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An inclusive approach to post-16

June 12th 2018

With exam season well underway, Lucy Williams calls for a post-16 sector that is more inclusive of young people who leave school without 5 ‘good’ GCSEs.

Last week we launched our report ‘I want to be something: better opportunities for young people’ which focuses on the post-16 opportunities available for young people who leave school without 5 A*-C GCSEs. Last year, over 10,000 young people in Wales left school without these all-important qualifications – a benchmark moment with life-changing consequences.

The opportunities and pathways that exist for young people who do have these GCSEs are largely closed for those who do not – these include AS/A levels and Level 3 courses at college.

So what opportunities are there?

The opportunities open to this cohort includes a variety of different options that lead them down a different pathway to a low-skilled and low-paid future, including:

  • Further Education – some GCSE resits, Entry level, Level 1 and Level 2 courses in a range of vocational subjects.
  • Work-based learning – Engagement and Level 1 traineeships, Foundation and some Level 3 apprenticeships.
  • Employment – Jobs Growth Wales and local opportunities that depend on the local labour market.
  • NEET support – programmes that support young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) into post-16 provisions.

What we found

We found numerous barriers faced by young people to accessing and in many cases completing these opportunities, including:

  • a lack of effective and impartial careers information, advice and guidance;
  • mental health issues;
  • a lack of experience; and
  • age

There were also limited choices available for young people, with opportunities typically only available in low-skilled and low-paid sectors and occupations, and limited work-based learning opportunities in some areas.

The quality of some provision was also questionable, with some young people feeling that courses, especially Level 1 courses, or traineeships did not equip them with the skills to progress.

All of these issues have an impact on the outcomes and progressions of young people. A number of young people were NEET after completing their course or traineeship, with a minority ‘bouncing’ from one type of provision to the next and not moving onto higher level learning or sustainable employment.

Lastly, we found some financial issues that affected young people’s participation in these opportunities. College enrolment or administration fees (which can be as high as £50 per course), course costs and travel costs were significant outlays for young people from low-income families. The funding and income streams for college and traineeships are also less than the Job Seekers Allowance rate for over 18s.

An inclusive approach to post-16

We want an approach to post-16 provision that offers opportunities for every young person in Wales, regardless of their background and circumstances. To do this we are calling for:

  • A Youth Advice Pledge – to ensure that every young person receives effective impartial careers information, advice and guidance to allow them to make their own informed decisions.
  • Youth Prospects – to ensure that young people have clearer progression routes into a wider range of vocational and non-vocational areas.
  • Better Access – to ensure that every young person should have the same opportunity to achieve their full potential, regardless of background.
  • Better monitoring – to ensure that young people do not fall through the cracks in the system.

These agenda setting recommendations are unpacked in more detail in the report and include a shift in the way we think about young people without 5 GCSEs. There are numerous reasons for not gaining 5 GCSEs – poverty, ill-health, family crisis, poor teaching and not realising the importance of qualifications are just some. Wales needs a post-16 sector that offers young people a second chance to get back on track and onto a pathway towards success.

If you want an inclusive approach to post-16 education, training and employment, please read the report, let us know what you think, and support us to take it further with a regular or one-off donation.

Lucy Williams is a Policy and Research Officer at the Bevan Foundation.

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