Memorandum submitted by City and Guilds for Skills and Development

 

 

This submission is made by the City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development (CSD), an independent research and development body that aims to improve the policy and practice of work related education and training internationally. Its services are aimed at policy makers, researchers, practitioners and employers. CSD commissions, manages and publishes research, gathers and disseminates good practice, and funds and delivers projects and consultancy with a skills development focus.

Based on the evidence we have gathered, we would like to outline the following recommendations for policy and practice. A detailed discussion of evidence begins in Section 2.

1. SUMMARY OF KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

There should be a shift in policy focus from the 16-19 age group to younger children to better understand and target the early indicators and causes of becoming 'NEET'.

Policy should focus on longer term development and sustainable planning.

There needs to be a cultural shift amongst all service providers so that structures, processes and activities operate together to enable young people to realise their full potential.

The identification of young people 'NEET' should take into account regional, local and social variations in the formulation of policy responses.

Local data and knowledge should be developed to target action and to monitor progress.

The impact of the recession on vulnerable groups of young people with lower levels of qualifications should be recognised.

Programme design should be flexible, with progression and transition to other learning and/or employment stated as a specific programme outcome.

Service delivery should be created from the perspective of young people, including the most marginalised.

Employers should be engaged in programme design.

Vocational learning routes should be offered as a valued option with links to employment.

Co-ordinated multi-agency approaches should be adopted.

Strong partnerships should be developed with organisations working with young people on the front line including those offering a range of advice and counselling services.

Young people at risk of 'NEET' and those persistently 'NEET' should have access to a Personal Tutor and impartial careers-related information, advice and guidance.

Initiatives should make use of 'non-professional resources' including young people themselves.

Provision should recognise the importance of motivating young people to ensure sustained engagement, by, for example, providing relevant learning opportunities and environments where they are treated like adults

 

 

 

 

DETAILED RESPONSE

The term 'NEET' - not in education, employment and training can be problematic as it can stigmatise young people by association with failure and categorisation as a homogenous group[1]. CSD's response is framed within a positive view of young people that offers solutions to supporting them into sustainable learning and employment pathways.

2. Strategies for the identification of young people at risk of falling into the 'NEET' category

2.1 Recognising regional, local and social variations. There is growing awareness of the regional variations in the numbers of young people 'NEET'. Former industrial regions in the north and west Midlands, for example, have the highest 'NEET' rates due to long-term economic change and structural unemployment[2]. These variations are further complicated by stark differences within regions - local variations - due to other social factors like ethnic background and financial situation[3].

 

The identification of young people at risk should take into account regional and local variations to ensure the targeting of policy responses. Evidence from the Rathbone/Nuffield review[4] shows a growing awareness by policymakers of 'NEET' hotspots across the UK and how early identification of these regions has resulted in targeted policy and the reduction of young people 'NEET'.

 

In addition, recent research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission[5] demonstrates the challenges in understanding the complex social factors affecting individuals and localities. However, the research shows that increased knowledge of social factors - referred to as situational barriers, for example, family and social circumstances - and the interplay with geographical and structural factors is key to identifying those young people at risk.

 

2.2 Supporting schools and school staff. Evidence notes the challenges involved for school and school staff in identifying young people NEET due the complex patterns, causes and extent of disengagement[6]. One challenge particularly identified is the gap between the wealth of data collected and its practical use. The DCSF should support schools in using national and local data to inform practice and train staff. Also, the transition from primary to secondary school should be given particular focus as this period has been identified as problematic for many learners[7]. Schools should be supported in drawing on additional resources such as Personal Tutors (see para 3.2), and other external agencies involved with learners and their families.

 

2.3 Early identification of young people at risk. A recent Demos[8] report argues for a shift in policy focus from the 16-19 age group to younger children to better understand and target the early indicators and causes of becoming 'NEET'. The report notes that although a focus by Government and policymakers on disengagement post-16 has met with some success, this has been limited due to a failure to recognise disengagement at this age as the tip of the iceberg. Rather, disengagement can be evidenced much earlier in a child's school career as a result of factors like negative educational experiences - due, in part to 'deeper structural problems' in the education system - and social deprivation[9].

 

Demos's research identified several key areas where policy can target to ensure that young people are supported before the more evident signs of disengagement post-16:

The core academic skills: literacy, numeracy and speaking and communication. Research shows that an intensive focus on these skills in the younger years can be very effective in preventing learners from falling behind[10].

Social and emotional competencies. Research shows that competencies like empathy, motivation, self-understanding and managing feelings are as important as academic achievement in explaining success particularly in young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Interventions will include supporting parents in good parenting schools and helping schools to nurture a strong ethos.

Building aspirations. Evidence suggests that low aspirations are linked with poorer educational outcomes and that positive role models are important in making children aware of their options and building aspirations.

