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Shock figures amongst school leavers in Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 09:17 07 June 2011 | UPDATED: 09:23 07 June 2011

NEARLY one in 13 youngsters - just over 1,100 teenagers - in Suffolk have no work, training or college place to go to when they leave school.

And the number of “NEETs” – youngsters Not in Employment, Education or Training – remains stubbornly high in comparison to national figures.

The county has the worst record among its “statistical neighbours” – authorities with similar demographics or population size – as it battles to bring down the number of youngsters who have nowhere to go after leaving school.

And the highest proportion is in north Suffolk, which includes Lowestoft, where the figure is 8.65pc.

A report produced for next week’s meeting of the county council’s scrutiny committee shows that 7.32pc of youngsters aged between 16 and 18 in March were classed as NEETs.

That compares with 6.1pc across England as a whole and 5.26pc across Suffolk’s statistical neighbours.

There is also a significant difference between different parts of the county. In west Suffolk the figure is 6.44pc, but in south Suffolk – which includes Ipswich – the figure is 7.62pc.

A report for the committee by director of children and young people’s services Simon White and Pauline Henry, the county youth support manager, pulled no punches.

It says: “The data sets make uncomfortable reading for all who are concerned about young people who are NEET in Suffolk.”

The report says that the lifetime cost to public finances of those who are NEET between 16 and 18 is unclear – but reports suggest it is somewhere between £12billion and £32.5bn.

Graham Newman, portfolio holder for children and young people, said the crucial point was to raise aspirations for young people – but he acknowledged this could be difficult.

He said: “There are problems with raising the aspirations of young people, especially those who live in families where no one is working.

“It is not an easy thing to change – but it is linked with the school organisation review that is currently being undertaken in the west and north of the county.

“One thing is monitoring the progress of youngsters through their schools before they get to 16 – and if there are fewer changes of school that is much easier,” he added.

Another issue was that in some areas with relatively high employment some youngsters felt there was no point in studying further after 16 because they could walk into a job.

The change in the economic climate over the last three years meant that was no longer possible – and these teenagers were now finding themselves left in the cold.

The scrutiny committee meets next Tuesday and is hoping to consider what can be done to reduce the number of NEETs in Suffolk and to consider the effectiveness of the initiatives currently being pursued by the county council.

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