Improve the choices young people make from 16

Our aim

Ensuring a pipeline of highly qualified young people in Stoke-on-Trent who can contribute to a skilled workforce

Why is this an issue?


Evidence suggests that almost half of those who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) at age 17 and 18 are still NEET one year later, and those who are NEET at age 18 and 19 are 28% more likely than others to be unemployed 5 years later and 20% more likely to be so 10 years later. In Stoke-on-Trent NEET rates among school leavers and 16- to 18-year-olds have fallen in recent years as more young people are staying on in education, employment and training. However, the number of pupils who failed to sustain employment, education or training (post-16) remains above the national average (7% in comparison to 5% nationally). This is particularly marked amongst young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). In 2016, the percentage of young people not in education, employment or training was 14% in comparison to 12% nationally, putting the city in the lowest quartile banding.

More young people in Stoke-on-Trent also fail to reach level 2 in maths and English by the age of 19 than nationally. Whilst there is an improving trend, attainment in Stoke-on-Trent remains 9 percentage points below the national average.

Attainment at level 3 amongst 19-year-olds in Stoke-on-Trent is below the national average by 10 percentage points. For free school meals (FSM) young people (included within the disadvantaged cohort) the gap with their national peers is wider – over 11 percentage points. Progression into higher education for pupils from state funded schools in the city is also well below the national average (28% in comparison to 38%). In all cases, the city is amongst the lowest performing areas in the country.

There is also an emerging skills gap between pupil ability and the demands of the labour market. Careers information, advice and guidance in the city, while improving, is inconsistent, of varying quality and not always well embedded or coordinated. In our discussions with local employers, we have heard concerns that young people are not adequately prepared for work.

Take up of apprenticeships is high in Stoke-on-Trent, marginally exceeding national averages for both FSM and non- FSM pupils. However, many of these pupils are taking intermediate apprenticeships (level 2). Last year, 2,130 young people undertook intermediate apprenticeships in comparison to 140 who started higher-level apprenticeships. As yet, few employers have stepped forward to offer higher or degree level apprenticeships in the city, particularly in areas related to science and maths. We have heard some concerns that this could perpetuate a higher-level skills gap in key sectors. There is, however, appetite amongst providers, for example Staffordshire University, to provide more degree level apprenticeships and expand the apprenticeship offer.

What will we do?

We know that being work ready is not simply about children and young people studying hard and getting the best possible results. We want to make sure all children and young people in Stoke-on-Trent have access to timely and high quality careers advice. This advice should not only consider post-16 academic routes but the possibilities that can be realised through apprenticeships and technical education. We will work to ensure that the qualifications young people achieve at school are enhanced with the employability skills and personal attributes needed to succeed in the world of work. This will include:

  • improving employer links – the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) will lead a programme of work with the Local Enterprise Partnership to build links between employers and schools. Every pupil at secondary school or college in the city will benefit from 4 meaningful engagements with the world of work.

We have listened to the views of children in primary phases and their teachers, and will work with the CEC to pilot employer engagement in primary schools. We’ill also improve access to learning experiences outside the classroom, working with employers, universities, colleges and local football clubs to help contextualise the curriculum, building on the current Enterprise Education initiative for 11- to 16-year-olds run by Stoke City Football Club.

We will:

  • increase the number of learners achieving level 2 in maths and English post-16, by drawing on the findings of the EEF, and working in collaboration with post-16 providers
  • draw on the LEP strategy to review pathways post-16, focusing on clear routes to careers particularly in key sectors
  • support secondary schools and colleges to meet the 8 Gatsby Benchmarks and achieve the Quality in Careers standard.
  • harness the expertise of special schools across the city and other partners (for example Stoke City Football Club and Port Vale Football Club), along with the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi), to develop a strategy that supports young people with special educational needs to make the transition into adulthood and employment.

In 2018 we will:

Enhance the information, advice and guidance (IAG) offer in the city, working in partnership with the CEC to:

  • assess careers provision across Stoke-on-Trent using the Careers & Enterprise Company’s Compass Benchmarking Tool measuring current activity across the 8 Gatsby Benchmarks
  • support the capacity of careers leaders in schools and colleges to respond to the increasing array of careers education, information, advice and guidance, employability and enterprise activities in the city
  • ensure that every 11- to 18-year-old benefits from at least 4 high quality employer encounters over the life of the Opportunity Area programme. This follows research from the Education and Employers Taskforce which shows that a young person who has 4 or more encounters with an employer is 86% less likely to be unemployed or not in education or training, and can earn up to 18% more during their career. Delivering these 4 encounters will help schools achieve the Gatsby Benchmarks relating to ‘encounters with employers’, and ‘experiences of workplaces’. In 2018 CEC will target over 17,000 pupils across 26 establishments in the city
  • encourage cornerstone employers to extend their offer. For example, Michelin has committed to pilot their successful ‘Inspiring Females’ and ‘Males’ events in 2 secondary schools, with a view to extending the programme to at least 50% of Stoke-on-Trent’s secondary schools. This will ensure more of the city’s pupils are inspired by successful people across an array of sectors and careers
  • test approaches, from September 2018, to a structured employer offer in up to 10 primary schools within the most deprived wards in the city, to excite and inspire children at the earliest possible stage
  • give more help to young people aged 16 and 21 in making good choices about their future learning and their careers, building on existing local programmes, such as the SASCAL futures programme.

To improve outcomes for post-16 pupils, we will:

  • join forces with employers and post-16 learning providers to determine effective ways of teaching English and maths that help learners re-sitting their GCSEs apply skills to scenarios in both work and life. As part of this we will build on work underway between Stoke-on-Trent College, Stoke-on-Trent Sixth-Form College and Mathematics in Education and Industry (MEI) with a view to embedding practice by September 2018
  • support on-programme retention of pupils through, for example, in-year opportunities to transfer and tracking of progress against potential
  • improve post-16 outcomes for pupils with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) in partnership with NDTi and special schools in Stoke-on-Trent, through better parental engagement and support into adulthood. We’ve started this from the beginning of the spring term 2018. We will gather lessons learnt over summer 2018 with a view to extending this approach to all children with an EHCP during the autumn term 2018.

Our targets for 2020 to 2021


Stoke-on-Trent will be in the top half of all local authority districts for the attainment of all pupils in achieving maths and English at level 2 post-16.

We will raise retention rates for 16- to 18-year-olds to exceed the national average. Based on 2016 data, this would mean an additional 280 learners continue on the education or training course first selected.