Young people struggling to succeed in education and employment

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Young people in Northumberland face significant challenges in education and employment.

That is the conclusion of a new Youth Opportunity Index published today by the Learning and Work Institute, which also reveals that Northumberland’s struggles are mirrored in a dismal trend across the North East.

Overall, the North East scores lower for education and employment opportunities for young people than other regions.

Its highest-ranking local authority is North Tyneside, which comes 67th out of 150 local education authorities (LEAs).

This means that the North East is the only region not to have an LEA in the top 30 of the index.

Northumberland is ranked 107th overall and is also in the bottom third for two measures relating to education – attainment of GCSE-level qualifications and the proportion of young people qualified to Level 3 (A-Level equivalent) by age 19.

The county’s proportion of 16 to 17-year-olds not in education, employment or training (NEETs) also places it in the bottom 50 LEAs.

Its worst ranking comes in relation to employment rates for 23 to 28-year-olds, where it comes in 131st out of 150.

However, the picture is rosier when it comes to net underemployment – the balance of young people wanting to work more hours and the numbers wanting to work fewer hours – and the proportion of young people in higher education where it ranks 67th and 63rd respectively.

And, similarly to elsewhere in the region, Northumberland is successful at getting young people into apprenticeships. It is ranked 35th nationally on a measure of apprenticeship starts as a proportion of 16 to 24-year-olds.

Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute, said: “Our new Youth Opportunity Index shows that young people’s life chances are directly affected by where they live. This is a basic unfairness and this new report shows where efforts need to be focused.

“The Index shows how education and employment outcomes vary across the country and identifies the key opportunity gaps. We hope that it will help local authorities and others to prioritise their focus and target their policy efforts to ensure all young people get a good start and fair chance in life.”

A spokesman for Northumberland County Council said: “Improving education performance and equipping students with the right skills to increase employment opportunities are high priorities for the council.

“Indeed, education across the county is on a very firm footing, with GCSE results in 2018 some of the best for many years and Northumberland top-ranked in the North East in some categories. Most of the schools in Northumberland also posted better A-Level results than they did in 2017.

“Looking ahead, education and skills will be key pillars of the North of Tyne devolution deal and this includes establishing an inclusive growth board to integrate skills and employment programmes across the area.

“A North of Tyne Education Improvement Challenge will also see a concerted, region-wide programme to drive up standards in schools.”

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service