The number of 16-year-olds not in education, employment or training is at its highest level since 2012, new data shows.
Department for Education figures released on Thursday showed the overall NEET figure for 16-18s is down, thanks largely to a big fall in 18-year-olds considered NEET.
But the numbers for 16- and 17-year-olds not in education, employment or training is more of a concern.
FE Week has picked out the key findings from the latest stats.
16-year-old NEETs highest since 2012
The number of NEETs aged 16 in 2021 is 4.9 per cent, according to the DfE’s Thursday release.
That’s the highest it has been for nearly a decade – back in 2012 the 16-year-old level was 5.8 per cent.
In addition, NEETs aged 17 has also risen – 5.2 per cent last year compared to 4.6 per cent in 2020. The last time it was that high was in 2016 at 5.6 per cent.
Laura-Jane Rawlings, chief executive of Youth Employment UK, said it was “concerning” and saw a number of factors at play.
“The growing anxiety for those in education on what their future will hold and the inconsistency in support around key transition points could mean this is a growing trend,” she said.
“With a growing mental health emergency for our young people and a lack of support to make big decisions, inaction can feel like the safest option to young people.”
Rawlings said the Covid-19 pandemic and fluctuations in the economy and labour market meant teenagers have had to make decisions on their future during a period of uncertainty.
She added: “There is growing frustration from organisations struggling to recruit and a record number of vacancies – all the while young people remain convinced that there are no opportunities local to them. This shows that there is worrying disconnect between young people and opportunity, something Youth Employment UK work hard to address through our #CreateYourFuture campaign.”
Sam Avanzo Windett, deputy director at the Learning and Work Institute and co-chair of the Youth Employment Group, said: “The latest DfE measures show a record low rate of 18-year-olds NEETs, which is cause for celebration.
“However, we’re concerned by the continuing rise in economic inactivity among young people. In a labour market with record levels of job vacancies, there are a growing number of young people who are not engaged in the labour market and risk being locked out of these opportunities.”
Findings are soon to be published on the characteristics of NEET youngsters, which will highlight health issues and disparities, the institute said.
Record low for 18-year-old NEETs
18-year-olds appear to be helping bring the number of overall 16 to 18 NEETs down, as the DfE data shows a record-low of 9.3 per cent of 18s who are NEET.
It marks the first time that number has been below 10 per cent, and contributed to the overall NEET rate for 16 to 18s being 6.4 per cent. That is its lowest since 2017 when 6.4 per cent was also recorded.
A DfE spokesperson said: “It is great to see that despite the impact of Covid, the proportion of 16–18-year-olds not in education, employment, or training remains one of the lowest on record, with those aged 18 the lowest on record.
“Our ambitious education recovery programme is supporting pupils to catch up on lost learning through tuition, world class teaching, and extending time in schools and colleges.
“Alongside this, we’re continuing to work with employers to offer more apprenticeship opportunities, rolling out new T Level qualifications and have launched a campaign ‘Get the Jump’ to promote the full range of exciting opportunities available to young people.”
Boys still favour apprenticeships
According to the data, males are still opting for the apprenticeship route more than females.
Figures for apprenticeships and work-based learning last year was 3.5 per cent for females – below the 5.9 per cent recorded for males.
But it appears females still favour the full-time education pathway, as the 77.2 per cent figure for females in full time education remains well above the 70.1 per cent figure for males.