DFE leaving young people to sink or swim with proposed changes to LA tracking

DFE Leaving Young People To Sink Or Swim With Proposed Changes To LA tracking

Central Careers Hub, whose mission is to connect Careers Advisers, Teachers and opportunity providers to help people make more informed career decisions, has obtained proposals from the DFE which outline that:

“The Department for Education is intending to reduce the requirement on local authorities (LAs) to track, record and report the education, training and employment activities of young people.  The requirement to track and support 16 and 17 year olds will continue, but we plan to reduce the upper age limit to the end of the academic year in which the young person has their 18th birthday.   Young adults with Education, Health and Care plans will still need to be tracked and supported up to their 25th birthday.”

Gordon Marsden MP, the Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Further Education & Skills feels that:

“This Government is leaving many young people to sink or swim on their own. Ministers have already presided over the complete breakdown of local data on young people over the past six years, leaving tens of thousands to drop off the radar, deprived of the local support they need to help them to succeed in life after school. The void in strong local oversight of education provision, created by this Government’s policies, is making it harder to ensure that every young person has the opportunities needed to fulfil their potential, and is holding our country back.”

The proposed changes state that:

“Statutory Guidance directs LAs to collect information about all young people from age 15 up to their 20th birthday, so that those who are not participating (or at risk of not participating) can be identified and supported.  We are proposing to amend the guidance so that LAs end their tracking earlier – at the end of the academic year in which the young person has their 18th birthday. Young people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) would continue to be tracked as they are now, up to their 25th birthday and all 18 and 19 year olds would continue to be entitled to support from their LA to find work or reengage with education if they asked for it. If LAs choose to continue tracking 18 and 19 year olds they would be free to do so, but they would no longer be expected to report this activity to the Department.”

The reason that the DFE wants to make these changes are as follows:

“We know that significant resources are used by LAs making repeated and often fruitless attempts to contact all 18 and 19 year olds, most of whom have already secured employment or who are continuing their education. Of those who are NEET most are already receiving support from elsewhere such as from Jobcentre Plus, or targeted support from specialists.   A further group of 18 and 19 year olds NEET choose to take a planned break from learning or employment, for example a gap year, and others are working in the grey economy (i.e. without paying tax when they should be); these young people do not need support and are unresponsive when it is offered.  This leaves an even smaller group of 18 and 19 year olds NEET who LAs are rarely able to contact, track, or support.

Requiring authorities to track all young people in largely unsuccessful attempts to identify the small proportion of disadvantaged 18 and 19 year olds who are NEET and not already receiving support, is an inefficient use of scarce resources, and is a disproportionate response.

In the absence of the resource-intensive work to track 18 year olds, we want LAs to focus their resources on further improving their tracking and support of 16 and 17 year olds. Engaging more young people at 16 and 17, would reduce the chances of them spending time NEET beyond that and following this change we would expect to see ‘not knowns’ amongst 16 and 17 significantly reduced.”

There will also be a change to the NEET scorecard:

“Following this change in policy we therefore plan to introduce a new headline measure in the scorecard which combines NEET and not known figures for 16 and 17 year olds. This would give a more accurate picture of LA performance in tracking and support for young people and would mean that low NEET figures could not be masked by high levels of ‘not knowns.”  The requirement formally changes 1st September 2016 for the new academic year.”

Careers Adviser Insight

Central Careers Hub asked a range of Careers Advisers involved with LA tracking for their opinions.  What came out clearly was the ability of Professional Careers Advisers to look at an issue impartially and insightfully, a quality clearly not valued by the DFE at the moment:

Lowering the age of LA EET tracking. 

