Reducing number of ‘NEETs’ in Redbridge will be ‘challenging,’ councillors told

Reducing the number of young people in Redbridge who are neither at school nor in work will be “challenging,” councillors have been told.

There were around 194 people aged between 16 and 18 in the borough who were not in education, employment or training (NEET) by the end of 2022, according to the most recent local data.

That figure is relatively low, comprising just 2.2 per cent of the borough’s young population. While it is higher than the Greater London average of 1.6 per cent, it sits just below the England average of 2.8 per cent.

The NEET group – previously referred to as ‘status zero’ – has been historically stigmatised and associated with disproportionate crime levels and young pregnancies. In many cases, they have been through the youth justice system and may have served custodial sentences.

Redbridge Council’s education subcommittee was told last night on June 24 that while the authority wants to help, engaging with them can be difficult.

A council officer said many NEETs have “multiple barriers” to progress, such as mental health issues, poor grades, or a history of substance abuse. Some have been estranged from families and carers.

The issue is further compounded by how few pupils are affected, out of the 7,994 Year 12s and 13s enrolled in the borough.

Colin Stewart, the authority’s director of education, said it can be difficult to commission the appropriate courses when “they may all want different things”.

He added: “There is no easy solution. There’s a different solution for every individual.”

Many NEETs will also fall below the requirements for apprenticeships, as they won’t have relevant qualifications in English and maths, councillors were told.

The education director said there are also not enough opportunities in the borough, nor is there a vocational training centre for young people to learn a trade.

He added: “We’ve been trying to develop our own, but it’s not straightforward and easy.”

The council has been making efforts to tackle the issue in the borough. Each known NEET is assigned an advisor and are supervised on what opportunities are available to them.

Workers carry out face-to-face meetings with young people outside of school and online to offer them advice, as part of the national Connexions scheme.

Additionally, the authority has started helping Year 9s to develop education, health and care plans (EHC) and their parents to understand how to “help plan for the future”.

A council officer added that education is the “greatest preventative factor,” so it is a priority for the council that pupils perform well at school.

Overall, boys tend to be worse affected than girls. White students are disproportionately represented among NEET young people, making up 28 per cent of the cohort but just 19 per cent of pupils.

Boys also tend to be less likely to perform well in school at every key stage, Colin added. He said there was a wider issue with “trying to engage boys with education,” leading to questions about educational role models and the curriculum’s suitability.

The council’s data for NEETs in Redbridge ends in February 2022, but the figures may have risen over the past two years.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed a national increase of 1.1 per cent from early 2023 to early 2024. There are now around 320,000 NEETs in England, totalling 12.6 per cent of the young population, the ONS says.

Sebastian Mann

Local democracy reporter