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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.3 Preventing early leaving from education and training (ELET)

Last update: 27 January 2021
On this page
  1. National strategy
  2. Formal education: main policy measures on ELET
  3. Addressing ELET through non-formal and informal learning and quality youth work
  4. Cross-sector coordination and monitoring of ELET interventions


National strategy

In Wales, the term early leaving from education and training (ELET) is not commonly used. Instead, policy documents refer to young people not in education, employment or training (NEET).

The Youth Engagement and Progression Framework (YEPF) is the Welsh Government’s approach to tackling the problem of young people who are NEET. Originally published in 2013, with a two-year plan for implementation, this framework remains current (personal communication from Welsh Government). The Welsh Government continues to support local authorities, who have the strategic lead for the implementation and embedding of the framework, developing structures and systems at a local level to build upon the work that has been done to date.

The framework has six key elements:

  • identifying young people most at risk of disengagement
  • better brokerage and coordination of support
  • stronger tracking and transitions of young people through the system
  • ensuring provision meets the needs of young people
  • strengthening employability skills and opportunities for employment
  • greater accountability for better outcomes for young people

Since the launch of the Framework local authorities have put in place an Engagement and Progression Coordinator and early identification systems. They have also developed multi-agency processes which help to identify at the earliest stage the young people who need support. As part of this, the right partner organisation (e.g. Careers Wales, further education or work-based learning providers, youth justice, health, housing, third sector etc.) is identified to provide the support the young person needs to progress.

The findings from an evaluation report in 2016 found that: 

  • Progress in relation to early identification, brokerage and tracking has continued to be strong, particularly with regard to young people aged up to 18.
  • There has been increased communication and coordination between stakeholders as a result of the framework, partners remain positive about it, although local authorities report that funding reductions and re-structuring are challenging progress.
  • Post-16 providers’ early identification data are often of variable quality. Accountability for post-18 is under-developed and there are gaps in the provision of lead workers for this group.


Formal education: main policy measures on ELET

Financial support mechanisms

The Welsh Government targets financial support at certain disadvantaged groups to make it easier for them to remain in education. For young people aged 16 to 18, who wish to continue in education after school leaving age, there is the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). EMA is an income-assessed weekly allowance of £30 to help students with the associated costs of further education, such as books, transport and equipment. It is paid every two weeks directly into the student’s bank account. Students must have a learning agreement in place with their school or college, setting out objectives, behaviour and attendance requirements which are signed by the student and learning centre. The support is removed if these criteria are not met.

The purpose of the Financial Contingency Fund (FCF) is to support students over the age of 16 who face financial difficulties and who, without support, may not continue their education beyond the end of compulsory education or are likely to leave it because of financial considerations. Each academic year, the Welsh Government makes money available to individual further education institutions to administer to their students on the basis that the college is best able to tailor support to the need of the student. The FCF can provide help to eligible students with childcare, books, equipment, lunch and transport costs.

Children and young people in full-time education in maintained schools are eligible for free school meals if their parents (or they themselves) are in receipt of certain welfare benefits or income support, indicating that they are socio-economically disadvantaged. The provision applies to young people aged 16 to 19 studying in school sixth forms, but not if they are studying in a further education college. However, further education institutions are able to provide support for eligible students to cover the costs of meals via the FCF. In April 2020, the Welsh government announced the extension of free school meals for vulnerable children in the summer holidays as a response to COVID-19. Each eligible child receives £19.50 a week. With the support of the Welsh Local Government Association, the Welsh Government made £33m available to help local authorities continue to provide free school meals. You can read more about this here.

Local authorities will also provide free home to school transport for pupils living a set distance from the nearest suitable school, including for those above compulsory school age (16), but continuing in school. As well as the duty to provide transport to some pupils, a local authority has discretionary powers to provide home to school transport for other learners, which might include travel to a further education college.

The Welsh Government has a youth discount bus travel scheme. This provides discounted travel on buses for those aged between 16 and 18 who live in Wales and may be used for school or college transport.

