summary

Skill welcomes the consideration that government has given to the needs of young people who are Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET). Skill has specific concerns around disabled young people who are at risk of becoming NEET or are NEET. Recent statistics from the Department for Children, Schools and Families cite disabled young people as twice as likely to be NEET as their non-disabled peers[1].

2. There are a number of factors that contribute to disabled young people being more at risk of becoming NEET between the ages of 16-18 and 18-25.

These factors include:

Low expectations and aspirations of disabled young people supported by a lack of disabled role models in public life

Inconsistent availability of impartial and quality Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) on all learning routes available to disabled young people

Lack of support offered to disabled young people at different transitional points. This lack of support may include:

 

Lack of high quality assessments of learning and support needs of disabled young people

Lack of transport provision available to young people to reach sites of learning

Lack of flexible and personalised learning options

Lack of ongoing personalised support

Multiple barriers faced by disabled young people moving on in post-16 provision

 

Disabled young people often remain in education or training for longer than their non-disabled peers and there is often a lack of support for disabled young people who are within the 19-25 age range and are still participating in education or training.

 

3. Young people who are NEET or at risk of becoming NEET need to be appropriately supported in order to re-engage in post-16 learning and to meet their duties under the Education and Skills Act 2008 from 2013. Measures to support these young people include appropriately identifying young people who are at risk of becoming NEET; assessing their support needs; providing them with relevant Information, Advice and Guidance; offering them a wide range of learning options, resourcing well trained professionals to assess, advise and support them and addressing barriers to their participation in post 16 education, training or employment.

Strategies for the identification of young people at risk of falling into the "NEET" category

4. Disengagement from learning has been identified as a cumulative process that can start in primary school[2]. This young age at which learners can begin to disengage indicates the need for early intervention during the primary school years. This is particularly important given that young people tend to form ideas about their future between the ages of 11 and 14[3].
Strategies for the identification of young people at risk of becoming NEET should include preventative practice that examine which young people are truant or at risk of exclusion as early as primary school.
This would identify those potentially at risk of becoming NEET so that pre emptive support is put in place to help young people feel supported, informed, and engaged in their learning.
There are, however, no figures collected on the category of 'prospective NEET' - those young people currently registered at school who are at risk of becoming disengaged[4]. Workshops arranged by Rathbone with young people who are NEET highlighted the fact that by the time some young people enter the 'NEET' classification they may have been disengaged for many years. Skill supports the recommendations of the 'Engaging Youth Inquiry'[5] and believes that there should be support for those learners at risk of becoming NEET as early as possible in their learning careers.

5. Similarly collecting and using data from schools on the number of young people who are on School Action, School Action Plus and have a statement of Special Educational Need (SEN) would help to pre-empt the cohort of learners that may require support when they are moving into post-16 provision. This process would inform the role of Connexions services in identifying young people who are NEET or at risk of becoming NEET and should inform commissioning by local authorities to meet the duty to ensure appropriate provision to disabled learners age 18-25. This activity depends on exchange of data between local authority departments and Connexions and on local authority NEET strategies being robustly sustained and monitored.

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"

6. Young people who are at risk of becoming NEET or are persistently NEET, are more likely to face multiple risks and barriers to participating in education, training and employment. Skill believes the following services, policies and programmes need to be competently implemented in order to support those most at risk of becoming NEET and in reducing the number of young people who have become persistently NEET:

 

7. Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) Services

Research highlights the importance of providing disabled young people with relevant and accessible IAG to enable their progression in post-16 learning[6]. The delivery of impartial and relevant IAG to disabled young people is particularly important during transitional periods, such as between primary and secondary school, and between compulsory and post-compulsory education[7]. It is during transitional stages of education and life that many young people become disengaged from learning, and the delivery of relevant IAG plays a key factor in keeping young people engaged in post-16 learning; and also in re-engaging those young people that are NEET.

Research undertaken by Barnardo's argues that a primary means of helping young people to re-engage with learning when they are ready is by providing young people with appropriate IAG when they ask for it[8]. For the NEET population, IAG has to be relevant to their needs and aspirations which may include promoting young people to informal learning opportunities to develop new skills and build confidence; and access to targeted support for young people who face specific barriers[9].

8. Support services

Even though a young person may be disengaged from the education system, this does not mean that they are not keen to learn[10]. Teaching and learning takes place outside of formalised learning environments such as schools and colleges as well as within them, and support staff, IAG deliverers and youth workers playing a significant role in supporting young people in engaging in learning.

In England, Connexions advisers engage with the wide-range of learning and personal needs experienced by young people NEET. The Education and Skills Act 2008 introduced a new duty on Connexions services to ensure that those in the NEET group are identified and prompt support offered.

As well as providing practical, social and emotional support, support services should use a range of approaches to encourage young people back into education, training or employment. Skill supports good practice such as Barnardo's projects that work to re-engage and support young people who are NEET. Key elements of this practice involve offering practical support and advice, working towards level 1 qualifications and other awards, learning in small groups, signposting to further education, training and guidance, confidence-building and 'soft skills' development.

