The following blog was written as part of our Learn Without Limits series, looking at different policy changes we think are needed within Further Education.
Post-Pandemic recovery for 16+ education
Written by Grace Breen, senior policy manager, Prince’s Trust
As the new school year starts, many young people will be taking their next step on their academic journey – moving into college or starting an apprenticeship. However, we know that many young people will still be unsure of their next steps, or nervous to return to education after long periods of time out of school or college.
Over the course of the pandemic young people have faced significant challenges, including disrupted education and social isolation. There is a real risk that we will see a long-lasting, negative impact on those who were already struggling with education, or who need additional support to succeed.
The Prince’s Trust
At The Prince’s Trust, we see this every day in our work with young people. They tell us how difficult they have found it to stay motivated and engaged in online learning – from challenges with connectivity or finding a quiet place to work, through to barriers in asking for additional help and support, and isolation from peers. In a focus group earlier this year, a young person called Charlie said that they thought it was “going to take a long time for young people to recover in terms of education” and how it was “really difficult to understand what the right thing to do is, as opportunities have been muddled.” The impact of the pandemic on young people’s learning and confidence should not be underestimated.
A growing need
We are also seeing a growing need for our programmes – particularly among those young people who have been hit hardest by the pandemic. Following the 2008 financial crash, youth unemployment went through the roof, and so did demand for The Prince’s Trust’s most intensive personal development programme, Team. Approximately 40 per cent of Further Education colleges in England use the programme to support 16 to 25-year-olds to build their confidence, employability, and teamwork skills, whilst gaining a nationally recognised qualification. With many young people looking to overcome long-term unemployment over the next year, we expect demand for programmes like Team will soar.
The support of programmes like Team can be life-changing for young people, with three-quarters of those who participate in Team going on to other college courses or into employment – but more funding is needed to ensure that all young people who need it are able to access this kind of provision.
Division of funding across pre- and post-16
While Government has invested in education recovery in schools through additional funding – with a total package of over £3billion so far – more specific attention needs to be given to 16-19 learners and FE colleges.
Now is the time for Government to commit additional funding for recovery in 16-19 education – ensuring that young people who need the most support do not fall through the net. This funding should be aimed at supporting those who are most likely to become disengaged and end up NEET (not in education, employment, or training) – through focused outreach as well as programmes to help re-engage them in their learning and decide what is next for them.
Our 2021 Youth Index showed that almost a quarter (24%) of young people felt that the pandemic had destroyed their career hopes, underlining the need for additional support for young people during this time. For young people from lower income backgrounds, this figure was significantly higher at 33% – highlighting the increased challenges that some groups will be facing.
While many young people will now be looking at college courses, apprenticeships or employment opportunities, there are others who will be struggling to understand what to do next – or what the best way to achieve their new ambitions might be. FE colleges have an important role to play, and must be funded to support this group.
While this immediate education recovery funding is a vital first step, it is only one part of the puzzle of securing the future of high-quality provision for 16–19 year olds. A longer-term commitment to increasing the base rate for 16–18 year olds in FE colleges to at least £4760 per pupil, boosted support for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and a sharper focus on supporting young people into apprenticeships are all needed as part of a broader package of reform at this year’s Comprehensive Spending Review – or we risk further damaging this crucial period in young people’s education.
About The Prince’s Trust
The Prince’s Trust believes that every young person should have the chance to succeed, no matter what their background or the challenges they are facing. We help those from disadvantaged communities and those facing the greatest adversity by supporting them to build the confidence and skills to live, learn and earn.
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