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Should schools be held accountable for the progression of their students?

With the recent report by Impetus-PEF on how too many disadvantaged young people are failing to transition from school to work and the news the Ofsted and the Department for Education are “going to war,”  you can be sure that this debate is only going to get bigger.

As a charity it’s often hard to work within the framework of the big picture as so much of our efforts are put into ensuring we reach the most disengaged young people and help them successfully transition from school to work. However these two publications have given us some time to reflect. Our experience is that the most disadvantaged young people need long term, targeted support to enable to enable them to overcome significant challenges both at home and at school, and eligibility for Free School Meals is only part of the challenge. Our rigorous ‘risk of NEET’ scoring matrix takes into account many other risk factors including Special Educational Needs and whether they are known to social services to identify young people who need specific support. Due to these background factors, the young people we work with frequently have poor engagement with school, characterised by low attendance and disruptive behaviour.

Taking this all into account we know that lack of such support is not the only factor ensuring young people are ready for work when leaving school. Our engagement with businesses is equally important, for a number of reasons:

  • Young people we work with often have limited aspirations and a lack of diverse roles models in the world of work. Which is why we provide opportunities for young people to visit businesses and people they wouldn’t otherwise engage with, widening the range of careers they would consider.
  • Engaging with businesses helps young people appreciate the importance of academic attainment for their future careers and feedback from our school leads is that this can have a transformational effect on young people’s engagement in education and increase their likelihood of achieving qualifications at school.
  • We also educate employers about the requirements of recruiting for apprentice positions and the possible additional support which might be needed for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • Finally, our support for young people continues once they are in entry level jobs. (Issues of which are detailed on p15 of the Impetus-PEF, Life After School report)

In terms of the shaping policy, we know many young people are failing and will continue to fail in the transition from school to work across the UK until such issues can be addressed on a much larger scale. Which is why we pose the question: should schools should be accountable for the progression of their students after they leave school? Impetus-PEF’s paper and our model have proven it is essential for schools to track the progression of their students. Evidence has shown that if young people from disadvantaged backgrounds have access to early long term support that despite predictions, they can successfully achieve at school and transition into employment. One of our partner schools has been leading the pack by setting themselves an internal KPI of pupils’ destinations.  It is this kind initiative taking that will enable schools not only to have strong stats but be able to track and react when research like Impetus-PEF’s highlights worrying national trends.