Further information on home to school transport is available in a National Assembly for Wales Research Service briefing.

Careers education, information, advice and guidance

Careers education, information, advice and guidance  is intended to ensure that young people know how to access education, training or employment and are helped to overcome any personal barriers to participation.

Careers and the World of Work (CWW) forms part of the basic curriculum for all registered pupils aged 11 to 16 at maintained schools. CWW is also part of the ‘Learning Core’ of Learning Pathways for 14–19 year olds (see the subheading ‘Curriculum, Subjects, Numbers of Hours’ in the article on ‘Teaching and Learning in General Lower Secondary Education’ in the Eurydice education system description for further information).

The Welsh Government’s Careers and the World of Work: a Framework for 11 to 19-year-olds in Wales (published in 2008 but remains current) and related guidance and educational materials are the key documents setting out the careers education provision required for pupils in secondary school.

The framework document states that learners at Key Stage 4 (aged 14-16) should have the opportunity to:

  • develop a curriculum vitae (CV) based on their achievements, abilities, interests and skills
  • identify, understand and make decisions about individual pathways in education, training and work.

Post-16, they should have the opportunity to:

  • continue to develop an ongoing curriculum vitae (CV) based on their achievements, experiences, interests and skills in order to enhance their employability
  • understand, analyse and make decisions about individual pathways in education, training and work.

All 14-19 year old learners are entitled to access impartial and professional careers information, advice and guidance. This service is delivered by Careers Wales, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Welsh Government. Careers Wales provides an all-age service and all adults and young people continue to have access to careers services online and on the telephone but face-to face guidance is offered to individuals most in need, including 14- to 16-year-olds identified at risk of disengaging.

Careers Wales receives an annual remit letter from the Welsh Government outlining what its priorities should be. The remit letter for 2019-20 identifies as target groups:

  • young people with statements of Special Educational Need (SEN) or equivalent
  • young people aged 11-18 who are in greatest need of careers information, advice and guidance, with particular emphasis on providing support to these individuals at key transition points
  • young people identified by the SEREN programme for the more gifted and able students
  • young people aged 16 -17 who are unemployed as part of Working Wales;
  • young people in the Youth Justice system; and
  • Exploring ways to work young people educated at home.

Careers Wales is expected to drive priorities outlined in the “Changing Lives” vision and require performance information which specifically address the:

  • Ratio of career advisors to secondary schools in Wales
  • Proportion of young people in Key Stage 4 (KS4) completing the Career Check tool through digital interaction
  • Number of young people 16-18 receiving Working Wales support 

The Career Wales Mark is an award designed by Careers Wales to recognise a commitment to continuous quality improvement within an educational institution to meet with the Welsh Government's requirements that are set out in the Careers and the World of Work: a framework for 11-19 year-olds in Wales. Careers Wales has developed the Careers Wales Mark as a collaborative partnership with learning providers to support their process for improved outcomes for all learners 

The Careers Wales Mark will recognise establishments that have demonstrated they have active procedures in place to ensure a continuous process of improvement 

The programme is designed to equip young people with the skills they will need in order to manage their working life, whether they leave education at 16, 18 or 21 so that they have the most up-to-date knowledge and understanding of working practices to make effective career choices

The Common Area Prospectus and Application Process (CAP) is an online tool, hosted by Careers Wales, that provides young people aged 16-19 with a searchable directory showing the full range of education and training options in their area. Detailed programme information is available in Welsh and English, and a standard electronic form can be used to apply for opportunities. CAP was implemented as part of the Youth Engagement and Progression Framework (see ‘National strategy’).

See also the article Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education in the Eurydice education system description.

Apprenticeships and traineeships

To encourage greater engagement in vocational learning in schools, the Welsh Government is piloting the ‘Have a Go’ initiative. ‘Have a Go’ events in schools and colleges involve young people trying out new skills through a range of interactive activities. This is intended to help to open up vocational pathways, including apprenticeships.

