Agenda item

Post 16 Education

To provide an update on participation and the options available in post 16 education, employment and training in North Tyneside.

Minutes:

The Sub-Committee received an update on participation and the options available in post 16 education, employment and training in North Tyneside and the changes that had occurred during 2020-21 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

It was a requirement of the September Guarantee that a suitable offer of education or training was made to all young people aged 16-17 years. In 2020, the impact of Covid-19 meant that this guarantee became even more important with a focus of the Authority’s Connexion Service being to work with schools to ensure that over 2000 young people due to leave school in July 2020 had an early recorded ‘intended destination’ with ‘offers of learning’ being secured as quickly as possible.

 

A key focus for the team was those wanting to progress to Apprenticeships and employment with training; expected to be impacted by the pandemic, as well as vulnerable young people including those at risk of being Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET), Care Leavers and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

 

The Local Authority continued to track the participation and destinations of all young people aged 16-17 to ensure that they continued to receive appropriate provision of education and training.

 

In January 2021 in North Tyneside, 94.2% of young people were in Education, Employment or Training (EET), 2.8% were Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET), for 1.4% destination was unknown, 84.6% were in Full Time Education, 6.8% in Apprenticeships and 2.4% in Work Based Learning. 

 

North Tyneside compared favourably with other North East Local Authority areas and the national average when comparing participation in EET and NEET Rates. In addition, participation in Apprenticeships amongst 16 and 17 year olds, despite a small decline this year, was significantly higher than the national and regional average despite apprenticeship starts falling in North Tyneside since the introduction of Apprenticeship Reforms in 2017 and 2018.

 

In terms of the destinations, the majority of young people leaving at Year 11 continued into school sixth forms or attended further education colleges.

The Local Authority were currently engaging with 31 school pupils with bespoke pathway vocational and skills support who might fall into the NEET category.

 

The Government had introduced a number of measures to boost job creation including the Kickstart Scheme, Skills for Jobs Plan and flexible Lifetime Skills Guarantee.

 

The Kickstart Scheme was a £2 billion fund to create 6-month work placements aimed at those aged 16-24 who were on universal credit and were deemed to be at risk of long-term unemployment. Funding available for each job would cover 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus the associated employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions. 

 

The 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years had been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic with regular changes in restrictions and guidance meaning that all providers had to adapt their offer to provide a mix of classroom and remote learning and to introduce new health and safety measures including Covid Secure classrooms and buildings and the establishment of Lateral Flow Testing for learners and staff. Providers had responded positively maintaining a broad range of provision for young people and had worked in partnership to ensure the young people of North Tyneside maintained their learning. 

 

Thirteen schools offered post 16 provision in North Tyneside including 6 maintained schools, 3 academies and four special schools. In the main sixth forms offered A and AS level qualifications, alongside a smaller number of BTEC vocational qualifications in areas such as health and social care.

 

A significant number of Year 11 leavers in North Tyneside went on to study in a Further Education college. In the main students progressed to Tyne Coast College or Newcastle College.

 

Tyne Coast College offered a diverse curriculum for 16-18’s and adult learners which included vocational education, apprenticeships and A Levels.

The College’s vocational education provision offered learners more practical skills, knowledge and experience with a curriculum developed in a variety of sub brands including the North East Sports Academy, TMC Construction Centre and the Ignite Centre for Engineering and Innovation which delivered a comprehensive range of training solutions in engineering and science, technology and maths disciplines to increase local skills for the manufacturing sectors operating across the north east. 

 

Newcastle College’s Energy Academy had entered into a Strategic Partnership with the Port of Blyth which was additional, and complementary, to the established education and training provision at the Energy Academy in Wallsend, in effect creating two educational portals into the Energy Sector, one in Wallsend, and one in Blyth.

 

The medium to long term impact of the Covid pandemic on young people and providers was not yet known, but expected to be considerable and policy makers and education providers would need to adapt their responses to respond to these opportunities and challenges accordingly.

 

The amount of 16-18 funding available from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) continued to represent a challenge for providers, both in terms of the amount of funding per learner and the system for obtaining additional funding (lagged learners) to expand and deliver new programmes. As the numbers of apprenticeship and employment opportunities were limited due to Covid-19 this funding pressure was only expected to increase.

 

Despite the success in North Tyneside in mitigating some impacts, the downturn in apprenticeship starts, particularly for 16-18 year olds had been significant since the introduction of the Apprenticeship reforms, and the impact of Covid-19 was expected to see a further decline in Apprenticeship starts in 2020-21. Apprenticeships were at risk of not being seen as a viable alternative for school leavers, and as the number of starts continued to diminish, more needed to be done to ensure this option post 16 remained viable.

 

The reduction in approved apprenticeship standards at level 2 was also impacting now on post 16 apprenticeship starts and would further impact moving forward. The dismissal by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education of any further submissions by the trailblazer group for a business and administration level 2 apprenticeship standard, further removed what had been the realistic starting point for many young people on a journey into higher level learning and better paid employment. More than 160 “duplicate qualifications” at level 3 and below had their funding removed from August 2020 – including 76 BTECs. It was part of an aim to remove “poor quality post-16 qualifications” and followed consultation to decide the future of over 12,000 vocational qualifications at level 3 and below. The government’s aim was to make A-levels, T-levels and apprenticeships the “gold standard” option for young people after they had taken their GCSE’s from 2020. 

 

These changes had raised some concerns amongst providers regarding a reduction in choice for learners and removing viable routes for more vulnerable and disadvantaged learners. There were also concerns that many providers were not ready to deliver T-Levels from August 2020 and that due to Covid-19 the availability of work placements had become even more challenging.

 

It was noted that information on employers’ provision of training in the new Kickstart scheme was thin on detail and Members acknowledged that the Council would continue to work with the Combined Authority to encourage apprenticeship routes and to provide purposeful work placements. 

 

The Chair thanked the Assistant Director of Education and Officers for the informative report and for attendance at the meeting. 

 

 

 

 

Supporting documents: