Should schools be held accountable for the progression of their students?

With the recent report by Impetus-PEF on how too many disadvantaged young people are failing to transition from school to work and the news the Ofsted and the Department for Education are “going to war,”  you can be sure that this debate is only going to get bigger.

As a charity it’s often hard to work within the framework of the big picture as so much of our efforts are put into ensuring we reach the most disengaged young people and help them successfully transition from school to work. However these two publications have given us some time to reflect. Our experience is that the most disadvantaged young people need long term, targeted support to enable to enable them to overcome significant challenges both at home and at school, and eligibility for Free School Meals is only part of the challenge. Our rigorous ‘risk of NEET’ scoring matrix takes into account many other risk factors including Special Educational Needs and whether they are known to social services to identify young people who need specific support. Due to these background factors, the young people we work with frequently have poor engagement with school, characterised by low attendance and disruptive behaviour.

Taking this all into account we know that lack of such support is not the only factor ensuring young people are ready for work when leaving school. Our engagement with businesses is equally important, for a number of reasons:

  • Young people we work with often have limited aspirations and a lack of diverse roles models in the world of work. Which is why we provide opportunities for young people to visit businesses and people they wouldn’t otherwise engage with, widening the range of careers they would consider.
  • Engaging with businesses helps young people appreciate the importance of academic attainment for their future careers and feedback from our school leads is that this can have a transformational effect on young people’s engagement in education and increase their likelihood of achieving qualifications at school.
  • We also educate employers about the requirements of recruiting for apprentice positions and the possible additional support which might be needed for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • Finally, our support for young people continues once they are in entry level jobs. (Issues of which are detailed on p15 of the Impetus-PEF, Life After School report)

In terms of the shaping policy, we know many young people are failing and will continue to fail in the transition from school to work across the UK until such issues can be addressed on a much larger scale. Which is why we pose the question: should schools should be accountable for the progression of their students after they leave school? Impetus-PEF’s paper and our model have proven it is essential for schools to track the progression of their students. Evidence has shown that if young people from disadvantaged backgrounds have access to early long term support that despite predictions, they can successfully achieve at school and transition into employment. One of our partner schools has been leading the pack by setting themselves an internal KPI of pupils’ destinations.  It is this kind initiative taking that will enable schools not only to have strong stats but be able to track and react when research like Impetus-PEF’s highlights worrying national trends.

Life after school: The road most travelled?

Our founder Impetus-PEF has released new research into the attainment gap for disadvantaged young people in the UK. The report highlights how too many young people are failing to transition from school to work.

The research revealed:

  • An alarming number of disadvantaged young people are not achieving the crucial GCSEs they need to succeed the first time around. Their better off peers are nearly twice as likely as they are to get five good GCSEs including English and maths, by age 16.
  • If they have not achieved the first time, too many disadvantaged young people are not getting a strong enough chance to catch up. Only 46% of disadvantaged students achieved English or maths qualification at GCSE Level 2 by the time they were 19. Leaving 45,000 disadvantaged young people without the essential skills and qualifications to succeed in education and employment.
  • Meanwhile 71% of their better off peers achieved these crucial qualifications by 19.
  • If they have achieved qualifications at GCSE or equivalent, only 36% of disadvantaged young people moved on to achieve a Level 3 qualification by 19, compared to 60% of their more advantaged peers.
  • Once they achieve a Level 3 qualification, disadvantaged young people are moving at a similar rate into sustained education, employment and training pathways as their better off peers – 71% vs 74%, proving the need for quality post-16 provision to provide a level playing field for all young people

Yet this new research highlights facts that we are all too familiar with at ThinkForward . Which is why we intervene early in the lives of hard to reach young people to significantly improve their chances of making a successful transition into sustained employment. We work with young people in east London aged 13-19, who through personal or social circumstances are most at risk of becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training).

At the heart of the programme are our Progression Coaches who work full-time in schools providing tailored, support over five years to young people ensuring they have the experience and skills to be workforce ready. We work across all aspects of a young person’s life, providing connectivity between school, home and where necessary social services or youth offending teams. Working with other professionals, a Coach will help each young person overcome any personal challenges they are experiencing so that they can focus on their education and becoming ready for the world of work.

We believe, no matter what your background, young people should be supported to achieve their best both in and out of school. However as this report highlights, if they don’t get the grades at 16, most don’t get another opportunity to catch-up.

To find out more about ThinkForward or to support our work click here. To read the rest of the report click here: The road most travelled? The 16-19 journey through education and training.



New law to end ‘outdated snobbery’ towards apprenticeships

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said schools must give equal airtime to the non-academic routes pupils can take post-16, under government plans to end the ‘second class’ perception of technical and professional education.

A new law would see apprenticeship providers visit schools as part of careers advice from early secondary school, to talk to pupils about the opportunities open to them. It will also mean schools will be required by law to collaborate with training providers to ensure that young people are aware of all the routes to higher skills and the workplace, including higher and degree apprenticeships. The move follows concerns from ministers about careers advice, with some schools currently unwilling to recommend apprenticeships or other technical and professional routes to any but the lowest-achieving pupils – effectively creating a two-tiered system of careers advice.

At ThinkForward we work with the most disengaged young people across east London to ensure they transition from school to further education or employment. However, we’ve found that although such new laws are much needed, they must be met by demand. Young people need to first be willing to take these opportunities and make the most of careers advice. Which is why our early intervention one-on-one Coaching model engages disadvantaged young people over five years from the age of 13. We ensure young people are offered business mentoring, work placements, work insight days and skills workshops, including CV writing and interview practice to make the most of opportunities offered post-16.

To put this in perspective, 44% of people who began apprenticeships last year were aged 25 or over where as figures now show a fall in the number of 16 to 18-year-olds signing up – a 1.4% drop to 129,90. Which is why in 2015 we came up with eight Ready for Work capabilities, based on recommendations from research into the behaviours, mind-sets and skills employers across all sectors looks for in their workforce, particularly for entry level positions.

ThinkForward Managing Director, Kevin Munday said: “We welcome the changes outlined as we’ve identified through our Progression Coaching model how critical good careers advice and ongoing support can be in supporting a young person into a sustained career path. However we would like to see more guidance for schools to supported disengaged students with such opportunities.”