The Welsh Government committed to introducing a Youth Guarantee in the 2013 Youth Engagement and Progression Framework Implementation Plan. The Youth Guarantee comprises the offer, acceptance and commencement of a suitable place in education or training. The Welsh Youth Guarantee only partially meets the provisions of the European Youth Guarantee, since it applies only to 16 year-olds who are making the transition from compulsory education for the first time, and not to 25-year-olds who are unemployed or leaving formal education.

In February 2017, the Minister for Skills and Science launched the Welsh Government’s new apprenticeship policy. This is an all-age policy, but has a number of aims regarding young people. It recognises the role which ‘people over 50 have in mentoring younger workers’. The Welsh Government is also considering the introduction of a pre-apprenticeship trial to encourage young people to take up apprenticeships.

See ‘Current debates and reforms’ for more details.

COVID-19 has a major impact on apprenticeships in Wales. The Welsh government released data stating the number of furloughed apprentices has fallen by 2,835 (37%) from a peak of 7,770 on 29 May 2020. 4,930 apprentices were still furloughed on 28 August 2020.

The Traineeship programme, introduced in 2011, is for young people aged 16–18. It enables young people to gain the skills needed to get a job or progress to further learning at a higher level, such as an apprenticeship or further education. The Traineeships programme is available at three levels. These are Engagement, Level 1, and Level 2.

For further information on traineeships and apprenticeships see:

The article ’Teaching and Learning in Vocational Upper Secondary Education’ in the Eurydice national education system description.

Chapter 3.5 Apprenticeships and Traineeships 


Addressing ELET through non-formal and informal learning and quality youth work

Young people at risk of disengaging from education or training may be supported by youth workers assigned the role of ‘lead worker’ under the Youth Engagement and Progression Framework (see ‘National strategy’). The National Youth Work Strategy for Wales , published in 2019, states: 

Youth workers are both skilled and well positioned to provide the lead worker role for many of the young people identified as being in need of support to prevent their disengagement from education and training, or to support them to re-engage”.

The Youth Work Strategy 2019 sets out high-level principles and identifies long-term goals regarding NEET young people including addressing NEET through informal and non-formal learning. However, this strategy does not include an implementation plan. This is due in October 2019, the time of writing. 

The Prince's Trust, a UK-wide charity, runs an 'Achieve' programme, free to participants, aimed at 13- to 19-year-olds who are experiencing  personal barriers that may prevent them from engaging in education and put them at risk of exclusion or underachievement. Young people are offered activities in areas such as: personal development and employability; life skills; community projects; literacy, language and numeracy and skills-boosting activities. Achieve can be delivered in a variety of settings apart from schools, such as youth centres, pupil referral units and young offender institutions.

Cross-sector coordination and monitoring of ELET interventions

The Youth Engagement and Progression Framework (see ‘National strategy’) gives a strategic leadership role to local authorities, which are, in turn, expected to work closely with organisations such as Careers Wales and the voluntary and statutory youth services. Local authorities may employ an Engagement and Progression Coordinator.

Local authorities are subject to inspection and evaluation by Estyn, (Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education and Training in Wales). Guidance for the inspection of local authority education services for children and young people says:

Inspectors should consider the number of school leavers not in education and training (NEETs). The analysis of destinations should include comparisons with national averages. Where relevant, inspectors should consider whether students move on to appropriate higher or further education courses, or employment at the end of the sixth form. The information should be compared with national data and other local authorities.

Careers Wales conducts an annual 'Pupil Destinations' survey of school leavers on behalf of the Welsh Government. This provides data on the destinations of pupils from all maintained and special schools who are at or above the school leaving age. The data is broken down by local authority.

See the article on 'Integration of Young People in the Labour Market' for details of the implementation of the Youth Guarantee.

Further information

European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice/Cedefop (2014). Tackling Early Leaving from Education and Training in Europe: Strategies, Policies and Measures. Eurydice and Cedefop Report. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

Wales country sheets pp 206-208.

Cedefop (2016). Leaving Education Early: Putting Vocational Education and Training Centre Stage. Volume II. Evaluating Policy Impact. Luxembourg: Publications Office. Cedefop research paper; No 58.