It is extremely important that disabled young people who are NEET have access to specialist support and a trusted adult (i.e. youth worker/connexions worker) as a regular and consistent support to broker appropriate training, provide transitional support and provide support for parents[11].

9. Assessment of learning and support needs
Assessing the learning needs of disabled young people who are NEET forms part of the wider process of re-engaging them in post-16 education and training.

Without a supported and robust assessment of support need, the young person may end up in inappropriate and unsupported provision or may risk becoming NEET. Section 139A assessments are intended to be holistic, addressing a range of individual needs from learning support to transport provision.

Skill welcomes the newly published statutory guidance on S.139A assessments, however, Skill remain concerned that many Connexions Personal Advisers (PAs) have general knowledge/training as opposed to specialist training which limits the number of PAs who are suitably equipped to undertake assessments for disabled learners; therefore there is a need to train more PAs in the assessment process.

10. Provision of transport

It is important that transport needs of disabled young people are considered as part of the support in place to facilitate their learning outcomes. It is important that disabled young people are able to able to access education and training courses and that local authorities are able and willing to support their learning and transport needs. With the Raising of the Participation Age (RPA), it will be the responsibility of local authorities and providers to enable the participation of all young people in education or training up to the age of 18. This means that they will have to consider the transport needs of young people in their area in terms of supporting and enabling their participation in education or training.

11. Access to flexible and personalised learning

Improving flexibility in post-16 provision to encourage previously disengaged young people to re-engage is important. Flexible provision can include part-time, evening and weekend courses, and allowing young people to start courses, take some time out and rejoin the course when they are ready, without losing course credits[12].

Barnardo's findings and Skill's experience of enquiries through its helpline support the policy recommendation of ensuring flexible learning opportunities for disabled young people. Securing enough suitable training to meet the needs of disabled young people in their areas becomes the responsibilities of local authorities from 2010. This should include a wider range of appropriate provision available with flexible and multiple start dates for programmes instead of 'September only' starts.

Learning options for all young people should be varied and flexible. They should include access to General Qualifications, Apprenticeships and Work-Based Learning (WBL), Foundation Learning (FL), the Diploma and access to informal learning opportunities and volunteering opportunities.

Foundation Learning (FL) is being developed to be the national suite of learning for those over the age of 14 working predominantly at entry level or level 1. FL is characterized by credit-based qualifications at entry level and level 1 in the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF).FL provision will also be aimed at reducing young people who are NEET. FL is an important type of provision for disabled young people who are NEET as FL can be flexible in duration, something which again is critical to this cohort of young people.

Many disabled young people who are NEET may have disengaged from mainstream educational provision and may be more interested and motivated by work based learning opportunities. Vocational training providers offer a

range of qualifications which focus on occupational skills. Skill has been heavily involved in discussions with the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) around making entry to apprenticeships more accessible for disabled young people and so to broaden their learning opportunities. It will be important to ensure that the efforts to increase the flexibilities for entry to and study on apprenticeships for disabled young people as proposed by Government are acted on, as this could potentially help to reduce the number of disabled young people who are NEET.

 

 

12. Volunteering

Taking part in voluntary work can be a positive support to young peoples' aspirations and to re-engaging them in learning[13]. Skill runs a programme that aims to engage disabled young people who are or at risk of becoming NEET. The programme partners with local organisations working with disabled young people to support them to get them empowered and involved in volunteering in their communities.

The effectiveness of the Government's NEET strategy

13. Skill welcomes Government's strategy around careful tracking young people through the Client Caseload Information Systems (CCIS). This will help local authorities and their Connexions services to identify which young people are most at risk of disengaging, their history characteristics and will enable them to support young people individually. Skill would like to see improved practices of public reporting of statistics on young people who are NEET and at risk of becoming NEET, so that local authorities could be better held to public account in terms of their duties and responsibilities toward this cohort of learners.

14. Disabled young people often remain in education or training for longer than their non-disabled peers and there is often a lack of support for disabled young people who are within the 19-25 age range and are still participating in education or training or are NEET. Alarmingly, disabled young people are three times more likely to be NEET after the age of 19[14]. The DCSF do not collect figures on young people who are NEET past the age of 19. As a report published by the National Audit Office (NAO) succinctly notes,

"There is a risk, therefore that Connexions is losing sight of its 19-25 client group, even if these clients have not made the transition to alternative support. As of December 2008, Connexions did not know the training, employment or education status of 31 per cent of its clients aged 16-24 with a learning difficulty or disability."[15]

From 2010, local authorities will have responsibility for disabled young people up to the age of 25 and ensuring that their education needs are met will form part of their duty. It is important to ensure that all young people are supported in successfully transitioning on into post-16 education, training or employment up to the age of 18 and up to the age of 25 for disabled young people. As raised in paragraph 5, there is a need to improve local authorities' processes of collecting and analysing data on School Action, School Action Plus and statemented young people more effectively.

