Hundreds of extra students in Norfolk are benefiting from further education and training this year after a push to ensure more young people continue their formal learning beyond GCSE.
The latest figures show that Norfolk has gone above the national average for the number of 16-year-olds in education and training for the first time, with 95% of Year 12 students now participating, compared with a national average of 93.9%. Norfolk has seen a four percentage point increase in the last year.
At the same time, the proportion of young people in the county not in education, employment or training (known as NEETs) is now at 5.7% – a three-year low.
Since September, 16 year olds have been required to stay in education or training until the end of the academic year in which they turn 17 and Norfolk County Council has been working with schools, colleges, trainers and businesses to ensure there are a range of opportunities available for young people.
A key focus has been to identify young people at risk of becoming NEET and work closely with them to ensure that they have a suitable place in Year 12.
The County Council worked in partnership with schools to target those young people who either didn’t have an offer of a place at the end of Year 11, or were unlikely to meet that offer.
Guidance advisers then made contact with these young people following their results, either by phone or on their doorstep, to work through what they would do next and find the most suitable option.
The council also worked with colleges and business partners to organise events to match young people with appropriate placements.
Mick Castle, Cabinet Member for Education and Schools at Norfolk County Council, said: “Further education or training is vitally important to young people’s future economic well-being and it is crucial that we ensure that they have opportunities available to them at the end of Year 11 so that they do not fall out of the system and end up without employment or education.
“We have been working hard with our partners in schools, colleges and businesses to ensure that there are training and education opportunities for 16 and 17-year-olds in the county. This has taken significant effort from schools and guidance advisers, who have identified young people at risk and found them suitable placements.
“From 2015, the requirement will be that all young people stay in education or training until the age of 18 and our focus now is to ensure that there are options for young people in Year 13, as well as support for the very small number of 16-year-olds still not engaged in formal learning – this is not only a government requirement but is critically important for the county’s economy and for the young people themselves.”
The majority of 16-year-olds in the county have continued in further education but for others, who want to explore work-based training, the County Council has invested £3.5m in creating apprenticeships, in addition to the other vocational training on offer.
Kieran Scotney is one young person who has benefited from an apprenticeship taking part in an Intermediate Apprenticeship in engineering at the College of West Anglia.
When he left Downham Market High School in 2013, he had already decided he wanted to be an electrician.
He said: “I had completed voluntary work experience with local company Neil Whicker Electrical and knew that I was definitely ready to enter the world of work rather than remain in full-time education.
“I enjoyed studying at High School, but I did not see any point in studying for A-Levels like some of my friends, when I already knew what I wanted to do, and could gain qualifications while earning a wage, that are an equivalent standard to A-Levels.”
Other young people, like Tayla Heskett, have chosen to take a course at college.
Tanya, who studies hotel reception at City College, Norwich, said: “I have always been interested in the hospitality and travel and tourism industries so the hotel reception programme was perfect for me.
“We learn a range of things from accommodation services to marketing and we get to go out on work placements to put what we have learnt into practice. I chose to do this course as it suited everything about me and I couldn’t find anything else like it. After college I definitely want to work in the hospitality industry and hope to start work as a receptionist in a hotel.”
Advice for young people on education and training options in Norfolk is available at www.helpyouchoose.org