Kirklees Council: Support for the universal offer group

Following the disbanding of Connexions as a national service in 2012, Kirklees Council continued to make significant local investments in Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance (CEIAG), NEET prevention activities and post-16 tracking. With the exception of York, Kirklees and Calderdale have the lowest combined NEET and not known rates in the Yorkshire and Humber region.


Introduction

Kirklees is a local government district in West Yorkshire. It is the third largest metropolitan district in England by area size, behind Doncaster and Leeds. Kirklees has a population of approximately 450,000 residents (of which approximately 10,200 are aged 16-17) and an economy worth £7.5bn per annum. As at February 2021, 2.6 per cent of 16-17 year olds in Kirklees were not in education, employment or training (NEET) while 1.5 per cent were recorded as not known. This compares with 2.8 per cent and 2.7 per cent respectively across England as a whole. 

Description of activity

Following the disbanding of Connexions as a national service in 2012, Kirklees Council continued to make significant local investments in Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance (CEIAG), NEET prevention activities and post-16 tracking. The Council estimates that its expenditure in these areas, per head of population, is three to four times the national average. The expenditure is channelled through C+K Careers – a local organisation established more than 25 years ago that employs 60 specialist careers advisers.

There is a cohort of approximately 500 young people in Kirklees, from year 9 upwards, meeting one or more measures of vulnerability. Referred to locally as the ‘universal offer group’, these young people receive intense support from C+K Careers, regardless of whether or not the school buys in any of their other services. This support has been in part enabled through funding devolved to Kirklees from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority via its Employment Hub programme.

The support for the universal offer group includes:

  • regular access to a Level 6 qualified careers adviser with a specialism in their particular area(s) of vulnerability
  • access to the same careers adviser (wherever possible) in both their pre-16 and post-16 settings, and during their transition between the two
  • support and guidance from a careers adviser when selecting their Key Stage 4 options
  • in-person support at Preparing for Adulthood meetings
  • a needs assessment, written by C+K Careers, for each young person with an Education, Health and Care Plan as they leave school for further education or training.

Kirklees has also invested in the ‘Get Into’ online prospectus and application system. Seen as a local replacement for the UCAS Progress system, ‘Get Into’ allows young people to apply to school sixth forms, colleges and training providers in Kirklees and the surrounding area. It is said to enable effective information sharing between education providers and helps with destination tracking, NEET prevention and the minimisation of not knowns. 

Where young people have become NEET, Participation Advisers from C+K Careers offer a targeted CEIAG service. The Participation Advisers are well versed in the issues and barriers facing young people who may find it difficult to move into positive destinations. 

Impacts and outcomes

With the exception of York, Kirklees and Calderdale (its neighbouring authority) have the lowest combined NEET and not known rates in the Yorkshire and Humber region. At 4.1 per cent and 4.0 per cent respectively, these rates sit below the regional average of 6.3 per cent and are lower than in other authority areas, which, on average, experience less severe challenges in terms of deprivation, aspiration, unemployment and social exclusion. Stakeholders in Kirklees confidently attribute this to the investments outlined above and, in particular, to the presence and funding of a highly qualified careers adviser workforce that provides specialist support to those most at risk of becoming NEET. Ongoing investment in this workforce has been made possible, in part, by the aforementioned Employment Hub funding from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

The key thing is the quality of the provision. Unless it’s delivered by skilled professionals, and done in person, it’s very hard to have an impact on NEETs and not knowns.

Head of Post-16, Progression and Partnerships, Kirklees Council

Successes and lessons learnt

  • Senior leader support: ongoing support for the investment in CEIAG from senior stakeholders within the authority has been very important. To help garner and sustain this support, social value calculations have been undertaken and the authority has been able to demonstrate the likelihood of increased costs to the justice system and social care (children’s and adults) were the investment to be withdrawn.
  • The benefits of a small network: Kirklees has three main post-16 education providers, each of which is rated Good or Outstanding by Ofsted. The post-16 network is therefore relatively small, which has made it easier to implement and manage systems to support harder-to-reach young people as they transition into post-16, and to keep not knowns at a low level.
  • The need for a long-term commitment: the model in Kirklees has become established and embedded over a number of years. The funding devolved through the Employment Hub allowed it to expand (particularly in terms of the ‘universal offer group’) but the key relationships and connections between schools, post-16 providers, the authority and C+K Careers were already in place. Stakeholders were keen to stress that any authority looking to replicate the model from a standing start would need to commit to a long-term programme and should not expect immediate buy-in or success. They also noted the costs associated with recruiting and developing highly skilled careers advisers.
  • Recognising careers advice as a skilled profession: the Kirklees model is predicated on a belief that careers advice works most effectively and generates the best results when it is delivered in-person. The model recognises careers advisers as specialist, skilled professionals that need to be given sufficient time, support and professional development opportunities. This enables them to provide the high quality services that engages both young people and their education providers.