Impact Goal Four

Narrow the gap in the proportion of young people taking part in further education or employment based training after finishing their GCSEs

The Gap

According to Alliance measures for 2012/13, the gap between those from schools serving low and high income communities staying in education after KS4 has remained constant at 7 percentage points. At the same time, the gap between individual poorer and more affluent students has narrowed by one percentage point.


The National Picture

In 2013/14, 82% of students from poor families remained in education (sustained destination) after KS4 , in comparison to 92% of all other pupils; this gap has closed by one percentage point since the last Report Card (2014). At the same time, 71.5% of all 16-18 year olds were in full-time education; with a 1.6 percentage point increase, full-time education showed the biggest increase among last year’s post-16 destinations. The increase was most marked for 17 year olds, with a 2.8% increase in participation in full-time education; this is to be expected, given that they were the first cohort obliged to stay in education or training post-16.

Those in work-based learning increased by 0.6% to 6.5%, whilst those in part-time education decreased by 1.2% to 4.2%. Between 2013 and 2014, there was a 1.3 percentage point increase in the proportion of 16 to 18 year olds studying GCSEs as their highest qualification, with the biggest increase (2.2 percentage points) being among 16 year olds ; this is attributed to the new attainment requirements for English and maths post-16. However only 9% of students who re-took maths and English GCSE post-16 achieved an A*-C grade by the age of 19. The GCSE route is not necessarily the right path for many young people post-16; a route developing functional skills in maths and English, which is currently under review, may provide a more rewarding and effective path.

Despite the promising increases in education, employment and training of 16-18 year olds across England, caution is needed when considering sustainability. After KS4, over 20% of young people attending Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) do not maintain their chosen path and become NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training); this compares to just 2% from mainstream state-funded schools. Many of those in PRUs are from poor families. 

Over the last four years, the number of 16-18 year olds who are NEET has decreased significantly. Over the last year, the proportion of 16-18 year olds identified as NEET decreased by 0.3 percentage points to 7.3%. Although this is the lowest level since records began in 1994, it is still more than double the best performing OECD countries where those not in education, employment or training account for approximately 3% of the younger population (15-19 years). In England, there are still over 141,000 young people not in education, employment or training . There are a number of reasons for the recent decrease in the proportion of NEETs, including economic recovery, the creation of jobs and in particular the raised participation age of 18 years.

Schools in high income communities have a higher level of pupils participating in apprenticeships (4.8%) than schools serving low income communities (4.7%). This is different to previous years, where schools serving poorer communities had a higher proportion of pupils participating in apprenticeships.

However, overall this analysis shows an improving national picture for young people from poor families and/or communities. Those from poor families were less likely to be NEET than they were last year (just over half as likely); additionally, the gap between these young people and their wealthier peers has narrowed. Access gaps to further education or employment-based training after GCSEs still persist but are closing. Although young people from poor families are less likely than their wealthier peers to sustain a training course or a job for more than two terms, this gap has narrowed since last year’s Report Card (2014). In addition, young people from poor families are more likely to stay in further education after GCSEs than they were in the previous year. In 2012/13, 80% (77% in 2011/12) of young people from poor families remained in further education; this compared to 90% (88% in 2011/12) of their wealthier counterparts. Data for 2013/14 show this gap has remained unchanged.

Although students from poor families are still more likely than their better-off peers to retake maths and English GCSEs, or the equivalent level 2 qualification, and also more likely to attend colleges of further education than sixth form colleges, this overall gap has closed by two percentage points.


The Regional Picture

This year the gap has closed in all regions except the North West, the West Midlands and London, where the gap was smaller to start with. However, young people at schools in poor London communities are still more likely to go on to any education destination than those elsewhere in England; the gap is only 4 percentage points lower than for those at schools in high income London communities. The biggest gap in progression of young people attending schools in poor/rich communities was in the South West.

The findings suggest that young people at schools in low income communities, particularly in the East Midlands, East of England, the North West, the South East and the South West, may have poor access to further education.


Closing the Gap

The analysis has highlighted both regional variation in the provision of opportunity and the high number of young people who are already disengaged by the age of 16; some lack awareness of the skills needed or the means to pursue further education, employment or training. Recently, there has been a move towards early intervention and prevention, highlighting key areas where further work is needed to engage ‘at risk’ young people. This includes engagement with employers and work experience and access to good apprenticeships post-16. However, young people from poor families are less likely to have the home support needed to sustain post-16 opportunities and are more likely to disengage from their path than their more affluent peers. This presents key challenges for schools; for young people from poor families it is not only a question of post-16 access, but also of long term participation and engagement. There is some evidence to suggest that youth participation in social action increases the development of the skills required by many employers. The Alliance has identified areas where work can be done to improve the longterm trajectories of young people from poor families. These include developing quality teaching and learning, providing good independent careers advice, developing parental engagement and developing links with employers.