Nacro announces review into vocational education | Nacro

Nacro announces review into vocational education


Nacro starts a year of celebration and looks back on half a century of work to change lives of disadvantaged people. Starting life as an advocacy organisation for ex-offenders Nacro has grown into a national service delivery charity providing housing, education and health support for disadvantaged communities across the country.
In its 50th year, we have decided to build on its original purpose to unblock barriers that continually hinder the progress of individuals and communities seeking to move forward.

As part of this work we have been tasked by a cross-party group of MPs, peers and business leaders to deliver a review into vocational education concentrating on how it is and isn’t working for disadvantaged young people across the UK. The review will build on emerging evidence that shows the stark difference and growing disparity in achievement between disadvantaged young people (aged 16-19) and their better-off peers not only in academic qualifications but in further and post-16 vocational education and training.

The evidence examined by Nacro and Impetus PF showed that:

  • An alarming number of disadvantaged young people are not achieving the crucial GCSEs they need to succeed the first time around. Their better off peers, by contrast, are almost twice as likely to achieve these qualifications by age 16
  • Only 36% of disadvantaged students achieve a level 3 qualification (academic or vocational) by the age of 19, compared to 60% of their better-off peers
  • The most common destination for disadvantaged students is further education – 45% compared to 54% of non-disadvantaged students going to sixth form colleges.

On that basis Nacro and partners have been tasked with providing a true picture of progression and outcomes for disadvantaged young people in vocational education. A year long programme of work will make recommendations on:

  • How young people with low level attainment at 16 can move from playing catch up to achieving higher level qualifications and improved destinations to apprenticeships and higher education
  • How vocational qualifications can meet the needs of a 21st century workforce from entry level upwards
  • How alternative provision can work more effectively in partnership with schools and colleges to capture disengaged children earlier in the system, and
  • The support needed by employers to invest in disadvantaged young people who have had little experience of work and the life skills needed to progress.

Nacro’s Chief Executive, Jacob Tas, said:

“Nacro is delighted to announce this long awaited review. Too many young people from disadvantaged backgrounds get left behind at school and never catch up with their peers. Whilst this problem is widely acknowledged, too much of the debate is focused on academic progress.

The reality is that too many young people who are in receipt of free school meals, for various reasons, attain low-level or no-level GCSE qualifications at school. Even more worryingly they continue this trajectory when they leave, the majority drifting into further and vocational education, without information and guidance on the type of qualification and learning environment that will work for them.

Far too many young people come to charities like Nacro too late. Our research shows that just at the moment young people engage with education and begin to achieve, funding stops, and they are left to their own devices. This is totally demoralising for students and staff.

Young people who do not excel in school should not be resigned to a life of insecure and low paid work. They should not have to mark time in education that isn’t working for them and play a life time of catch up with their peers. We must be more ambitious.

Nacro has spent 50 years investing in the potential of people who might otherwise be written off. We are pleased that we can continue this work through this review and we are grateful for the commitment of cross party experts in supporting this work.”

Notes to editors

The cross-party roundtable was chaired by Chloe Smith MP and was composed of:

Michelle Donelan MP, Education Select Committee; APPG FE, Skills & Lifelong Learning
Robin Walker MP, PPS to the Secretary of State for Education
(V.Ch.)Neil Carmichael MP, Education Select Committee (Ch.)
Iain Wright MP, BIS Select Committee (Ch.)
Lord Tim Boswell, former Minister for Further Education
Cllr Sophie Linden, LGA Stronger & Safer Communities Board; Deputy Mayor, Hackney
Dr Lynne Rogers, Director, Institute of Education
Joanna Killian, KPMG, public services team 
Frances Lawrence, Philip Lawrence Awards
Jax Devonshire, Porticus, Head of Education
Ron Crank, Coast to Capital LEP; Nacro trustee
Jacob Tas, Nacro Chief Executive
Josh Coleman, Nacro Principal
Sally Benton, Nacro, Head of Policy
Barbara Storch, Impetus PEF, Portfolio Director
Jenny North, Impetus PEF, Director of Policy
Jatin Patel, Impetus PEF, Campaigns Manager

Nacro is a social justice charity that is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Starting life as an advocacy organisation for ex-offenders Nacro has grown into a national service delivery charity providing housing, education and health support for disadvantaged communities across the country. Nacro helps vulnerable people to change their lives and to reach their full potential by addressing social exclusion, inequality of opportunity and deprivation. We design and deliver services that equip people with the skills, advice, attitude and support they need to move their lives on and to become part of their community. Our services cover education, housing, substance misuse treatment and the prevention of reoffending.

For all press inquiries, please contact Bharat Azad at the Nacro London office at, Tel: 020 7902 5443 or Sally Benton, Nacro’s Head of Policy and Public Affairs, at