Supporting parents. Poor parenting and chaotic home environment can have a negative impact on a child's social, academic and behavioural outcomes. Evidenced based programmes to improve parenting skills such as the Nurse-Family Partnership[11] have been shown to improve child outcomes.

Improving the educational offer. Young people's failure to engage with the system should be seen as a failure in the education offer rather than of individual learners. More needs to be done to provide a broader offer, including work-based learning routes, to ensure that young people remain challenged and engaged.

 

2.4 Taking account of the recession. Evidence shows a concern amongst stakeholders in contact with young people from vulnerable groups - learners with learning difficulties and or disabilities, teenage mothers and those leaving care - that they are finding it increasingly difficult to compete for work and training places alongside other young people already 'NEET' who are likely to have higher skills levels and qualifications[12].

 

Similarly, research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development shows those with lower levels of qualifications[13] as the most disadvantaged in accessing employment and training. This is exacerbated during periods of economic downturn leaving young people identified as vulnerable more at risk due to their increased likelihood of possessing lower levels of qualifications.

 

 

3. 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'

3.1 Partnership working. Identifying young people adversely at risk during the economic downturn needs to go beyond conventional tracking and careers advice[14]. Although tracking young people through transition stages may provide data on destinations, such mechanisms are not always adequate, with many young people falling outside of the system. Equally, although a focus on obtaining skills and employment is important it may not, initially, meet young people's immediate needs.

 

Building strong partnerships with organisations working with young people on the front line would support the identification of those who have fallen out of the system and provide the support they need in the short term to get back on track. Organisations, like Fairbridge, Brathay and the YWCA[15] provide advice and counselling services on issues ranging from housing, sexual health/pregnancies, benefits, mental health and finances with evidence showing an increase in demand for these services during recession[16]. The Government should ensure that these service providers are a central part of 'NEET' strategy both in terms of identification and providing essential support and guidance for young people.

 

3.2. Information Advice and Guidance. A well resourced all age careers-related Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) service is vital in supporting learners faced with a myriad of choices and possibilities[17]. Provision should be designed to cater for all young people including those identified as disadvantaged or at risk of disengagement. Provision should promote a holistic approach of careers-related IAG advice working alongside providers of other forms of youth advice and counselling services. Services should be developed within a policy framework of partnership and collaboration across sectors to ensure that professional expertise is maintained whilst seeking to support young people.

 

The transfer of responsibility for the provision of IAG services to local authorities (LAs) since April 2008, provides opportunity to consider how improvements can be made in provision to support all young people and in particular those at risk of becoming 'NEET' or who remain persistently 'NEET'. This opportunity needs to be maximised as concerns have already been expressed over the erosion of provision as LAs contract out services to diverse providers[18].

 

Evidence indicates that the following areas are key in developing IAG in the context of 'NEET' prevention.

 

Access to a Personal tutor in addition to external impartial careers advice. Evidence suggests that access to a Personal Tutor, to work closely with young people 'NEET', to understand their needs, to get to know them as a person and to provide support such as signposting to relevant support services may be of benefit to young people identified as at risk of 'NEET'. Watts (2009) argues that, to some extent, this type of support has been provided for disadvantaged young people by Personal Advisers in the current Connexions service[19]. We welcome the new Pupil Guarantee of personalised support from a Personal Tutor[20].

 

International evidence[21] shows that the strongest model is one that provides internal and external support to learners - that is, personal support from the school/college through a Personal Tutor relationship and external support through an expert and impartial career service. International evidence shows that where this partnership is out of balance or non-existent, students suffer either through having weak links with the school/college and the curriculum or weak links with the needs of the labour market[22].

 

The issue of one-to-one support also applies to those identified as persistently 'NEET' who do not have access to school facilities. A policy commitment is required to provide these young people with one-to-one support to develop individual plans with clear and attainable targets[23]. Young people may be in and out of 'NEET' for several years after the end of compulsory schooling. Policy decisions need to be made about the age at which young people can still qualify for intense support, with the realisation that this may include those up to the age of 25.

 

3.3. Programme design. Research on UK youth labour market interventions between 1972 and 1997[24], identifies two elements as being important in successfully maintaining the engagement of learners: flexible programmes, and programmes designed to address the importance of individual transition. Evidences shows that young people (16-17) are more likely to remain engaged if programmes have: flexible enrolment dates, offer a range of learning programmes and learning environments - helping learners to overcome geographical barriers by courses being provided in non-traditional learning locations - and respond to local learning needs. Research also found that where programmes stated progression as an outcome, active steps to support learners with transition were more likely to be taken and that participants were more likely to find training and employment opportunities. This was achieved, in part, through good IAG provision. Learners were more likely to feel that their expectations were being met and therefore remaining engaged.

