Memorandum submitted by the Department for Children, Schools and Families

 

 

Introduction

 

1 It is the Government's aim that young people remain in education or training to get the skills and qualifications they need for further study and work. The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) has embarked on an ambitious programme of 14-19 reform to ensure that every young person can find an opportunity that motivates them and to provide the support they need to progress. 16 and 17 year olds are guaranteed an offer of a suitable place in education or training through the September Guarantee and the January Guarantee for 2010, whilst the historic legislation passed in the Education and Skills Act 2008 will take this a step further by raising the participation age to 17 in 2013 and 18 in 2015.

 

2 Young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) are a particular concern. Not only are they failing to get the skills and qualifications they need to succeed, evidence shows that young people NEET between the ages of 16 and 18 are at risk of poor outcomes in later life, including adult unemployment, low wages and poor health. This is why DCSF has committed to reducing the proportion of 16-18 year olds NEET by 2 percentage points by 2010.

 

3 There were 208,600 16-18 year olds NEET at the end of 2008, 10.3% of the 16-18 year old population[1]. This is a snapshot figure and disguises the fact that the NEET group is far from static. Research shows that over one in six young people becomes NEET at some point in the two years following compulsory education, but only one in twenty five is NEET for 12 months or more [2]. Reducing the number of young people NEET is therefore about preventing young people from becoming NEET in the first instance, as well as supporting those who are NEET to re-engage in work or learning.

 

 

4 The very diverse nature of young people NEET is reflected in Investing in Potential, the Government's strategy to increase 16-24 participation in education, employment and training. This shows how we expect services to work in partnership to deliver both the preventative agenda and clear action to help 16-18 year olds NEET make a sustainable return to work or learning through:

prevention - intervening early to ensure those at risk of becoming NEET are given the support they need to remain engaged in learning;

careful tracking - identifying early young people who are NEET, or at risk of becoming so, planning suitable provision and targeting intervention;

personalised guidance and support - making sure young people know about the full range of participation options and are given the help they need to overcome any barriers;

tailored provision - so that young people are able to access engaging and flexible learning provision that motivates and enables them to progress, regardless of where they live or their prior achievement;

clear rights and responsibilities - so that there is a clear balance of incentives and support to help young people engage in learning.

 

5 Local authorities lead on reducing NEET at local level, bringing together their responsibilities for young people though the 14-19 Partnership, Children's Trust and Local Strategic Partnership. There is a clear commitment to this challenge, with the NEET indicator the most frequently chosen indicator in Local Area Agreements. Funding for 16-18 education and training transfers from the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) to local authorities in April 2010 which means that for the first time, local authorities will have responsibility for all the levers - schools, Connexions, targeted youth support, education and economic development - for reducing NEET.

 

 

Issues impacting on the likelihood of young people becoming NEET

 

6 Young people who are NEET are a diverse group with wide ranging characteristics and needs. However, analysis shows that early experiences of education, attitudes and behaviours are key to explaining why some young people are more likely to become NEET than others:

36% of young people with no GCSEs are NEET at age 16, compared with just 2% of those with 5 GCSEs at grades A* - C;

young people who make poor progress between Key Stages 3 and 4 are more likely to become NEET than those whose progress has been below average throughout their school career;

young people who engage in risky behaviours such as frequent drinking and anti-social behaviour.

 

7 There are other groups of young people whose particular needs and characteristics place them at greater risk. This includes young people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities who are twice as likely to be NEET as those without; young offenders and care leavers. Teenage motherhood is also a key factor, and it is estimated that 15% of 16-18 year olds NEET are either pregnant or a teenage mother.

 

8 But, the majority of young people NEET do not fall into any of the groups above, or fit the stereotypical image. 27% of 16 and 17 year olds who are NEET have achieved level 2 or above, and this proportion rises to 45% at age 18[3]. 44% of 16-17 year olds NEET state that the main reason for not being in work, education or training is that they are looking for suitable job or course, whilst a further 14% are waiting to start a job/course[4].

