Thousands of teenagers are dropping out of school or college or failing to achieve a passing grade at a cost of more than £800 million to the public purse each year, councils reveal today.
Too many young people are being failed by a national ‘bums on seats’ approach to post-16 education that funds schools and colleges based on student numbers rather than enabling them to work together to provide the right course, the Local Government Association is warning.
Latest figures show 178,100 16 to 18-year-olds failed to complete post-16 qualifications they started in 2012/13, and are at risk of becoming not in employment, education or training (NEET).
The teenagers at greatest risk of dropping out were apprentices, with a quarter not finishing, suggest the figures.
Analysis for the LGA by the Centre for Economic & Social Inclusion reveal the cost to the public purse of this wasted education and skills provision is £814 million – 12 per cent of all government spending on post-16 education and skills.
Councils support young people that drop-out back into learning and have helped reduce the number of disengaged teenagers to an all-time low. This is despite not having formal powers over careers advice, further education and apprenticeships to ensure young people commit to courses most likely to lead to a local job.
The LGA said councils could do far more if further education, apprenticeships and careers advice funding and powers were devolved to local areas.
This would allow councils, schools and colleges to work closely with local employers to ensure all young people get the careers advice and options to pursue the right course for them and gain skills for jobs that actually exist locally.
The call for nationally-run education, skills and employments schemes to be devolved to local areas is part of LGA proposals for what the next government should do to tackle the big issues facing Britain today.
Cllr David Simmonds, Chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Councils want every young person to achieve their full potential but too many are still dropping out of post-16 education and training or not achieving a passing grade.
“Our analysis lays bare the substantial financial cost of this but the human cost is even greater with youngsters left struggling with uncertainty, a sense of failure and facing tough decisions about what to do next.
“Councils are having success in helping young people that do drop-out back into learning but fear a failure to reform the centralised ‘bums on seats’ approach to funding further education could leave too many teenagers at risk of dropping out or without the skills needed to get a job.
“Local councils, colleges, schools and employers know how to best help their young people and should have devolved funding and powers to work together to give young people the best chance of building careers and taking jobs that exist locally.”