 

3.4. Vocational learning routes. Research by the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission[25] shows that many young people view vocational education as a way of making learning more meaningful. The research cites the importance of widening the range of vocational options, making this information readily available to learners and ensuring that vocational courses are clearly linked to employment outcomes.

 

The research also found that young people felt vocational routes were communicated by colleges and schools as second class compared to academic options, were viewed as the choice of the 'less bright' learner, and were less clearly marked out compared to academic pathways.

 

Those young people, including those 'NEET', who felt that they did not benefit from structured classroom learning environments also cited the importance of having access to vocational, hands-on practical learning and different learning routes from the age of 12. Disengaged young people said that they had become 'disenchanted' and 'struggled' from around the age of 13 and 14 and felt that other learning options would have supported them in remaining engaged and 'value the idea of furthering their knowledge and understanding'[26].

 

 

The effectiveness of the Government's 'NEET' strategy

In general, we welcome the DCSF strategy for reducing the number of young people 'NEET'. We are pleased that DCSF recognises the central importance of ensuring that the educational offer available suits the needs of every young person in every area, and of providing quality information, advice and guidance. We welcome the commitment to improve monitoring of the 'NEET' group and to provide additional EMA support for young people whose skills needs are at the most basic level through the Entry to Employment programme.

 

Where the strategy is incomplete, however, is around the role of employers. Spending time out of education or employment can be looked on with suspicion by potential employers, so in order to be effective the government strategy must include ways to engage with employers, address their concerns and encourage them to give opportunities to young people who are, or who have been, 'NEET'. Support should also be given to learning providers to enable them to forge better links with local employers with the specific goal of helping the most disadvantaged young people find employment.

 

This could carry significant risks for learning providers because employer dissatisfaction with the quality of trainees or graduates of skills training programmes can lead to reputational damage for the programme itself. Learning providers may wish to offer incremental programmes for the most disadvantaged groups which focus first on building employability skills in carefully selected supportive environments before introducing young people to employers. Exposure to workplace settings within a college environment is one way of achieving this and is already offered by some learning providers. Support in the form of a concerted government effort to engage with employers and promote their involvement with local programmes to support disengaged young people can play a critical role in improving the perceptions of employers.

 

Evidence shows that financial incentives for employers to recruit young people can be expected to have limited success, as most employers will only recruit new staff if there is a genuine business need[27] . Engaging employers and learners in programme design and building in opportunities for contact with employers into programmes designed for young people who are 'NEET' are more likely to be effective.

 

 

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

CSD welcomes efforts to ensure that young people's chances of productive and satisfying future jobs and career prospects are not cut short by leaving education or training before they have the skills for gainful employment.  CSD therefore also supports the focus on young people who are vulnerable to becoming 'NEET' as they exit compulsory schooling. However, extending the participation age to 18 will not necessarily achieve the objective of preparing vulnerable young people for work or further education opportunities.

 

5.1 The importance of motivation. There is clear evidence that young people do not learn unless they are motivated to do so.[28] This is a key challenge for engaging those 'NEET'. Research by the National Foundation for Educational Research shows that young people currently 'NEET' or at risk of becoming 'NEET' can be helped to re-engage with learning opportunities in a variety of ways, some of which have been mentioned earlier: unbiased careers guidance, relevant learning opportunities and environments where they are treated like adults[29].  Findings from research by the CFBT Education Trust also supports this. It found that programmes needed to provide individual support to learners, be flexible and engage effectively with the needs of employers.[30]

 

Unless these issues are addressed, the value of further compulsory education is likely to be limited. Hayward et al. highlight 'the potential limitations of the new legislation in that it may simply shift the process through which young people enter a 'NEET' category to a later stage in their life but not equip them to deal with issues relating to disengagement any better.'[31]

 

5.2. Truancy and disruptive behaviour. Raising the participation age alone may also lead to truancy, and disrupted learning environments for other learners. The Local Government Association and the Centre for Social Justice point out that '[e]ven during compulsory education it is estimated that 5.6 per cent of secondary school children and young people are persistent truants, missing a fifth or more of the school year'.[32] Alison Wolf claims that 'large numbers of forced participants will have a strong negative effect on the environment in which others are trying to study and train'.[33]

 

The education offer, with options that include relevant work based learning, need to be developed to engage young people in meaningful learning.

 

 

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

Research in Swindon[34] and elsewhere indicates that many promising approaches are effective for the developing future education and training responses to support young people 'NEET':

 

Service delivery should be created from the perspective of young people, including the most marginalised

Co-ordinated multi-agency approaches which 'join up' different professions (sometimes outside the Government's traditional scope) and which matter to young people should be adopted

Local data and knowledge should be developed to target action and to monitor progress

Initiatives should be innovative and proactive, making use of 'non-professional resources', for example, families, communities and young people themselves

Policy should focus on longer term development and sustainable planning - it should understand that support takes time and effort

There needs to be a cultural shift amongst all service providers so that structures, processes and activities operate together to enable young people to realise their full potential.

