14. Tyneside Challenge - Effective Progression to the Labour Market, Tyneside
The scheme aims 'to engage young people in opportunities for learning and support their progression to the labour market', principally using vocational experience as a motivator. Tyneside Challenge is one of the pre-16 initiatives this scheme supports. It seeks to help year 11 students who have the ability to achieve GCSE grade C or its equivalent, but who are underachieving, by stimulating their interest and motivation. This, is turn, helps them to develop and apply their abilities in school and on a chosen training or work placement.
Background - Problems to be Tackled
- Competition for places is strong, so that if a pupil drops out of the challenge, another can be fed in to take his/her place. Tight resources mean that the Challenge team may not know of individual problems (such as non-attendance) until it is too late to resolve them for that individual. However, attempts are made to head off difficulties at the outset by trying "always to fit round pegs to round holes".
- For many pupils, providers and schools, whole days rather than half-day placements are preferable for continuity, completing in-depth tasks and paperwork, although this can seriously eat into valuable GCSE curriculum time. This can be overcome, or mitigated, by rotating or alternating the days used for placements, but careful planning is needed for this. This can place heavy demands on already very pressed teaching staff, particularly where there are large groups from any one school.
- There have been some flaws in communications between providers and schools, which is partly a reflection of the pressures on schools. Some have argued for additional financial or administrative support to teachers to help to reduce these problems, but the cost has so far ruled this out. In some cases not all school co-ordinators have shown consistent interest and commitment.
- Some managers have sought extensive written feedback, through a series of questionnaires, from pupils, providers and teacher co-ordinators, in order to get constructive ideas and honest feedback to fine-tune the programme. This has helped to clarify problems of tracking, time tabling and gaps in support for the programme.
- The TEC keeps records of progression into education and training, which goes well beyond the scope of SRB reporting, and has been central to the scheme's development, which means that the whole structure fits into existing systems This has made progress easier than it would otherwise have been. Through the Progression Observatory, managed by Tyneside Careers Service, details of everyone on the pre 16 programme are kept on database for Careers managers, which will make possible a more meaningful evaluation of the programmes.
- The uneven distribution of training providers across the Tyneside area has posed some difficulties, with only six in South Tyneside, for instance. Only three TEC-approved providers in South Tyneside agreed to participate at first, though the Education Business Partnership successfully sourced employers for the rest. There have been provider limitations in other areas, too.
- Health and Safety issues place some constraints on the programme, since placements have to be approved by the TEC Health and Safety Team, which is a costly process.
How the Project was Developed
- According to 1996 figures, unemployment on Tyneside stood at 10.1%, compared to 7.4% for the whole country. For under 25s, this rose to 24.7%, almost ten percentage points above the national figure for this age group.
- Tyneside also has pockets of extreme deprivation, with (in 1996) two wards in the lowest quartile of the Index of Local Conditions. Unemployment in Newcastle's West City ward stood at 33.9%.
- In 1997, 18.8% of 16 year olds on Tyneside were not involved in education, training or employment six months after the end of their compulsory education, thus failing to gain the necessary skills and make adequate preparation for progression to the labour market.
- The project's delivery plan argues that the reasons for such high levels of disaffection are diverse, with each case demanding careful individual assessment - and not all of them within the scope of the programme, as they may include an unstable home background, poverty, abuse as well as poor experiences of education or training.
The target boroughs - Gateshead, City of Newcastle, South Tyneside and North Tyneside - have already benefited from two City Challenges and a Task Force. In addition, local authority initiatives focus on disaffected young people across Tyneside.
The project was developed as an extension of work with Special Educational Needs children to develop more targeted placements, which led to the development of a range of new materials.
Effective Progression to the Labour Market aims to complement the 'broad brush' schemes by targeting 'some of the causes and effects of disaffection among 14-25 year olds' and helping them into the labour market. The scheme is a strategic partnership, which includes representation from Tyneside TEC, the four LEAs, Tyneside Careers, training providers, and the further education and voluntary sectors.
