Are pupils who were eligible for free school meals more likely to be Not in Employment, Education, and Training (NEET)?

What about pupils who didn’t get five GCSEs?

And how do NEET rates vary across the country?

The answers don’t lie in the usual datasets. The quarterly NEET statistics published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) include analysis by age groups such as 16-17 or 18-24.

They also have a few breakdowns like regional and gender differences and a breakdown of “NETs”, those not in education or training.

But if you want to know the answers to fairly basic questions like the ones above, the existing data can’t help you.

Previously, Impetus used the same data source as the official statistics, the Labour Force Survey (LFS), and in 2017 we released a report with the Learning and Work Institute "Youth Jobs Index", looking at how long people spend NEET and how many people cycle in and out of NEET.

We found that around two million young people spent at least some time NEET, with 800,000 being NEET for a year or more.

But the Labour Force Survey didn’t tell us everything we wanted.

While it’s good enough for a lot of purposes, there are a number of things we can’t do easily:

  • Subgroup analysis - to see for example what types of qualification people have, or whether they come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • Geographical analysis - numbers are available at regional level, but not at a more local level, like combined or local authorities.
  • Robust longitudinal analysis - We can try to track the same people answering the survey for a year (across five surveys), but the LFS isn’t designed for robust longitudinal analysis.
  • And there is the problem of systematic bias - given the approx. 50% response rate, which may leave some groups underrepresented.

The LFS is about as good as a survey gets, with a sample size of around 40,000, using well designed questions asked consistently each quarter.

But in the education world, we have the National Pupil Database (NPD), which can answer all sorts of questions. It would be ideal if we had something as big as that to look at employment outcomes too...

And that’s where LEO (Longitudinal Education Outcomes) data comes in.

LEO takes the existing employment data held by HMRC that tells us where people work and how much they earn, and matches it with the information that the Department for Education holds in the NPD, and Individual Learner Record (ILR) datasets. 

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As a result, it gives us information on different types of people and how they progress through school and into work.

LEO is not new data; it brings together existing data, like tax, school, and higher education records, into one place.

Next Wednesday, Impetus will publish research using the new LEO data, providing the most detailed picture of young people who are NEET to date.

We investigate the relationship between qualifications, disadvantage and labour market status at age 24 for the first time and use it to answer the following questions:

  • What proportion of pupils who were eligible for free school meals are NEET?
  • How much less likely are you to become unemployed if you pass your GCSEs?
  • And how do the challenges facing young people vary across the country?

Wednesday (24 Apr) will mark the beginning of our Youth Jobs Gap series of reports, making use of this LEO data.

Over the year, we’ll be taking a detailed look at the picture in the different regions, as well as examining what happens to young people who are longer term NEET.

Our research team is always thinking of future areas where LEO data can improve our understanding of young people who become NEET, to support our charities working with these young people and policy in general.

We want everyone in the sector to benefit. So, look out for our report next week, use our findings to support your work with young people and collaborate with us as we take this project forward.

It may be as easy as L-E-O, but it’s nothing without U.

Sam Windett is Director of Policy at Impetus, a charity which transforms the lives of disadvantaged young people in school, in work, and in life.

She was previously Head of Policy and Communication for the Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), the membership body for the employment support sector. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you’d like to know more about the Youth Jobs Gap series of reports.

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