 

December 2009



[1] See Robson, K. (2008).  Becoming 'NEET' in Europe: A Comparison of Predictors and Later-Life Outcomes.  Presentation to the Global Network on Inequality Mini-Conference, New York City and Department for Schools, Children and Families (2008). Reducing the number of young people not in education, employment or training ('NEET'). Nottingham: DCSF.

[2] Haywood, S., S. Wilde & R. Williams (2008). Engaging Youth Enquiry Final Report. Rathbone/Nuffield.

[3] Haywood et al. (2008), ibid.

[4] Haywood et al. (2008), ibid.

[5] Haywood, N., S. Walker, G. O'Toole, C. Hewitson, E. Pugh & P. Sundaram (2009). Engaging all young people in meaningful learning after 16: A review. Manchester: Equality and Human Rights Commission

[6] Haywood et al. (2009). ibid

[7] Haywood et al. (2009). ibid

[8] Sodha, S. &S. Guglielmi (2009). A stitch in time: tackling educational disengagement -interim report. London: Demos

[9] Sodha & Guglielmi (2009). Ibid.p.22

[10] A recent policy forum hosted by the Australia's National Centre for Vocational Education Research identified low levels of literacy and numeracy as being one of the strongest factors associated with disengagement. See http://www.ncver.edu.au/newsevents/op/2009/2009nov25.html

[11] Family -Nurse Partnership, was developed in the US and adopted, implemented and evaluated in the UK since 2006. The programme is also run in Australia and other countries in Europe.

[12] Cox, A., T. Hogarth, T. Usher, D. Owen, F. Sumption & J. Oakley (2009). Impact of the Recession on the Labour Market in the South East. Brighton: Institute for Employment Studies.

[13] Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2009). Education at a Glance -OECD indicators. Paris: OECD.

[14] DCSF (2008). ibid

[15] See links to Fairbridge, Brathay and YWCA

[16] Youth Access. (July 2009). Youth Access to Information, Advice and Guidance. Youth Access Policy Briefing.

[17] Shoesmith, K. (2008) Careers and Learning Guidance (2008). Centre for Skills Development briefing note series no.5.

[18] Watts, A.G. (2009).  CEG for Young People in All-age UK Perspective.  Keynote Address to the Annual Conference of the Association for Careers Education and Guidance, Cambridge.

[19] Watts, A.G. (2009). ibid

[20] Department for Children Schools and Families (2009). Your child, your schools, our future. Norwich:DCSF

[21] Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2004). Career Guidance and Public Policy: Bridging the Gap. Paris: OECD.

[22] OECD (2004). ibid

[23] Kewin, J., M. Tucker, S. Neat & M. Corney (2009). Lessons from history: Increasing the number of 16 and 17 year olds in education and training. Reading: CfBT

[24] Kewin et al. (2009). ibid

[25] McLarty, L. & R. Moran (2009). Engaging all young people in meaningful learning after 16: A qualitative study. Manchester: EHRC

[26] Mclarty et al. (2009). Ibid p.15

[27] Kewin, J., M. Tucker, S. Neat & M. Corney. (2009). Lessons from history: Increasing the number of 16 and 17 year olds in education and training. London: CFBT Education Trust

[28] For example, Svinkicki, M. (2000) cited in A. (2007). Diminished Returns: How Raising the Leaving Age to 18 Will Harm Young People and the Economy. London: Policy Exchange.

[29] Spielhofer, T., T. Benton, K. Evans, G. Featherstone, S. Golden, J. Nelson

& P. Smith. (2009). Increasing Participation: Understanding Young People who do not

Participate in Education or Training at 16 and 17. National Foundation for Education Research, Research Report No.DCSF-RR072.

[30] Kewin, J., M. Tucker, S. Neat & M. Corney. (2009). Lessons from history: Increasing the number of 16 and 17 year olds in education and training. London: CFBT Education Trust

[31] Hayward G. et al. (2008). Rathbone/Nuffield Review Engaging Youth Enquiry - consultation report, Nuffield 17-19 Review, cited in Local Government Association & The Centre for Social Justice. (2009). Hidden talents: re-engaging young people. London: Local Government Association. P.29

[32] Local Government Association & The Centre for Social Justice. (2009). Hidden talents: re-engaging young people. London: Local Government Association. P.22

[33] Wolf, A. (2007). Diminished Returns: How Raising the Leaving Age to 18 Will Harm Young People and the Economy. London: Policy Exchange. P.14

[34] Final Report of 'NEET' Prevention Research and Development Project September 2007-March 2008

Hughes, J., & M. Opie (2008). Final Report of 'NEET' Prevention Research and Development Project. London: Swindon Borough council Children's Services & Learning and Skills Council