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KJSA logoLearning & skills, not participating in learning (16-18 years of age), and work & worklessness

Learning & skills: Headlines

Educational attainment is influenced by family socio-economic status together with the quality of the schools that children and young people attend. Their attainment at 16 is a powerful indicator of their chances of achieving future health and economic wellbeing.

Educational attainment (measured by 5 A* to C GCSEs) continues to improve in Kirklees. However, in 2012, there was a gap between the best and worst performing localities of 21% at five and 23% at 16, both of these had widened since 2010. Across Kirklees, a complex pattern existed of inequalities between different ethnic groups, different communities and different schools. Girls’ attainment was higher than boys throughout all stages of formal education up to 16.

Kirklees improved in the levels of residents with higher and intermediate qualifications compared with our Yorkshire neighbours. However, Kirklees still suffered from a high level of residents with no qualifications. This was currently estimated to be 12.2% of the working age population (around 28,000).

Learning & skills: Why is this issue important?

A skilled workforce enables businesses to compete regionally, nationally and globally creating a stronger and more resilient economy. Skills are the biggest determinant of success for cities, and are critical to the life chances of individuals and sustainable future.

A child’s physical, social, and cognitive development during the early years strongly influences their school readiness and educational attainment, economic participation and health. Higher educational attainment is associated with healthier behaviour during childhood and into adult life1 People with low educational attainment are more likely to experience disadvantage throughout their lives across a wide range of issues including income, employment, housing, healthy behaviours and health. Educational attainment is a strong predictor of life expectancy and disability free life. 

Early Years Foundation Stage (age five) 2

In the Early Years Foundation Stage in 2012, nearly 7 in 10 (69%) pupils achieved the expected standard, compared with 6 in 10 (64%) nationally. This built on good improvements in the past few years across all localities. The gap between the lowest attaining 20% of children and the rest continued to be narrow.

GCSE results

Key Stage 4 (age 16)4

At Key Stage 4 in 2012, 6 in 10, (61%) of pupils achieved five or more GCSEs grades A*-C including English and maths, increasing in each of the last five years to above the national average. Almost all pupils (99%) left KS4 with at least one qualification. Levels of persistent absence (pupils with 85% attendance or less) continued to fall and there was provision of alternative full-time education for pupils who are excluded from school

Key Stage 5 (age 19)

There were improvements in young people’s achievement of qualifications at 19.  Attainment at A-level or equivalent continued to improve and was above the national average4. 95% of young people stayed in education at 16. The number of young people achieving level 2 and level 3 by 19 increased year on year but performance remained below the national average.

Gains in level 3 achievement at 19 have not increased at the same rate for young people who were entitled to free school meals at age 15. The gap between the numbers of young people entitled to free school meals achieving a level 3 qualification and those who are not entitled to Free School Meals increased from 26% in 2007/8 to 27% in 2010/11.

Learning & skills: What significant factors are affecting this issue?

A wide range of interacting factors impact on a child’s educational attainment. These include:

  • Social factors, such as parental income, education and socio-economic status, postnatal depression, parental education, parental support and parent/child relationships.
  • School/peer factors, such as the nature of the school and its population.
  • Individual child factors, including low birth weight, being read to every day, attendance at school, having a regular bed time at age three and individual children’s ability, measured primarily in terms of prior attainment.

The most significant of these is the socio-economic status of the family.1

Many factors impact on workplace learning. These include: availability of training budgets, increased employer investment in skills, workplace culture and capacity; understanding the benefits of skills and how these link to business growth, employee factors, such as an individual’s prior experience of learning and access to information, advice and guidance about training. The numbers of adults taking up learning and skills opportunities outside the workplace is also affected by the availability of opportunities, fees and levels of support available.

Learning & skills: Which groups are most affected by this issue?


At the Early Years Foundation Stage, pupils of Asian Pakistani heritage were the lowest performing group, with just over half (52%) achieving the expected level compared with 3 in 4 (74%) for white pupils2. However, by the end of secondary school, trends were improving for this group with half of all pupils (51%) attaining five or more A* - C GCSEs, including English and maths. They remain lower than nationally for Asian Pakistani heritage pupils and lower than the average for all pupils. Exactly half (50%) of mixed white and black Caribbean heritage pupils achieved the expected level compared with 63.5% of white British heritage pupils4.

