With only a few months to go before compiling the September Guarantee return, many local authorities will be focused on ensuring that the support they’re providing to young people is encouraging a greater number than ever to remain in education or training, or in employment which includes learning.
With the participation age now set at 18 years old, this has led to a range of new children services initiatives to continue to support those young people who might otherwise slip into the Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) category.
Although it’s certainly not just about the numbers, these do represent a benchmark of success and I couldn’t help a feeling of pride when I saw the latest government figures – these showed that the average number of Capita One local authority customers improving on the previous year’s results is 65%, more than 10% above the national average of a 54.6% improvement.
Capita One customers also achieved an average guaranteed offer of learning of 94.65% against the national average of 94.5%.
Looking beyond the statutory return
Improving outcomes for young people is a continuous process that doesn’t start and end with the return itself, and which spans a wide range of different children and family services, both within the local authorities and external agencies.
With teams from different youth-related and education services all needing to work together efficiently, a number of local authorities now have access to a shared database to provide a single up to date view of a young person, helping to ensure that young people don’t fall through gaps in the system.
When authorities are determining the proposed destination of the young people in their area, they use the information provided by schools to identify those young people who are still undecided or intend to move into an opportunity without learning. By analysing this data to identify these young people, different teams can then focus on helping them into learning opportunities.
Once those learning opportunities have been agreed with the young person, local authorities can then use their links with local institutions such as sixth form colleges, further education colleges and training providers to enable them to identify quickly which young people went on to those planned opportunities, as well as those young people who didn’t turn up. Specialist youth workers then work with any young people who didn’t take up their place, to identify any barriers and support that young person in the most effective way.
Let’s take Jack, a fictional 17 year old, who was due to start at Collingdale 6th form college. If he hasn’t appeared on any registration records, the college will pass that information on to the local authority team, who will know quickly that he didn’t appear.
Jack might then receive a friendly call or text from the youth worker asking if he’d like some help looking at options, and who can get to the bottom of the problem – whether a crisis of confidence in starting in a new setting, or hardship issues which are requiring him to work without learning. The key is for the youth worker to be alerted as quickly as possible, so that they can help the young person before unhelpful behaviours become embedded, such as getting out of the habit of attending school or college each day.
The new youth workers
Youth workers now work under a number of guises – whether as pastoral officers in schools, youth offending teams or as an alcohol and substance abuse support worker, the focus is helping disengaged young people, and on early intervention strategies which prevent young people from being disengaged in the first place. Their official job title might not be ‘youth worker’ but they’re all people with specific skills and expertise in being able to engage young people.
This includes those youth workers who provide information and advice around specific areas such as employment, education and training, which is another reason why youth work is so central to local authorities being able to turn young lives round, or help them on a more positive trajectory in the first place.
The September Guarantee and Intended Destinations might seem to some to be a bunch of statistics, and to others to be an onerous statutory obligation, but for many youth workers it means they can put time aside to focus on providing much-needed support which materialises into a significantly improved outcome, and ultimately improved life chances, for that young person.