 

 

Recent Trends

 

9 Although the proportion of 16-18 year olds NEET has remained at around 10% over the last decade, the headline figures mask significant changes in the activity of young people and the age profile of those NEET.

 

10 The proportion of 16 -18 year olds participating in education or training reached 79.7% by 2008, the highest ever rate. 16 and 17 year olds are most likely to be in education or training, with the proportion in learning at this age rising by 6% points since 2002 to 88% at the end of 2008. The proportion of 18 year olds in education or training has also risen sharply since 2004 and reached a record high of 63.4% at the end of 2008. Chart 1 below shows that participation levels began rising in 2002/3 when the economy was buoyant. Largely as a result of increased participation in learning, the proportion of young people in employment has fallen by 50% since 2000.

 

Chart 1: Proportion of 16, 17 and 18 year olds in education and training

Source: SFR 12/2009

11 The increase in the size of the 16-18 population from 1.79m in 2000 to 2.02m in 2008 also makes the labour market more competitive for young people. Statistics over the last 30 years show a clear link between rising population levels and in increase in the proportion of young people NEET.

 

12 The NEET statistics also mask very different trends at ages 16-17 and 18. The proportion of 16 and 17 year olds NEET fell in 2008 for the third consecutive year and at 16, the proportion NEET stood at 5.2% (34,000), the lowest level for more than a decade. However, the proportion of 18 year olds NEET rose to 16.6%. This led to an overall increase in 16-18 year olds NEET from 9.7% at the end of 2007 to 10.3% (208,600) at the end of 2008.

 

Chart 2: Proportion of 16, 17 and 18 year olds NEET

Source: SFR 12/2009

 

 

13 The global recession is having a significant impact on young people, but in comparison with previous recessions in the 1980s and 1990s, our key policy interventions, such as the New Deal and September Guarantee, have helped to ensure that we entered this downturn in a much stronger position. Compared to previous recessions;

participation in full time education is significantly higher.;

a greater proportion of ILO unemployed young people are in full time education;

the proportion of young people not in employment or full time education is lower;

total youth claimant unemployment is lower;

long-term youth unemployment is much lower on both the ILO and claimant count measure.

 

 

 

14 Increasing participation is helping to lead to increased attainment amongst young people. The latest statistics[5] showed that 2008 targets to improve Level 2 and Level 3 attainment by Age 19 had been exceeded. The proportion who reached Level 2 by 19 rose by 10.4 percentage points between 2004 and 2008, from 66.4% to 76.7% - the equivalent of around 87,000 additional young people reaching this level.

 

 

Identifying young people NEET or at risk of becoming so

 

15 Connexions services maintain client databases (CCIS) to record young people's current activity, their needs and characteristics. The client record is updated on a regular basis either through individual contact or exchange of information with other services. Post-16 learning providers are expected to notify Connexions as soon as a young person leaves learning so that they can offer support to re-engage. The increased focus on client tracking, together with improved data sharing between agencies, has resulted in the proportion of young people whose activity is not known to Connexions reducing from 13.6% in 2003 to 4.6% in 2009.

 

16 Exchange of information with partner agencies is key to ensuring that CCIS records are as complete as possible, and DCSF has legislated through the 2009 Apprenticeships, Schools, Children and Learners Act to allow Jobcentre Plus to share basic details on 18-19 year old benefit claimants. DCSF is also exploring how best to develop the Connexions database to identify and support young people who are not participating in education or training when the participation age is raised in 2013.

 

 

Supporting 16-18 year olds to participate

 

17 Policies to support 16-18 year olds to participate in learning and to ensure that those who are NEET are enabled to make a sustainable return to work or learning are key elements of both our NEET strategy and our preparations for the raising of the participation age. Whilst local authorities have overall responsibility for delivery, effective front-line action requires education, training and support services to work in partnership with one another, and with employers.

 

Preventing young people from becoming NEET

18 Factors affecting young people's participation often have their roots much earlier in their life. Over 3,000 Sure Start centres provide a strong network of health, education and childcare support around 2.4 million families. Family Intervention Projects are working with some of the most challenging families, helping them to tackle issues such as anti-social behaviour, school absenteeism and underlying inter-generational disadvantage.

