Page last updated at 19:07 GMT, Friday, 26 February 2010

Government 'to miss Neet target'

By Hannah Richardson
BBC News education reporter

Nearly one in 10 16 to 18-year-olds are Neet

The government is set to miss its target for reducing the number of young people not in education, employment or training (Neet), it is claimed.

England's target for 2010 is 7.6% - as an average for the year. Figures out on Thursday suggested 9.3% were Neet at the end of 2009.

As Neet levels are higher in the summer than the winter, the UCU lecturers union argues the target will be missed.

The government said the 2010 figures would not be published until June 2011.

We need more college places to get more young people back into education
Sally Hunt
UCU general secretary

The UCU said although Neet levels fell sharply in the last quarter of 2009, the trend in recent years is for the percentage to rise in the first three quarters of the year.

However, the 2010 figure will not be published until June 2011.

The new data comes as colleges prepare to save some £433m, provoking union claims of 7,000 jobs being at risk and college course closures.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said the latest figures out this week demonstrated the importance of further education colleges and their staff in attracting and retaining young people not in education and training.

"The overall figure remains too high and history has taught us that the percentage of Neets is likely to rise as the academic year progresses, making the government unlikely to meet its target."

She added: "The government should be doing everything it can to help the lost generation of Neets.

"Axing college places is exactly the wrong thing to do. We need more college places to get more young people back into education."

She said it was clear many Neet youngsters wanted to get back into education or find a job.


One 18-year-old who attended an event run by the organisation this week, Shamayal Yakoob, from Birmingham, said: "I have tried to get in to college many times, but my name is just put down on the waiting list.

"The colleges which do offer spaces are on the other side of the city and I cannot afford to pay the travel costs.

"I have tried to look for jobs but without any qualifications and skills I am not getting anywhere and it's just like banging my head against the wall."

Diane Johnson, 21, from Pontefract in West Yorkshire, said she would like to study at college but that it was really hard to find a course.

'Raising skills'

"Because I am over 19 they cost loads of money and I was forced to drop out because the funding I needed was delayed by two months.

"Politicians need to start listening or there will be more people facing the same obstacles as me."

Ms Hunt added: "One huge step would be to simplify the jungle of funding streams for courses. Another would be to reverse planned damaging cuts for colleges."

Skills minister Iain Wright said: "Whilst there are signs that the proportion of 16-18 year olds Neet is falling, we know we need to keep working hard to back young people through these though times.

"We are committed to raising young people's skill levels and building a young, skilful and dynamic workforce throughout the economic recovery.

"That is why we are offering every 16 and 17-year-old the opportunity to continue in education or training through our September Guarantee for school leavers - and record numbers are doing so, helping to fulfil their potential and secure the future of our economy."

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