Page last updated at 11:12 GMT, Friday, 7 August 2009 12:12 UK

Early death concern for drop-outs

The proportion of young Neets has increased overall

One in six teenagers out of work or education for a long period could be dead within 10 years, a senior government education advisor says.

Jon Coles, director of schools for England at the Department for Children, Schools and Families quoted anecdotal research from the north of England.

He said he was "profoundly shocked" by the figures and that he hoped they were not replicated across England.

Ministers said the research did not represent the national picture.

But he quoted research which looked back at the so-called 'Neets' (not in education, employment or training) of 10 years ago, and discovered that 15% of those studied had already died.

He told the Westminster Education Forum there was a very clear social cost when young people ceased to have any engagement with society.

He said of the researchers: "They had found one profoundly shocking thing... that of their long-term Neets of 10 years ago, those who had been outside the system for a long period of time, whether because they were permanently excluded or simply because they had dropped out at the end of compulsory schooling and had not got into anything else, 15% of those young people of 10 years ago were dead by the time that the research was being done."

He went on: "For those of us who sometimes console ourselves with the thought that education is not a matter of life and death, actually for those young people, for the most vulnerable children and young people in our society, it really is."

He also said that a focus on attainment was not enough: "Being focused on attainment and on improving attainment for every single child is a good thing, it's a profoundly important thing... but schools need to be bothered, as so many schools already are, about the broader wellbeing and development of children."


The proportion of 16 to 18-year-olds in England not in education, employment or training in 2008 increased to 10.3% - up from 9.7% in 2007.

Figures from January this year obtained by the Conservatives showed people aged 16 to 24 not in work, education or training went up by 94,000 to 850,000 between 2003 and 2007.

The Youth Cohort study of the activity of young people in England said in 2007, 1% of 16-18 year olds were considered "long-term Neets".

The Conservatives said the government had failed to tackle the problem even before the current recession forced more young people to drop out.

A Department for Children, Schools and Families spokesperson said: "The official made clear that this was one bit of local research which could not be taken as representative of the whole country.

"To extrapolate on what he said to paint a national picture is completely misleading.

"However, it is clear that young people who are NEET are at greater risk of poor health and negative outcomes in later life, which is one of the key reasons we see reducing the NEET numbers as such a high priority."

She added that since 2007, the September Guarantee aimed to ensure that every student who wanted to continue in education after their GCSE had the offer of a suitable place in learning.

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