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Councils and the fight against school dropout

Local authorities have reduced the number of 16 - 19 year-olds not in education, employment or training (NEET) to just 7.1% – the lowest level in a decade. However, there are legitimate questions over whether the government’s plan to introduce annual scorecards assessing councils’ efforts in this regard are really the most effective tool for further improvement. Councils vs. school dropout

Tracking performance

The scorecards, which have been trialled for the past six months, will gather local data on 16-18 year-olds:

  • Whose activity is known to the local authority
  • Who are currently NEET
  • Who have been made an offer of an education place under the September guarantee

Their school attendance and GCSE grades will also be monitored. This data will then be compared to the average across England, and to the previous year’s performance.

Commenting on the introduction of the cards, Skills Minister Nick Boles said, “the annual NEET scorecards will prove a highly effective tool in delivering our commitment to helping young people reach their potential.”

Jim Leivers of Oxfordshire County Council, which has levels of young people NEET well below the national average, commented, “the scorecards can only help us to build on the progress we have made in bringing down the number of local young people classed as NEET.”

Potentially misleading

However, outside of government spokesmen and individual councils that stand to benefit from comparison to last year, concerns have been raised over whether the scorecards actually empower councils to encourage more young people into education, training and employment.

Councillor Nick Forbes, vice-chair of the Local Government Association's (LGA) Children and Young People Board, told the BBC that councils have, “had their powers to carry out vital services such as careers advice, national engagement programmes and further education steadily removed, meaning that many will not necessarily be running their local area's employment scheme.”

For the initiative to truly show how well local authorities perform in their task, the government will first have to give them the power to run youth engagement programmes themselves.

It’s a move that would have widespread support from local authorities too. Responding to an LGA survey, 80% of councils said further devolution would help them reduce youth disengagement and 90% said it would help them deliver better value for money.

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