Students spend ten days (or twenty half days) during the autumn and spring terms with a training provider or employer in their chosen vocational area. They are required to complete a competence based diary that helps them to identify their strengths and weaknesses, to plan and record the learning undertaken with the training provider, and to provide a record of their successes and achievements.
They must sign a contract in which they promise to attend school and work, to be on time and to behave well; those who break this contract are taken off the Challenge. Parents' or guardians' willingness is established through direct contact from the nominating teacher, and the contract that pupils sign is with their parents as well as with the school and the training provider.
At the end of the programme pupils receive a certificate in recognition of their achievements, and some of the training can contribute to an NVQ accreditation.
Initially, school teachers identify potential beneficiaries from the target group of young people in Year 11, since they are best placed to identify the ones who are underachieving and becoming disaffected, or who have the potential to do so.
The written guidance for teachers sets out a range of problems that possible participants may be displaying. It suggests that although pupils who are experiencing most of these may be the candidates who would benefit the most, pupils whose progress is significantly affected by just one or two of these may also be suitable. They are:
There is also an emphasis on willingness to participate, on the parts both of the student and of their parents/guardians. The guidance states that participants should be 'likely to respond and commit the time and effort to successfully complete the Tyneside Challenge.'
- Unjustified borderline attendance or regular lateness for school;
- Failure to complete homework or assignments;
- Low self esteem and confidence in their abilities;
- Need for more positive attitudes in class.
The activity seeks to increase its participants' confidence through enabling them to experience success, while developing their personal skills and giving them the confidence to succeed in a workplace environment.
Outcomes and Achievements
Among Tyneside Challenge's positive outcomes are:
- The young people would not otherwise have had the chance to experience training.
- Many students were placed in their first choice occupation - choices which have sometimes been surprising, including undertaking, fire-fighting and hospice care. Feedback from pupils has been very encouraging and most have said they would recommend the Challenge to other pupils. Typical comments on the feedback sheets include,
- "I would definitely recommend this to other pupils as a way to find out what working life is like and what job you feel you like".
- "It has opened my mind to subjects that would be involved to get a grade that I needed to get the job I want".
- "I now know how important GCSEs are".
- "The experience given in the world of work has given me a different view about what you need at school
- A training provider said, "The six trainees we have on our programme have been an asset to our company and I am very proud of the progress they have made. They were brought to us as 'underachievers and prone to truancy', but we have found none of these traits in the pupils."
- The promotional materials and workbook were well received, and 'added a sense of commitment and professionalism'.
- There has been success, especially in South Tyneside, in promoting the need for travel to work, since many of the job opportunities and training providers are not close to where the young people live. One pupil commented that he was not happy with his placement at first, "as it was all the way over to Jarrow, but I am pleased I got the placement".
- Teachers have given very encouraging feedback about marked improvements in the performance, attendance and conduct of students, particularly those less likely to achieve academic success.
- Providers have also been very positive about students' attitudes.
- There has been the possibility of jobs, apprenticeships or full time traineeships for some of the students - and some of the activities, such as cleaning and valeting, lend themselves to self employment, which is an attractive idea and motivator for many. Some have also gained Saturday jobs at their placements eg at local hotels.
- The project is established in three of the local authorities, with more participating students than were originally profiled. A total of 244 young people have taken part so far, with more expected: 75 have taken part in Newcastle, 80 in North Tyneside, and 89 in South Tyneside, though feedback suggests that implementation is variable across the three authorities.
- Baseline statements on each pupil are gathered at the start of their involvement, indicating expected grades etc, and these will be set against their examination results. Already teachers are seeing the benefits in many of the pupils involved as their confidence, motivation and communication skills improve.
- In South Tyneside, one parent had written to the school after her son had done the Challenge and then been offered a training apprenticeship with the firm, thanking the scheme for "giving him a future" - he would otherwise have been last in a long queue for a very few jobs.
- Training providers, initially nervous of what they might be facing, soon saw the potential of their trainees, and have commented on the benefits. Local employers in South Tyneside have all expressed a readiness to take part for a second year.
Tel: 0191 491 6000
Fax: 0191 491 6159
Tyneside Challenge - South Tyneside
Tel: 0191 519 1909
Fax: 0191 519 0600