Low income

For pupils eligible for free school meals, educational attainment was lower across all key stages. Over 1 in 3 (39%) of pupils who were eligible for free school meals achieved the expected standard at the end of Key Stage 4 compared with nearly 2 in 3 (61%) of their peers. This was similar to nationally4.

Looked after children

In 2012, the educational attainment of looked after children was lower than the national average. Achieving five or more A* to C GCSEs at Key Stage 4 including English and maths was 7% compared with 11% for care leavers in England.5 This was linked partly to instability in placements, poor attendance prior to coming into care and a range of learning, behavioural and emotional needs.

Low skilled employees in low skilled jobs

Individuals who are in low skilled jobs generally find it harder to understand the benefits, have the investment required and access the skills development options they need to make progress on the ladder of opportunity. 1 Out of the 28,000 of the working age population who we knew had no qualifications, many were either under-employed or unemployed. 7 There could be as many as 14,500 working residents without qualifications in Kirklees who are struggling to access the training they need to enable them to become socially mobile.

Learning & skills: Where is this causing greatest concern?


  • At Early Years Foundation Stage, attainment was lowest in south Huddersfield (58%). It was highest in Denby Dale and Kirkburton (80%)2.
  • In 2012, 44% of all pupils in Dewsbury failed to achieve five or more GCSEs grades A*-C including English and maths, compared with 21% in Denby Dale and Kirkburton.
  • There is wide variation across Kirklees for Asian Pakistani heritage pupils. 66% of Asian Pakistani pupils in Huddersfield North achieved five or more A* - C GCSEs, including English and maths compared with 46% in Dewsbury

Learning & skills: What could commissioners and service planners consider?

  • Continuing to improve the universal provision of educational opportunities for all children and young people, whilst targeting resources at specific groups based on need (proportionate universalism).
  • Developing a stronger early intervention and prevention focus. This would ensure the root causes of poor attainment could be addressed and specific groups who were struggling would be identified early and supported appropriately.
  • Continuing the success already seen in reducing the variation between schools and groups. The development of school to school support and intervention should be targeted at schools likely to under perform.
  • Delivering a clear message to business highlighting the benefits of investing in the workforce and how this links to business growth and resilience
  • Working with strategic partners to develop a network of workplace learning advocates who create the right culture for learning
  • Working with our employment and skills providers to provide clear information and advice for individuals and business.

Learning & skills: References

  1. Marmot, M. Fair Society, Healthy Lives: Strategic Review of Health Inequalities in England post 2010.
  2. Foundation Stage Profile 2012 Data Collection.
  3. Department for Education Key Stage 2 return 2012.
  4. Key Stage 4 DFE Results 2012.
  5. Department for Education Performance Tables 2012
  6. Kirklees Poverty Needs Assessment 2012.
  7. CLIK Survey 2012, Kirklees Council, 2012.

Learning & skills: Date this section was last reviewed:

08/07/2013 (PL)

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Not participating in learning: Headlines

Engagement in learning and educational attainment is critical if young people are to make a success of their lives.

The number of 16 and 17-year olds who participate in learning is increasing and in June 2012 rose to 86.9% (the same as England). But there are still too many young people in Kirklees who are choosing not to continue in learning beyond the age of 16, or are dropping out between the ages of 16 and 18. They do not acquire the skills they need for successful employment, and they become NEET (not in education, employment or training).

From 2013 young people completing year 11 education must stay in learning until the end of the school year in which they turn 17 years of age and from 2015 will stay in learning until their 18th birthday.

Locally, our Raising Participation Age (RPA) strategy promotes engagement in learning from year 12 to year 14 post-secondary education in order to minimise the number of young people across this age group who are NEET to meet new RPA statutory duties and increase participation in learning.

Not participating in learning: Why is this issue important?

Engagement in learning and educational attainment is critical if young people are to make a success of their lives. The number of local 16 and 17-year olds who participate in learning is increasing in Kirklees; from DFE published participation data in June 2012 participation was up 1% since last year to 86.9% (the average for England is also 86.9%). The number of young people whose current activity was “not known” was 4% in Kirklees (the average for England is 5.4%).

