The Department for Education should “systematically examine” approaches local authorities take to successfully reduce the numbers of young people outside education and employment.
That is the conclusion of a National Audit Office report on participation of 16-18 year olds in education and training, which said the Department for Education should consider piloting the most successful local initiatives elsewhere.
Auditors looked at work in Brighton & Hove City Council, Durham CC, Hertfordshire CC, Sheffield City Council, Southend-on-Sea BC and Surrey CC (see box).
The report said they found: “Some innovative and interesting practices.”
Local authorities have statutory duties to secure sufficient suitable education and training for young people, and to identify those not in education, employment or training (NEET), the report noted.
The range of activities at local level to support this work meant “the department should systematically examine what local authorities do [and] should disseminate the findings of its examination to other stakeholders and should consider piloting the most successful initiatives more widely”, the report said.
The overall value for money of the £7bn spent each year on 16- to 18-year olds’ learning has increased, the auditors found, but the DfE needed better information on which measures were most effective.
Those deemed ‘NEET’ declined from 9.2% of 16-18 year olds in 2012 to 7.6% now, the lowest level since comparable records began in 1994.
NAO head Amyas Morse said in a statement that while the better value and reduced numbers who were NEET were encouraging “the department now needs better information about which of its reforms are effective so that it can decide which to keep, stop or change”.
Auditors did not set out to assess councils’ performance in the case studies, but highlighted innovation. Among those noted were:
Brighton & Hove City Council
Use of social media to engage with and communicate with NEET young people including a smartphone application.
A local-authority-designed system that identifies those at risk of becoming NEET so they can be targeted with specialist advice while still at school.
Sells careers information, advice and guidance services to 52% of local education and training providers.
Runs programmes, funded by the European Social Fund, that target young people who are NEET in employability skills, such as English and maths, hygiene and food safety.
Offers specific guidance, for example on how to write a winning apprenticeship application.
A travel card entitles learners to half-price travel on public bus services.
Sheffield City Council
Sheffield Futures, an independent trust part-owned by the local authority hosts multi-agency community youth teams that target those at risk of disengagement.
Contacts young people as soon as they become NEET to construct a personal action plan.
Supports businesses taking on apprentices with salary subsidies.
A dedicated team collects data on young people’s education and training.
Leader David Hodge (Con) has instigated the Leader’s Ready for Work programme, which achieved more than 500 apprenticeships.
Delivers the Youth Contract as a local subcontractor of the regional contractor.