 

19 Schools take the lead in preparing young people for their post-16 choices and intervening early to support those at risk of disengaging. Through Attendance and Behaviour Partnerships, the level of absence was reduced by 9.9 percentage points between 2002/03 and 2007/08. Innovative curriculum routes are being developed to help young people remain engaged, such as the Key Stage 4 Engagement programme, 85% of whose participants went on to a positive post-16 outcome.

 

20 The range of qualifications is being transformed through the 14-19 Reform Programme to offer four equal pathways - Apprenticeships, Diplomas, Foundation Leaning and General Qualifications - to ensure that every young person has an option to engage and excite them. Good qualifications at 16 are a strong protection against becoming NEET, and provisional data shows that 50.4% of pupils achieved 5 A*-C GCSEs including English and Maths in 2009, 90,000 more than in 1997.

 

21 The September Guarantee of a suitable offer of a place in post-16 learning was introduced in 2007 for young people leaving compulsory education, and extended to 17 year olds in 2008 to ensure that those who had left learning or completed one-year courses had a further opportunity to continue their learning. Nearly 96% of 16 year olds (up from 94% in 2008) and 90% of 17 year olds received an offer under the Guarantee in 2009, and latest Connexions data shows a further significant rise in participation.

 

22 The September Guarantee approach is being extended to all 16 and 17 year olds who are NEET in January 2010 through an offer of a place on an Entry to Employment programme (the January Guarantee). This will provide a further opportunity to engage quickly in positive and productive learning.

 

Personalised guidance and support

23 The contribution of information, advice and guidance (IAG) to enabling participation is central to the Department's Quality, Choice and Aspiration published in October 2009. The strategy sets out expectations of a high quality service required to help all young people plan a smooth transition into post-16 education, training and work and avoid becoming NEET.

 

24 The transfer of responsibility for Connexions to local authorities has enabled local areas to embed the Targeted Youth Support approach, ensuring that the needs of more vulnerable young people are assessed through the Common Assessment Framework. Most areas have implemented the reforms and early evaluation shows that they have already succeeded in improving the way in which professionals deliver multi-agency support.

 

25 18 and 19 year olds are able to access support from both youth and adult services, which enables them to approach the service they feel most comfortable with. Jobcentre Plus (in addition to advice on benefits) offers:

group sessions for 18 year olds looking for work for the first time to give them an introduction to the local labour market and support with their CV and job search skills. We will explore extending these to 16-17 year olds to give an early introduction to the local labour market and skills needs;

a new mentoring network to match young people with experienced adults to help find their feet in a tough jobs market. This will be available from early 2010;

give young people access to a dedicated personal adviser from day one of their unemployment claim, and more young people fast-tracked to the support available from 6 months.

 

26 Young people can access advice and information through Connexions Direct, the 14-19 area prospectus and a range of publications. This means easy access to details of all options to young people and their families and advisers.

 

27 Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) is designed to encourage more young people from lower income households to participate in education or training. Payment is contingent on continued participation and for the first cohort of recipients in the national rollout, evaluation evidence suggests that an extra 18,000 more 16 year olds participated in full-time education than would have done so without EMA and an extra 16,000 participated at age 17. 'First step' provision courses for those NEET are in scope for EMA.

 

28 Discretionary Learner Support Funds are available to school sixth forms and colleges to provide help to young people experiencing financial difficulty, whilst Care to Learn provides essential support for teenage parents by helping them to meet the costs of childcare. Recent evaluation shows that over 70% of recipients would not have been able to engage in learning without it.

 

Tailored Provision

29 DCSF is investing nearly 8billion to deliver more than 1.5 million learning places and financial support for 16-18 year olds in 2009/10. But as young people will only participate in education or training if they can find a place that meets their needs and aspirations, there must be a choice of provision at every level, offering a range of subjects and learning styles, and which is sufficiently flexible to meet individual needs. This includes part time and flexible start dates. Funding and responsibility for commissioning post-16 provision passes from the LSC to local authorities in April 2010, providing a unique opportunity to match the supply of provision more closely to the demand from both young people and the local labour market.