Numbers of young people 16-18 known to not be in education, employment or training (NEET) in March 2012 was 7.2% (1,038 young people), down from 8.1% in March 2011.

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) Children’s Services Statistical Neighbours placed Kirklees sixth out of 11 comparable local authority areas in March 2012 and at 7.2% below the average for its statistical neighbours of 7.5% and equal to the average for Yorkshire and Humber.

Our ambition is to ensure as many young people as possible are engaged in education and training. The aim locally is that 98% of young people aged 16-18 years of age are engaged in learning (assuming that some young people are unable to participate due to illness or other extenuating circumstances which have been defined as a reasonable excuse for non-engagement and with an expectation that young people will continue in learning after their 18th birthday to complete their learning outcomes).

Not participating in learning: What significant factors are affecting this issue?

Those factors which influence participation of 16-18 year olds are the same as those that influence participation in those under 16. Young people who do not participate or fall out of education, employment or training after they have left the compulsory education system, often have health and other personal issues to deal with. Those who are unlikely to engage post-16 are likely to display some of the following factors:

  • Poor achievement at school pre-16.
  • Have a history of school exclusion or poor attendance at school.
  • Are on an alternative curriculum.
  • Have home or care issues.
  • Are teenage parents or pregnant teenagers.
  • Are supervised by youth offending teams.
  • Have substance misuse problems.
  • Are looked after or are care leavers.

Emotional, social and behavioural difficulties are common factors across those in these groups who are NEET.

From CCIS data, in December 2012, 1 in 5 (18%) of looked after children/care leavers were NEET, 1 in 3 (34%) of those supervised by the Youth Offending Team and 1 in 2 (47%) of teenage parents.

Non-participation in learning increases linearly from 16 years of age and beyond. Health outcomes for young people who are not engaged are likely to be poorer and will become sustained where they are unable to progress beyond 18 years of age into good work outcomes. Those becoming NEET in 2012 after completing year 11 has reduced, down to 2.85% overall. However amongst those who have been in alternative key stage 4 education (i.e. not in mainstream schools) the rate is 22% from local activity survey data.

The Government is increasing the age to which all young people in England must continue in education or training, requiring them to continue until the end of the academic year in which they turn 17 from 2013 and until their 18th birthday from 2015. Raising the participation age does not mean young people must stay in school; they will be able to choose one of the following options post-16:

  • Full-time education, such as school, college or home education.
  • An apprenticeship.
  • Part-time education or training if they are employed, self-employed or volunteering full-time (which is defined as 20 hours or more a week).

It is anticipated that those currently at risk of becoming NEET will still be those at risk of not participating once the changes take effect.

Not participating in learning: Which groups are most affected by this issue?

See above

Not participating in learning: Where is this causing greatest concern?

There are a number of hotspots where the risk factors are more common and there is a higher rate of non-participation, for example, Dalton, Rawthorpe, Kirkheaton, Thornhill, Savile Town, Chickenley, Earlsheaton, Ravensthorpe, Dewsbury Moor and Batley account for more than half of all those young people who are NEET (when reporting NEET).

Not participating in learning: Views of local people

Those who are not participating or at risk of becoming NEET report facing a multitude of issues including chaotic lifestyles, inertia, homelessness, bad decision making, criminality and emerging mental health concerns. Unresolved family breakdown, lack of positive role models, unwillingness or inability to take risks for positive change, dependency on alcohol or drugs, laziness, bad parenting and a determination not to take a place in the mainstream are also among the barriers some young people report facing when working with advisers.

Young adults also report that finding work was one of their major concerns and the stress of job hunting and financial insecurity can have a significant effect on their emotional and physical wellbeing. Some young adults had little motivation to find work due to a lack of financial commitments, as they were living with parents or because they receive “free money” through the benefits system and report abandoning education or training because there is no immediate financial reward. At the same time the cost of training or education was seen as a major issue, particularly for those who lack parental support or those with young children as they felt the need to earn a steady income was more important than developing their skills.

Not participating in learning: What could commissioners and service planners consider?

