Only three quarters of Croydon’s 16 to 17 year olds are in education or training according to recently released statistics.
Data complied by the Department for Education shows 89.8 per cent of 16 to 17 year olds are in some form of education or training nationwide. However, the figures for Croydon are significantly lower at 76.5 per cent, giving the borough one of the lowest rates in the country.
As Prime Minister David Cameron commits the government to ensuring all 16 and 17 year olds are in education or training by 2015, these statistics might suggest that the government has a long way to go but Croydon Council aren’t so sure.
A spokesperson for the Council said: “Our data is not yet as accurate and reliable as we would like and the data does not therefore paint a true picture of the borough’s situation. Work is being done to improve the data and we expect it to report the correct participation rate in the near future.”
Kathy Bee, a Labour councillor for South Norwood and a member of Croydon council’s Children and Families Partnership, suggests that Croydon’s low results are largely the result of spending cuts to tracking programs.
She also argues that the “exceptionally high” level of unknowns, which is higher than many other boroughs, may have made these figures inaccurate. However, Bee does acknowledge that it is: “distinctly possible that numbers of those who are not in employment or training are higher than the national average.”
The ‘unknowns’ category accounts for almost a quarter of the results, meaning that the local authority does not know whether these teenagers are in education, training or employment.
A Department of Education spokesperson told eastlondonlines: “We have a clear programme of reforms to improve the quality of young people’s education. We have also introduced new traineeships, reformed apprenticeships and raised the participation age to help more young people into the world of work.”
Government schemes, such as Youth Contract, are targeting 16 to 17 year olds with no education, employment or training with the aim of reducing youth unemployment.
However, Carole Horstead, a regional official from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers responsible for Croydon, believes that underfunding limits the efficacy of these programmes.
Mrs Horstead, a Croydon resident with several children who have gone through the system, believes that funding for both schools and training schemes is severely limited.
She argues that Croydon’s high non-English speaking population is putting financial strain on many schools in the area. Croydon’s ethnic minority population has grown from 30 per cent in 2001 to 45 per cent in 2011.
Mrs Horsted believes that funding has been diverted in many cases towards teaching English to non-English speaking students.
The only borough to rank lower than Croydon was the City of London, with just half of their 16 to 17 year olds recorded as in education or training.
By Jack Hillcox