Study Reveals Challenges Facing School Leavers

25 August 2011

NEETS Report

Image courtesy of the University of Derby - pictures posed by models.

Young people told us they want to do things with their lives, they want to be good employees, friends and parents. But they face a number of challenges while they are at school and these stay with them as they move on to whatever comes next 

Jo Hutchinson from the International Centre for Guidance Studies at the University of Derby and report author.

Teenagers have revealed some of the heartbreaking reasons they felt forced them to drop out of college as part of a new academic study by Derby researchers.

The East Midlands Improvement and Efficiency Partnership has lifted the lid on the challenges facing NEETS - young people aged 16-18 Not in Education, Employment or Training in Derby and Derbyshire.

Their report, Career Learning Journeys of Derby and Derbyshire NEETS, was led by Jo Hutchinson from the International Centre for Guidance Studies at the University of Derby, Richard Korzeniewski from the former Connexions Derbyshire Ltd., Mick Evans from Derbyshire County Council and Christine Collingwood from Derby City Council.

The study smashes the myth that laziness is the primary reason for giving up - as teenagers spoke of the many personal tragedies, learning difficulties and challenges in their lives that they had to contend with.

The researchers interviewed 40 young people classed as NEET across the county. Official statistics provided by Connexions (Nov 2009) suggest there were 1,490 young people in Derbyshire County and 623 young people classed as NEET in Derby city. The report author Jo Hutchinson said "Young people told us they want to do things with their lives, they want to be good employees, friends and parents. But they face a number of challenges while they are at school and these stay with them as they move on to whatever comes next".

The study discovered that young people often try to find training or jobs after leaving school but major reasons for dropping out included poor experiences and attainment at school, complex family relationships, health problems, bullying or the effect of long distance family moves.

Some of their compelling stories (names changed for anonymity) are also detailed below

Case study one:

The heartbreak of seeing a fellow student at college with her own baby so soon after suffering a miscarriage is the main reason one teenager gave for dropping out of college. Kyla said: "I left college quickly because I fell pregnant and I had a miscarriage and there was a girl in my class that had a baby and had it with her and I didn't want to see her with her baby when I had only lost mine."

Kyla, left school at 15, partly because she had moved from a foster parent's home into a house sharing with her partner's parents, still hopes that her life experiences could help her to work in the psychology profession in the future. And things have improved as she is now on a Foundation Learning programme and is six months pregnant again, saying that the forthcoming baby is her inspiration in life. She said: "I don't have my parents or sisters around me so she is my own family."

Case study two:

Family break-ups and his father's alcoholism have contributed to a challenging childhood for Chris, 16. He was excluded from a number of schools for poor attendance and said: "The hardest thing has been me changing schools and going through different places. Starting from one school here, then going to another and then leaving for the (North West) and then back. I couldn't settle at all."

When his mum met a new partner and there was not room in the house for them all Chris moved in with his dad. Seeing his dad have days off work and drinking heavily has been a powerful influence to inspire Chris to follow a different path, and he is now aspiring to become a chef, however his poor school attendance record has meant he has found it difficult to find training opportunities.

The study authors recommend a range of actions should be undertaken early to support young people by schools and organisations who work with them.

These include:

  • More pastoral support for young people facing personal challenges within schools
  • Managing expectations of young people's career aspirations in the current climate so their choices and ambitions are grounded.
  • Support should be available for all young people who become NEET - regardless of their background or intensity of their disadvantage.
  • Teenage parents should be routinely encouraged and challenged to actively consider returning to education, employment or training.
  • Partners supporting NEETs should share intelligence so that resources are appropriately allocated and provided to support young people.
  • The average age of NEETs is rising so there needs to be greater continuity between young people, the emerging National Careers Service and Job Centre Plus.

The research was undertaken last year when most of the young people who participated had experienced some support from the Connexions service. Other recently published iCeGS research has shown that these services are under serious threat across the country.

For more information contact Deputy Head of Corporate Relations Simon Redfern on 01332 591942 or 07748 920038 or email s.redfern@derby.ac.uk

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