Disadvantaged young people are twice as likely to not be in employment, education or training (NEET) compared to their better off peers, a new study has found. The report, Establishing the Employment Gap, from the venture philanthropy charity Impetus, found that 26 per cent of disadvantaged young people were NEET, compared to just 13 per cent of other young people. The study used longitudinal education outcomes (LEO) data, which combines data from several government departments, to connect school records of pupils who sat their GCSEs between 2007 and 20012, with their subsequent employment or training destinations. ‘Disadvantaged’ was defined as any pupil who was eligible for free school meals (FSM) in year 11.

The study also found that this ‘employment gap’ in outcomes between FSM pupils and others could not simply be explained by the level of qualifications they had achieved. ‘Disadvantaged young people are around 50 per cent more likely to be NEET than their similarly qualified but better-off peers. This is true at all levels of qualification and regardless of age. This means that half the gap in NEET rates between disadvantaged young people and their better-off peers can be explained by qualification – but half cannot.’ the report says.

The analysis of the LEO data also found significant regional variations, with 32 per cent of disadvantaged young people being NEET in the North East region, compared to 21 per cent in London, the lowest of all the regions. In the South East region 26 per cent of disadvantaged young people were NEET, while among non-disadvantaged youngsters the rate was 13 per cent. In the South West region the respective figures were 25 per cent and 12 per cent.

Commenting on the study, Impetus chief executive Andy Ratcliffe said ‘We are breaking a fundamental promise to young people in this country. We tell them: “Study hard, get your qualifications and good jobs will follow”. For many young people this is true, but for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds it isn't. They are less likely to get those qualifications, and even when they do, less likely to benefit.’

Also responding to the findings, Cllr Mark Hawthorne, the skills spokesperson for the Local Government Association (LGA) said ‘This report highlights how vital it is that our careers, education and training system is able to adapt to the needs of young people and a changing jobs market. That means giving them access to good careers advice and guidance so that they can make informed choices about their futures while action is taken to reduce poverty and promote social mobility to reduce the employment gap in the first place.’ He added ‘The Government needs to consider LGA proposals for an integrated employment and skills service led by local authorities. Devolving careers advice, post-16 and adult skills budgets and powers to local areas, would allow councils, schools, colleges and employers to work together to improve provision for young people so that they can get on in life.’

A spokesperson for the DfE said ‘We are working closely with schools to assist 12 to 16 year olds who have been identified as most likely to be at risk of becoming NEET. Jobcentres also help school pupils with career planning and link them up with local businesses for work experience placements. We also provide support for young people after they leave school to equip them with the skills and experience they need to progress.’

Full report: https://impetus.org.uk/publications/reports

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