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Agenda item

Participation in Learning


a)    Report of the Corporate Director of Children and Young People’s Services

b)    Presentation by Strategic Manager Progression and Learning



The Committee considered a report of the Corporate Director or Children and Young People’s Services which provided Members with an update on the participation in education or training and a received a presentation from the Strategic Lead, Progression and Learning (for copies see file of minutes).


The presentation provided information on the vision, statutory responsibilities and statistics and those over the current and previous five years.  Members were given an insight into the DurhamWorks Programme and information on Partners, the impact of the programme on young people since 2015, the improvements to be made and next steps.  There were also a number of caseloads from young people who had been given opportunities that they would not ordinarily have been given, had it not been for the programme. 


Members were provided with the most up to date data from June 2018, and advised that when looking at figures for young people Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) and Not Known, Durham was marginally below the regional average and slightly higher than the national average.


Members received information on the DurhamWorks Programme which was a European funded programme.  There had recently been a further £12m received to fund the programme for a further 3 years.  Due to delays in approval, the additional funding had been received late. 


Councillor Jewell asked for information on how performance of DurhamWorks was measured and whether there had been any effect following the late allocation of funding.  The Strategic Lead, Progression and Learning, advised that in relation to quality assurance there was monthly performance information measured against profile, observations and systematic learner satisfaction surveys.  In addition, there were significant audits carried out with clear action plans in compliance of the programme, and there were to be more unannounced observations.  He confirmed that the funding was allocated in a period of time when much of the programme was in the process of winding down, so the service had not been able to retain contractors.  Some funding had been secured which allowed the service to retain some of the staff and ensured some level of continuity, however many had left to pursue other roles due to the uncertainty.  Performance was monitored by observations, learner satisfaction surveys, audits. 


Councillor Jewell enquired if the situation were to happen again how would the service address it to which the Strategic Lead, Progression and Learning advised that while the matter could have been elevated sooner, the service needed to maintain positive relations.


Councillor Considine queried the number of post 16 year olds who were affected by the education transport policy.  The Strategic Lead, Progression and Learning, confirmed that this issue was currently under investigation, however she added that young people who participated through DurhamWorks were assisted with transport costs.  The Interim Head of Education confirmed that the implications of not providing transport was a very significant issue in Durham and a further written response would be circulated to Members.


Councillor Brookes referred to the number of 16-17 year olds who were unable to be located and queried how we could have such accurate information and still be unable to locate them.  The Strategic Lead, Progression and Learning, confirmed that they could have moved out of county, but also that some of them did not want to be contacted and would deliberately ignore attempts of communication.  She added that the way in which the service communicated with young people needed to be updated – they preferred using smartphones and particularly social media, but there were safeguarding issues associated with the use of social media.


Councillor Brookes highlighted that apprenticeships were often thought of as exploitation and Councillor Durham questioned whether they had always been available or the number of them had increased over most recent years.  The Strategic Lead, Progression and Learning, confirmed that there was evidence to suggest that the number of apprenticeships had increased, but also the number of work opportunities.  Apprenticeships often led to permanent job opportunities, and even if young people did not retain a position with the employer, they were equipped with certificates of further education.  In relation in internships, she confirmed that these were used for young people with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) and did not consist of employment only, they were intended to increase vocational skills and Maths and English skills which could lead to apprenticeships.  Data would be available next year to measure the success of the programme.


Councillor Kennedy asked whether any work focused on youth workers in the voluntary community sector (VCS) and the Strategic Lead, Progression and Learning, confirmed that youth workers employed by DurhamWorks engaged with the VCS and with youth workers and young people in youth clubs and leisure centres.


Councillor Hall queried the reason why unemployment data was so unreliable and the Strategic Lead, Progression and Learning, confirmed that if a young person claimed universal credit or jobseekers allowance, they were classified as employed, even if they only worked one day per week.  The true picture in County Durham was masked by the benefits they were or were not claiming.  She referred to hidden unemployment and described young people who were not claiming benefits for many reasons.  The service had met with job centre representatives and experienced evaluators but neither could assist in determining a true picture and therefore it was very difficult to engage with them.  Where there were areas of greater unemployment there were more staff allocated to the known hot spot areas.


In response to a question from Councillor Hall, the Interim Head of Education confirmed that the curriculum was not appropriate for all children however, alternative provision could provide them with a bespoke pathway, which included access to vocational qualifications.  In KS3 the school were asked for information with regards to children ‘at risk’ and in order to reduce the number that were lost during the transitional period between school and further education or employment.


Mrs Morris was delighted that the funding had been secured and asked if it would be used in the same way or if the service would be reviewing areas based on whether they were working or not.  The Strategic Lead, Progression and Learning confirmed that a lot of lessons had been learned and these were incorporated into the evaluation report.  She added that for example, with regards to generic provision, young people were only interested if the outcome was guaranteed to lead to a clear employment opportunity.


Mrs Parkins highlighted a former employee with a disability who had flourished in the work environment after seeking employment through the press, but it highlighted the difficulty in gaining the opportunity.




That the presentation be received, and a further progress report be given at a future meeting.

Supporting documents:


Democratic Services
Durham County Council
County Hall
County Durham
03000 269 714