A report by the Learning and Skills Network (Sarah Gracey and Scott Kelly)
This report draws together and analyses a range of research papers, statistics and recent UK education policy decisions that focus on the NEET group, young people aged 16-19 who are Not in Education, Employment or Training. Despite considerable investment over the past decade, the proportion of NEETs “has remained stubbornly high at around 10% of the age cohort”. To sharpen the information-base and ensure that offerings can be better tailored, the report advises that the category be split into three (‘disengaged’, ‘unsure’ and ‘unable to find work’).
Key transition points are identified, between the ages of 11 to 14 being the time when “the influence of peers and wider society increases and disengagement from learning is likely to occur”. Careers guidance is offered at 14 – too late, according to this model. Britain is unfavourably compared to the guidance and opportunities for work experience available in some European countries (Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands), which typically offer both at an earlier age and for a longer duration.
The report gives powerful examples and case studies of workplace visits that were successfully embedded into the curriculum and were able to engage students at risk of becoming NEET. Working with employers via a structured programme that removed pupils from the traditional Key Stage 4 curriculum resulted in the control group being “less likely to remain in education and training after 16 than those who were defined as an ‘at-risk’ group at the start of the project”. The report recommends mainstreaming the option to take a year out at the age of 14 to pursue employment-based activities. However, the authors recognise that “the perennial problem of employer capacity remains”, suggesting imaginative ways in which Education Business Partnership Organisations, business-led campaigns and the voluntary sector might help, as well as pointing to the high levels of commitment to education many employers already display.
The report concludes: “It is clear from a review of literature, research, governmental studies and interviews with practitioner and sector experts that work-related learning has a key role to play in providing practical support for young people as they progress from education to full employment and in stimulating and engaging those at risk from dropping out of conventional schooling”.