NEET Figures Only Tell Half The Story

Thursday 6th August 2015

The release of the new national scorecards, which demonstrate the effectiveness of local authorities at tracking those young people who are not in employment, education or training (NEET), has revealed some interesting findings.  

By comparing local authorities, some of whom – upon the dissolution of the universal Connexions service – decided to reallocate the resources to track 16-18 destinations as an ‘in-house’ service, an overall impression as to the success of this strategy can be ascertained.  For example, Cumbria’s scorecard – an authority that decided to contract the service out - shows that it is performing well above the national average with only 3.1% of its 16-18 population not known to the local authority.  Contrast this to Kent, West Sussex or Hampshire – all of whom brought their tracking services in-house – with not known figures of 15.1%, 20.2% and 16.9% respectively (a low % being the better outcome).

This is compounded when comparisons of the NCCIS data are also undertaken.  According to the June data, in Kent, 20% of NEETs were last contacted in the previous month, whilst for 60% there had been no contact for in excess of four months.  In West Sussex, the situation is even worse with 85% of their NEET population not having been contacted for over four months.  However, in Cumbria just 25% of those who were NEET had not been contacted for over four months, with 53% contacted in the last month.  Warwickshire, which also contracted the service out, shows similar findings.

Whilst it is true that nationally the NEET numbers are dropping, what is often neglected to be mentioned is the ‘not known’ figure.  The data demonstrates that authorities within England were unable to track 127,823 16-18 year olds in June, with authorities in the South performing distinctly worse than those in the North.  All told, out of a typical class size of thirty young people, both current and historic data demonstrates that approximately four of them aged 16-18, each of whom possesses unique abilities and potential, will either be NEET or not known.

This saddening statistic is unfortunately not surprising, given the failure of many local authorities, as well as the DfE, to prioritise the need to track those most likely to be NEET or at risk of NEET outside of ‘main stream’ learning. Whilst a number of the young people in this category will be progressing well and not in need of any support into further learning or employment, a high proportion are likely to be NEET or at risk of becoming NEET and in need of support or guidance and have no knowledge of who to turn to for that support. The Connexions service had its critics and failings, but it did provide a consistent point of contact for those outside of the education and training systems.

It is not CXK's intention to argue for the return of this service, rather we suggest that the question "are we doing enough to safeguard vulnerable young people, if 127,000 are currently destination ‘unknown’?" is asked.