 

30 27% of 16 and 17 year olds NEET have no recorded qualifications. A new suite of Foundation Learning qualifications is being developed to enable learners who are not yet ready to learn at level 2 to follow tailored learning programmes at a pace that meets the needs of the learner and enable progression to higher levels of learning. Entry to Employment (E2E) is a key programme for helping young people who are NEET back into learning and 20,000 new E2E places have been made available this year with a Community Service element to enable young people to combine their learning with practical experience in their communities. E2E will be delivered through the Foundation Learning route from 2010.

 

31 Many young people learn better in the workplace. The National Apprenticeships Service (NAS) was launched in April 2009 and will focus on engaging with employers to secure good quality apprenticeships, including for 16-18 year olds. The NAS will also provide 5,000 subsidies to employers by March 2010 to support them to take on 16 and 17 year olds as Apprenticeships.

 

32 18 year old Jobseekers have had fast track access to the New Deal, on a voluntary basis, since April 2008. Fast tracking up to the 6 month point of the New Deal has been mandatory for 18 year old jobseekers who have already built up a 6 month period of NEET since April 2009 and around 16,000 18 year olds had benefited from this by September. Alongside the Backing Young Britain campaign, DCSF is also working with DWP to extend the support specifically targeted on young people seeking work during the recession, including:

the young person's Guarantee of a job through the Future Jobs Fund, work-focussed training or a work experience place delivered through the community task force;

internships to support non-graduates to gain practical work experience;

access to work trials from the first day of their claim for 18-24 year olds from disadvantaged groups.

 

Clear rights and responsibilities

33 The measures outlined above will only work effectively where young people see the value of reengaging in education, employment or training and take responsibility for their own participation.

 

34 The Activity Agreement and Entry to Learning Pilots are exploring the most effective and efficient way to support vulnerable young people to reengage through support from a trusted adult, tailored provision and a financial incentive. Compared to a control group, the independent evaluation of the first phase of the Activity Agreement pilots showed that this approach generated a 13 percentage point shift in outcomes, away from non-activity or jobs without training and towards education and work-based learning. The lessons learned from this approach will inform the development of the Learning and Support Agreement which will help young people who are not in learning to engage when the participation age is raised.

 

 

 

 

Concluding remarks

 

35 The economic downturn is having a significant impact on young people's participation, but in comparison with previous recessions in the 1980s and 1990s, our key policy interventions have helped to ensure that we entered this downturn in a much stronger position. The New Deal for Young People had virtually eradicated long-term youth claimant unemployment whilst the September Guarantee had helped to ensure record levels of participation in learning amongst 16-17 year olds.

 

34 Since the start of the downturn, we have taken decisive steps to strengthen existing provision and put in place new support for young people, but we recognise that we need to go even further and that is why we set out in Investing in Potential significant additional support to engage young people aged 16-24 in education, employment or training. These additional measures will help us to use this recession as an opportunity to raise young people's skills levels so that we emerge from it with a young, skilful and dynamic workforce ready to contribute to and benefit fully from the upturn.

 

December 2009



[1] Statistics on 16-18 year olds NEET are published annually in the Statistical First Release (SFR): Participation in education, training and employment by 16-18 year olds in England. Not all are unemployed; they may be experiencing illness, caring for a child or family member or taking a 'Gap Year'. ONS data on the number of young people who are ILO unemployed includes learners who are in full time education and who are seeking part time or holiday employment that they can combine with their studies.

 

[2] Youth Cohort Study and Longitudinal Study of Young People in England

[3] Youth Cohort Study and Longitudinal Study of Young People in England

[4] Labour Market Statistics, 2009 Q3

[5] DCSF: Level 2 and 3 Attainment by Young People in England Measured Using Matched Administrative Data: Attainment by Age 19 in 2008 - http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/SFR/s000835/index.shtml