15. Currently, the opportunities for the recognition of alternative learning experiences which take place outside school and/or college environments are rare. This can be in part attributed to the current focus within the education system on gaining accredited qualifications[16]. The importance of providing learning opportunities beyond formal schooling has been well documented. It is recognized that the existing curriculum may not respond to all learners' needs, and alternative curriculum models, such as learning models that allow young people to learn on the job, are seen as positive in re-engaging young people who are disaffected and excluded from school. An emphasis on life skills or 'soft' skills is an important element of this provision because these they are essential for helping young people to enter employment and become independent in life[17]. Skill's consultation with practitioners who work with disabled young people who are NEET supports the view that there is a lack of alternative and informal provision for young people who are NEET or at risk of becoming NEET. Practitioners have commented that they feel there are only short-term programmes for young people who are NEET and alternative programmes (provision which is not necessarily classroom based) need to be established and funded to reengage these young people in sustainable meaningful learning. Care will need to be taken when Entry to Employment (e2e) is subsumed into Foundation Learning (FL) in 2010 because this programme has consistently attracted many disabled learners (around 30% of starts). It will be important that the creative and flexible use of e2e is promoted within FL.

16. Third sector providers have specialist knowledge and expertise in re-engaging young people who are at risk of becoming NEET and have disabilities. It is important that the Third Sector's involvement in re-engaging young people who are NEET or at risk of becoming NEET is supported by government. Practitioners Skill has consulted with have highlighted the need for Government to consider that providing specialist support to a young person who is NEET is equivalent to the unit cost of a young person attending an education course. Government funding is needed to support third sector organisations who are working with young people who are NEET to ensure that the work of such organisations is sustained and the learning outcomes for this cohort of learners are met.

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

17. The Raising of the Participation Age (RPA) presents young people, local authorities, Connexions staff and education and employer providers with new statutory responsibilities. Ways of engaging disabled young people who are at risk of becoming NEET or are already NEET need to be prioritised by local authorities, public bodies and education and employment providers. Skill welcomes the RPA and the emphasis on 14-19 rather than 16-19 provision. Skill sees the raising of the participation age as a good opportunity for improving the quality and range of the curriculum offer and provision available to disabled learners. It is important that a wide range of learning opportunities are available that will engage this group of young people including those with disabilities.

18. The RPA raises questions around how to better engage young people who are still NEET or at risk of becoming NEET and enforcement implications for young people who fail to comply with their statutory duties under the Education and Skills Act 2008 from 2013. Criminalising young people who are NEET or their parents, however, is counterproductive as the cycles of disengagement will continue if the appropriate support and safeguards are not in place to help young people stay on in education until the age of 18.

Conclusion

19. Disabled young people who are NEET or at risk of becoming NEET need to be appropriately supported in order to re-engage in post-16 learning and to meet their duties under the Education and Skills Act 2008 from 2013. Measures to support those disabled young people who are NEET or at risk of becoming NEET include appropriately identifying young people who are at risk of becoming NEET; assessing them for their learning and support needs; providing them with relevant Information, Advice and Guidance; offering them a wide range of learning options, resourcing well trained professionals to assess, advise and support them and addressing barriers to their participation in post 16 education, training or employment.

December 2009

 



[1] Reducing the proportion of 16-18 year olds NEET: The Strategy, DCSF, 2007, http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/14-19/documents/neet_strategy_0803.pdf

[2] Engaging all young people in meaningful learning after 16: A review. EHRC, 2009.

[3] Engaging all young people in meaningful learning after 16: A review. EHRC, 2009.

[4] Rathbone/Nuffield Review Engaging Youth Enquiry. Hayward, G et al. 2009

[5] Rathbone/Nuffield Review Engaging Youth Enquiry. Hayward, G et al. 2009

[6] Engaging all young people in meaningful learning after 16: A review. EHRC, 2009.

[7] Rathbone/Nuffield Review Engaging Youth Enquiry. Hayward, G et al. 2009

[8] Second Chances, Barnardo's, 2009. http://www.barnardos.org.uk/10942_2nd_chances_report.pdf

 

[9] Second Chances, Barnardo's, 2009. http://www.barnardos.org.uk/10942_2nd_chances_report.pdf

[10] Rathbone/Nuffield Review Engaging Youth Enquiry. Hayward, G et al. 2009

[11] [11] Rathbone/Nuffield Review Engaging Youth Enquiry. Hayward, G et al. 2009

[12] Engaging all young people in meaningful learning after 16: A review. EHRC, 2009.

[13] Second Chances, Barnardo's, 2009. http://www.barnardos.org.uk/10942_2nd_chances_report.pdf

[14] Rathbone/Nuffield, Review Engaging Youth Enquiry, 2008 http://www.nuffield14-19review.org.uk/files/documents196-1.pdf

[15] Pg. 18, Supporting people with autism through adulthood. National Audit Office, June 2009.

[16] Rathbone/Nuffield, Review Engaging Youth Enquiry, 2008 http://www.nuffield14-19review.org.uk/files/documents196-1.pdf

[17] Engaging all young people in meaningful learning after 16: A review. EHRC, 2009.