Up to one-in-four youngsters could be classifiable as Not In Education, Employment, or Training (NEET) – significantly more than the 9 or 10% suggested by an annual snapshot survey - according to the Audit Commission.
It said that while some £8.67 billion was set aside for 16-19 learning and support, it rarely reached the most disadvantaged teenagers.
The new report Against All Odds - Re-engaging young people in education, employment or training calls for councils to better target help towards those who need it most.
The study of records relating to 24,000 in 10 different areas of the nation suggested that as many as 25% of young people could be outside of school, work or training – although it conceded that the picture varied widely across the country.
Furthermore, 10% of youngsters were found to have been NEET for more than six months – equating to a national figure of more than 85,000.
Commission chair Michael O’Higgins called for councils use their local knowledge to better target resources and cut down on waste and duplication.
“Young people should be the future, but tens of thousands are at risk,” he said. “After age 18 they could drift into unemployed, unqualified and untrained adulthood.
“This core group of young people, out of work and education for six months or more, is often overlooked. While there is £8.67 billion set aside for 16-19 learning and support, most of it rarely reaches these more disadvantaged teens who need more intensive support. Mapping where they are often mirrors the country’s most deprived places.
“But some areas of industrial decline have bucked the trend - such as Rotherham’s successful use of setting individual school targets and spotting pupils at risk.’
Nottingham City Council, Rotherham MBC, Brighton & Hove City Council and Gloucestershire CC were among the areas put under the spotlight by the commission’s fieldwork. Staff tracked the Connexions database over a two year period to show the progress of young people’s lives.
One in four were found to have been NEET at some point in the two-year period, while 10% maintained that status for six months or more.