“In some ways this makes a degree of sense, significant numbers of the unknown data for 18+ can sometimes be directly attributed to unknown HE/Gap year students where data is not readily available to LAs through the UCAS data reports (due to restrictions sharing data with LAs) and we are reliant on this information being updated and submitted by schools.  This should in theory, allow us to concentrate on those most in need.  I will assume that the DFE feel that those who are 18+ without a HE destination, will have access to JCP/NCS, and this is where I have some misgivings about this proposal.  It assumes that unless a YP has SEN, they are able to access the labour market without further LA tracking and support.  Given the sheer number of Post 16 early leavers or those who decide not to enter university, they may be facing high levels of youth unemployment and we will be asking these students, many of whom do not have access to wider support, to fend for themselves.  I suspect the JCP support is stretched at best and over the phone advice from NCS is hardly sufficient for those who have relied on face to face support.”

Support for 18+ NEET

“I find the term targeted support from specialist support to be overly generic and a slight “cop out.”  Surely by acknowledging that there is a need for specialist areas of support for NEET groups, why then remove the very “safety net” that LA Post 18 tracking is meant to provide?  How will these YP know how to refer to these specialists (if they exist)?”

Exactly!  This is a clear contradiction, and who is paying for the specialist support? Local Authorities are running on empty.

LAs with high unknown figures

“On a positive note, finally there is acknowledgement that LAs with high unknowns figures, have been, essentially diluting their overall NEET figures.  This is the right decision, as this has been an area that has glossed over for far too long with zero accountability for this.  Hopefully this will place further emphasis on high unknowns, meaning “can you really back up what you are publishing about your YPs?”

Central Careers Hub was onto this with our report in June 2015:

Support for SEND

“It seems to imply that the extended support will be for those who are SEND with an EHCP up to their 25th birthday.  Any remaining SEND clients (without an EHCP I presume?) will be left to the judgement of their local authority on whether they need support.  Surely this will see a postcode lottery emerge with respective LAs, who will base this on whether they should offer support to these vulnerable groups.  It will provide further justification for senior management in LAs to trim further support in this area as it will not be a required core function-it will be too easily cut. “

“In short some good initial ideas but lacking in any real consideration of barriers towards NEETs entering a challenging labour market.”

The final word goes to Steve Stewart, Executive Director Careers England:

“The proposed changes to the counting classification of the NEET group will overnight make the figures look vastly improved, especially the not knowns.  Potentially if the same levels of resource are devoted to providing more help to those 16 and 17 year olds, then it could be seen as a positive development.  However, the big fear is this will lead to more reductions in service, especially for the 18 year olds.   Our young people are our future, we need to ensure they have a future not quietly erase them statistically “

Comments 4

  1. anthony

    In some aspects the strategy seems to make sense on the surface.

    Yes, the unknowns need to be counted alongside NEET figures so LAs feel more responsible for the unknowns. However I think this should only be applied for the up to 16-18 only.

    Yes, tracking the 19+ has always been problematic. As they have left some time ago their contact details are often outdated thus they are more labour intensive i.e. they need follow up home visits 2/3 times before contact is made. I have found that YP who are still NEEt at 19 generally are more resistant to support, they are often content in doing whatever they are doing or simply not going to tell you.

    Nevertheless, we find that some young people do not take their opportunities seriously until 18+ and are not ready to engage in anything significant that can launch them into a career until then. From my experience some young people are happy to leave school, they want a break and suddenly, when we catch up with them, it dawns on them that if they do not engage in something soon their future may be bleak.

    Now that there are no Connexions type shops that more proactive 18+s know is available where they can seek help, like those who are less motivated they are reliant on the outreach of ‘Connexions’ type advisers to make contact to help them get their life on track. I think we should continue to track and support YP until their 20th birthday, it is a fair cut off point.

    We hear reports about the skills gap in this country but yet we are still prepared to allow a large proportion of our youngsters to slip through the net simply because they have turned 18+ and we do not see the value of identifying and supporting them to access appropriate education and training to help to fill the skills gap.

  2. Andy Gardner

    Totally agree with these points Anthony. The politicians of today seem disconnected from the realities on the ground. Whatever schools do, however good their careers, education and guidance is, adolescence, family breakdown and social deprivation means that people become engaged at different stages – you are spot-on!

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