Connexions – NEETer than ever

We haven’t talked about Connexions for a long time, but were prompted to do some number-crunching by an item on the BBC site today.

The number of young people in England not earning or learning is increasing, figures suggest.

People aged 16 to 24 not in work, education or training went up by 94,000 to 850,000 between 2003 and 2007.

The reason that the Connexions service was set up in 2001, with an annual budget of around £6 billion, was to reduce the number of ‘NEETs’ – the official acronym for young people not in education, employment or training. So has it worked?

Skills Minister David Lammy insisted that the figures are unreliable because they include youngsters who care for parents or children, people on gap years, the independently wealthy who own their own properties, disabled people and those with mental health problems.

“Strip those young people out and actually the numbers are going in the right direction,” he told the BBC.

We downloaded the DCSF NEET statistics for the past 14 years from their website – if you like spreadsheets, you can find them here – and compared the NEET figures for 2000 (the year before Connexions began) with the most recent ones for 2007. The came out looking like this:

Total % of NEETS aged 16-18
2000: 8.7%
2007: 9.4%

% 16-18s in education
2000: 76.5
2007: 78.7

% of 16-18s in employment
2000: 14.8
2007: 11.9

The Government has cited an increase in education participation as evidence that their strategy has worked, but this is actually more than cancelled out by the decline in employment. The figures have simply shuffled across from one category to another, and in fact there has been an overall increase in NEETS of 0.7%. In other words the underlying problem has not in any way been resolved by the introduction of Connexions.

Given that the Connexions profiling and information-sharing model was the dummy-run for the whole ‘Every Child Matters’ agenda, what exactly is the evidence base for expanding its principles to the whole of the child population, and setting up Contactpoint and eCAF?

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