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Key Finginds | UK




11 educational institutions




School leaders and VET leaders

Local administration

School Management of pupil behaviour

educational policY

Personal experience of mental health issues


  • Exam pressure and performance targets.
  • Raising compulsory education and training to 18.
  • Performance pressure on teachers.
  • Changes in the grading system.
  • Qualifications needed to facilitate employability.
  • Perceived low government priority.

  • Stress and anxiety for young people.

Five of the top 10 most discussed risk factors were ‘Structural factors’ – which are outside the control of local-level and individual stakeholders.

The different categories of risk (personal challenges, Family circumstances, social relationships, institutional factors of school and work; and structural factors) were closely interconnected.

  • School environment that can’t accommodate EL behaviour.
  • School exclusion.
  • The impact of disruptive students

  • School funding crisis.
  • Financial constraints on NEET (EL projects.
  • How the department for Education use funds with schools.
  • Lack of and cuts to youth service.
  • Services cut at 18 years old.
  • Support services cut.

21 participated in Focus Groups

11 answered a questionnaire

39 participated in Focus Groups

11 answered a questionnaire

23 interviews

9 interviews

If I’m brutally honest there is the expectation that that attainment of progress academically comes above student wellbeing and not even student wellbeing but human wellbeing. And I think that is really tough and again that is a, when I say “the system” I mean the system that is a governmental thing. It’s a national thing. I think ultimately that needs to change and I do think it will. I think, you know, one of the silver linings of talking about crises and mental health crisis and this crisis and that crisis is that ultimately getting to breaking point …where they say, “Actually we can’t fix this by sticking plasters on it,”… we need to go back and work out why students are so stressed out, … we speak to students all the time and I completely agree with them that they are the generation that has felt the stress of education more than any other. (Member of the senior leadership team at school)

I’ve seen it a few times before.- That the ones that are experiencing, whether it’s a mental health difficulty or whatever’s going on, they get put in isolation or they get put in a group with, you know, the stereotypically naughty kid, the ones that maybe just want to fight, maybe just want to cause havoc, and they sit there are they are trying to do their work sometimes, genuinely, but they’re distracted by ‘Joe’, you know, making a fuss.... So, they then don’t want to go to school because they don’t want to be put with the naughty kids…then it can snowball from there. (Tutor for an Early Leaving Project)

Yeah you need to massively fund it. I’m not saying it’s a cheap answer. It’s not a cheap answer at all. But this is the situation we are in is probably because of years and years and years of there not being enough money in all kinds of services and decisions that have been made to raise the school leaving age. So it’s a combination of those decisions…and also the lack of resources and support for the support and the pressure around attainment because now it feels that any route that isn’t attainment is failure. (Senior leader of an EL Project)

[What do you think are the most important reasons that could lead to young people leaving school?] …The only thing I can think of is like, something like anxiety, their anxiety is so bad. well my brother, he came here and [his anxiety] just set him off and he didn’t do his GCSEs so… he’s in college and I think its his anxiety and all that, because he didn’t get any GCSEs because he didn’t come in..… [He] struggled going to college because he… tried get a job but they kept firing him because he couldn’t wake up in time, because he doesn’t understand time and he just lives in his own little world…And people were kind of horrible to him as well… they didn’t like the fact that he was coming in and that he was saying about anxiety and they didn’t understand …being mean in their own way… they didn’t understand it was affecting him. I would see that it was affecting him, but they wouldn’t see that. (Young person from a specialist school)

inclusive culture

Results highlighted the importance of a broader inclusive institutional, community and local authority culture and ethos, which involves raising aspirations and expectations of educators, professionals, employers, policymakers, peer groups, community citizens and the family. This must be supported by clear systems, information sharing, identification and tracking mechanisms and targeted support procedures. These issues require more than stakeholder goodwill in requiring the funding, and time resources which to attend to them.

strategies to re-engage

Support Strategies

Address social relationships

Address institutional factors

Address personal challenges

Support of a caring and supportive adult

Support with navigating friendships and peer relationships

Positive adult/tutor/mentor relationship

Non-rigid school environment

Individualised support when needed

Quality mentoring; and supporting young people’s emotional wellbeing and welfare.

Support strategies for personal challenges focus on supporting young people’s emotional well-being as well as strengthening their sense of orientation to the world (i.e., building resilience, raising aspirations, fostering self-esteem and self-confidence, developing a sense of autonomy, and encouraging students to see themselves as valued learners).

Support strategies for institutional factors involve a more flexible structure to schooling, such as alternative provision.

Support strategies for social relationships focus on developing key positive adult relationships, support in building and maintaining friendships with peers, having teachers who care for young people, and integrating young people into their communities.

On reflection, I would say that the success of a project is not really over the activities that we deliver, or the courses we deliver, it’s between the relationship between the worker and the young person.

Senior leader for an Early Leaving project

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Positive attitudes and expectations for the young person held by educators

If [young people] don’t have a positive contact within that school, in a teacher, pastoral care, sometimes it’s receptionists, isn’t it? If they don’t have an adult who fulfils that role, I think it’s quite easy to be seen as a number, see the school as failing you not understanding you, and it’s very difficult for young people to voice that they want that support. They don’t necessarily know how to access that support. In reflection, I would say that the success of a project is not really over the activities that we deliver, or the courses we deliver, it’s between the relationship between the worker and the young person. (Senior leader at an Early Leaving college)

It's being flexible and understanding that they will let you down, they won't come in, you won't be able to get hold, so it's just flexibility I think in all those senses. They'll change their mind about what they want to do, yes so it's flexibility I think in every sense. It's not saying this is the programme we're running, it will last for this many weeks, you will come in on Monday and Tuesday. (Teacher and member of academic leadership team at College)

Having that somebody there to be able to, you know… if they’ve got a vision, “I want to be this person,” how do you get there? “Well, talk to me, we will come up with a plan of how we can get you there,” and it might take months, or it might take weeks or it could take days, but that person consistently being there and consistently being bothered, and, you know, we’re developing that trusting relationship and, yeah, I think without somebody there to help you get back on track if you are NEET [at risk of Early Leaving] or if you’re on the cusp of being NEET [at risk of Early Leaving], then I don’t know how else you’d be able to support somebody in that situation. (Member of Pastoral Leadership Team at specialist school)

A one-to-one. I feel like they should have certain boys that, if they see a boy that looks upset, they should get them to have a one-to-one for a little while. […] It means you have a staff member just for you but also can help with some others. (Young person at specialist school)