  • The provision of personalised support and guidance covering:
    • Good quality, impartial information, advice and guidance (IAG).
    • Financial support.
    • Targeted early intervention with those at risk of NEET pre-16 and those who are engaged in learning but are at risk of dropping out.
  • Targeted support and specialised provision for young people with specific vulnerabilities, including teenage parents, young carers, care leavers and LAC, young offenders, young people with special educational needs and young people with emotional, social and behavioural difficulties (ESBD).
  • The provision of flexible learning opportunities such as volunteering, support to young people in jobs without training, apprenticeships and flexible starts (throughout the calendar year) in post-16 learning.
  • Other Raising Participation Age priorities:
    • Preparing young people with employability skills through work experience and work related learning.
    • Post-16 progression planning and pathways ensuring young people are able to progress and follow relevant learning programmes.
    • Ensuring young people have the necessary English and maths skills and delivering functional skills in creative and imaginative ways.
  • Improving employment links beyond age 18:
    • Links with Job Centre Plus provision and services.
    • Programmes to support 18-25 year olds into work.
    • See also: work section of JSNA.

Not participating in learning: References

  1. The Department for Education DfE Client Caseload Information System (CCIS). Available from:
  2. Kirklees Raising Participation Strategy.
  3. DfE Client Caseload Information System (CCIS).
  4. Marmot Review

Not participating in learning: Date this section was last reviewed

09/07/2013 (PL)

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Work & worklessness: Headlines

Being in work is a key component of mental and physical wellbeing. However, jobs that are insecure, low paid and that fail to protect employees from stress and danger are associated with illness and disease. Unemployment has both short and long-term effects on mental and physical health, including premature death. The number of people unemployed for more than 12 months in Kirklees rose by 84% between October 2010 and October 2012.

The impact of poor health or disability on a person’s likelihood of finding and keeping a job is significant. Around 20% of Kirklees’ working age population, more than 50,000 people, have a disability of some sort. Of these, only 60% have a job, compared to 76% of those without a disability; the rate for people with a mental health problem is even lower (40%). This effect can be mitigated by educational qualifications.

Nearly 20,500 adults are not in work and are claiming benefits based on their illness or disability, 2 in 3 (62%) have been on the benefit for more than five years and nearly half are claiming because of a mental health problem.

Unemployment amongst young people is rising, whilst 2 in 3 (60%) employers locally report that they do not employ any people aged under 25 years.

Work & worklessness: Why is this issue important?

Patterns of employment both reflect and reinforce the social gradient. The level of income inequality in a society is associated with the level of health inequality, even after controlling for smoking and drinking. People’s experience of good work is linked to positive health outcomes, however jobs that are insecure, low paid and that fail to protect employees from stress and danger, make people ill1 (p.72). Unemployment has both short and long-term effects on mental and physical health, including premature death. Being made redundant has an immediate negative impact on a person’s health, and the longer someone is unemployed the worse these negative effects become. Unemployment affects health in three ways:

  • Causing financial problems leading to lower living standards.
  • Triggering stress, anxiety and depression, caused by loss of status and social participation.
  • Increasing unhelpful coping behaviours such as smoking and alcohol consumption and decreased physical activity1.

Returning to work can be good for health, reversing the harmful effects of long-term unemployment and prolonged sickness absence2.

Work & worklessness: What significant factors are affecting this issue?

  • Abolition of default retirement age. The default retirement age has been abolished making it unlawful for an organisation to compel an employee to retire. This will result in changes to the way employers need to manage their workforce and potentially reduce the number of jobs for younger people.
  • Underemployment. As the number of unemployed people has increased over the period of economic downturn many of these people have had to secure employment, which is insufficient for the level they require. For example, individuals have had to take part-time work or are overqualified for the jobs they have been able to secure.
  • Temporary/contract workers. Over the period of the economic downturn many employers have increasingly opted for temporary and part-time working arrangements and reduced training budgets. This can have a negative impact on the delivery of workplace skills resulting in a “skills plateau” and associated reduction in productivity.

