There are more than 100,000 16 to 18-year-olds who have “simply disappeared“ from education and training, with local authorities having no idea where they are.
This is one of a number of serious findings contained within a report from Parliament’s Committee of Public Accounts.
The committee has identified a number of barriers that are preventing young people from remaining in education and training after finishing key stage 4. These include:
Continuing problems with “patchy” careers advice.
A lack of support with the cost of travelling to school/college.
Cuts to per-student funding for 16-to-18 education.
A lack of understanding within the Department for Education (DfE) of the impact of its existing initiatives and programmes.
The report, entitled 16 to 18–Year–Old Participation in Education and Training, highlights that there are 148,000 students out of around two million aged 16 to 18 who are not in education, employment or training (NEET). This number is falling, but England is still behind other OECD countries.
The report puts the improving figures down to the fact that it is now law that young people continue in education or training until their 18th birthday.
However, it calls on the DfE to do more to understand which of its initiatives to support participation are effective. It said proper evaluation of the various programmes was even more vital given that the amount the government spends on 16 to 18 education has fallen by eight per cent in real terms since 2010/11. Per-student funding is also down, with an 18-year-old now attracting £3,300 a year, instead of £4,000.
Chair of the committee, Margaret Hodge MP, said: “With scarce resources it is vital to understand whether and which initiatives are most effective and why. Yet the DfE has little understanding of the impact of existing initiatives and programmes.”
Elsewhere, the publication becomes the latest in a long line of reports to attack the quality of careers advice, which it says “remains patchy across the country”.
The committee also uncovered problems with the cost of travel for many students, with some local authorities refusing to help students financially.
The report calls on the DfE to review the impact of local transport policies and consider “whether and how” to intervene.
The DfE and local authorities must also do more to identify the more than 100,000 16 to 18-year-olds who are missing from the system, the report states.
The report adds: “Local authorities have a statutory duty to track the activity of 16 to 18-year-olds, but some local authorities do not know whether young people are participating in education or training or not. Nationally, seven per cent of young people’s activity is unknown. In some local authorities the proportion is as high as 20 per cent.”
Ms Hodge added: “Too many young people simply disappear from all the relevant public systems – 100,000-plus young people are off the radar in that some local authorities do not know whether they are participating in education or training or not.”
The report also raises concerns that the Youth Contract, which provides extra support for 35,000 of the hardest to reach 16 and 17-year-olds to stay on in education and training, is stopping recruitment in March and ending in 2016, with no plans to replace it.
Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “Spending on 16 to 17-year olds is currently 22 per cent lower than 11 to 16-year olds.
“The next government must prioritise a once in a generation review of how money is spent at each stage of compulsory education to ensure we can adequately educate and train all children and young people.”
The full report is available at http://bit.ly/1uNy313