Impact of the recession on Kirklees2

  • Fewer jobs for young people. The number of unemployed 18-24 year olds increased by 1,680 between October 2010 and October 2012. 60% of employers in Kirklees did not employ any workers aged under 25 years. The long-term impact on young people of unemployment and a low likelihood of finding a job is far more significant than among older people and could seriously impact on their mental and physical health.
  • Older workers leaving the job market. Unemployment among people aged over 50 increased by 98% over the same period. Among people aged over 60, the increase was nearer 210%. Many people in this age group are unlikely to work again.
  • Between October 2010 and October 2012, the most significant reductions in the number of Kirklees residents in work were in the construction, IT, public administration, business administration and education sectors.
  • The number of people unemployed for more than 12 months increased by nearly 150% between October 2010 and October 2012.
  • As jobs are lost and not replaced, the pressure on those in work increases. The drive for employers to do more with less in an uncertain labour market is likely to result in increased stress levels within their workforce, many of whom may also have taken a cut in pay, making it harder to live healthy lives.

Work & worklessness: Which groups are most affected by this issue?

Unemployment rates for people with a disability are around double of those with no limiting health problems. Almost 40% of adults with mental health conditions are unemployed. The extent to which limiting illness and disability act as a barrier to work is highly dependent on educational qualifications; nationally 1 in 3 men with no qualifications and a limiting longstanding illness were in employment, whilst for those with higher qualifications it is 3 in 41. A breakdown of those people of working age in Kirklees, who are claiming Incapacity Benefit/Severe Disablement Allowance (IB/ESA), shows the main two conditions reported were:

  • Mental and behavioural disorders (reported by 42% of all claimants) and diseases of the musculoskeletal system (18% of claimants).
  • 62% of claimants had been claiming these benefits for more than five years2.
  • Manufacturing businesses. Despite its historic decline, in recent years we have seen increased demand in the higher skilled engineering and advanced manufacturing sectors. Priority has to be placed on local education and training providers to provide a pipeline of apprentices if the sector is to avoid acute skill shortages in areas of strength such as textiles, turbo, valve and gearing. This requires schools to promote the benefits of vocational pathways as an alternative to academic routes.
  • Working residents with no/low qualifications. Individuals who are in low skilled jobs may suffer from a lack of awareness about the benefits of acquiring new skills and how this relates to improvements in health, wellbeing and lifetime earnings potential.
  • Working poor. Whilst poverty is often associated with the unemployed there are a number of working people whose incomes fall below the poverty line. Individuals and households affected are often unable to provide the basic necessities and are led into making difficult choices about how they spend their income e.g. making a choice between putting food on the table or heating their home and this can lead to poor health.

Work & worklessness: Where is this causing greatest concern?

There is a link between poor health and socio-economic deprivation. The most disadvantaged parts of Kirklees, inner Huddersfield, Dewsbury and Batley, also have the largest number of ESA/IB claimants. Across Kirklees, 7% of working age residents (nearly 18,000 people) claim ESA/IB. In Deighton, Dewsbury East and West, rates are more than 10% but in the more affluent populations of rural and suburban South Kirklees for example, the Holme Valley and Kirkburton, claim rates were half the Kirklees average.

As well as the individuals affected directly by poor health, there is also a significant impact on the rest of the family. Overall, in Kirklees, about 3,260 adults receive Carer’s Allowance – a claim rate of 1.3% of the working age population. In Crosland Moor, Dewsbury West and Thornhill, the rate increases to 2.2%.

Work & worklessness: What could commissioners and service planners consider?

  • Promoting a clear message to businesses highlighting the benefits of investing in the workforce and how this links to business growth and resilience.
  • Promoting the benefits of better health at work practices to businesses for example increased productivity and reduced staff sickness levels.
  • Enabling the working poor to understand the benefits of training, developing skills and increasing personal resilience.
  • Providing effective support to young adults and people with health problems or disabilities – this may require more creative solutions than have been tried previously.
  • How to enable people who have not worked for a long time to be ready for work, and enabling those for whom paid work is unlikely to be a realistic option in the near future to participate in appropriate purposeful activity.
  • The Boorman review has recognised the importance of staff wellbeing in the NHS and made recommendations which can be applied across the public sector3.
  • The Local Authority and NHS are Kirklees’ largest employers and should actively promote and support local labour market initiatives.

Work & worklessness: References

  1. Marmot M. Fair Society, Healthy Lives: Strategic Review of Health Inequalities in England Post 2010. 2010. Available from:
  2. Kirklees Council. Kirklees Local Economic Assessment 2012. Available from:
  3. Boorman Dr S. NHS Health and Wellbeing. Department of Health, 2009.

Work & worklessness: Date this section was last reviewed

09/07/2013 (PL)