Early leaving and the NEET agenda across the UK

Sue Maguire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (SciVal)


While measures to combat ‘Early Leaving’ (EL) have been widely adopted internationally, as a means of curbing rates of economic and social exclusion among young people, the term itself is not widely utilised across the UK. That is not to say that measuring and reducing the number of young people who drop out of education (or training) before meeting minimum age and/or qualification standards is not important. Rather, the emphasis has remained on maximising participation in learning and reducing NEET (not in education, employment or training) rates.

Drawing on a recent policy review which was conducted in the UK, this article examines variations which exist between the four UK nations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) in terms of: compulsory education age requirements; capturing and measuring the number of young people who are defined as NEET and crucially, equality of access to support and intervention. It highlights that the four UK nations are increasingly pulling in different directions in terms of policy and practice. This has widespread implications for the opportunity structures that are available to all groups of young people across the UK.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)826-838
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Education and Work
Issue number7-8
Early online date27 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
There were three significant findings in relation to EU funded NEET programmes. Firstly, the scale of funding available should not be underestimated. During 2014 to 2020, the ESF and European Regional Development Fund invested around €11.8 billion across the UK. The ESF share of €4.9 billion funded six operational programmes in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Gibraltar, and included €206 million for the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI). While the funding was tied to certain regions across the UK (and not allocated UK-wide), the availability of funds enabled NEET provision to continue in some areas which have been affected by budget cuts. This stream of funding has been of particular importance to the devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, in ensuring their continued commitment to recognising and supporting the needs of young people in the NEET group.

Funding Information:
This project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) in the UK - grant number: ES/N018672/1

Funding Information:
However, while the UK failed to implement the EU’s Youth Guarantee, it has benefited substantially from the huge investment in the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) and the European Social Fund (ESF), which are the key EU financial resources to support the implementation of the Youth Guarantee for the 2014–2020 programming period. For example, the YEI attracted overall funding of €8.8 billion in 2017 (European Commission ). YEI is targeted at regions with rates of youth unemployment which exceed 25% and associated economic inactivity, and funds initiatives such as increasing apprenticeships, traineeships, job placements and qualification attainment. Across the UK, the research identified a large number of NEET projects, programmes and initiatives supported by YEI and ESF funding. For example, the total YEI allocation for the South West Scotland region (the sole area in Scotland to receive priority funding) is €46.3m which is matched further by funds from Scotland’s mainstream ESF and matched again by project partners, giving a total budget of approximately €139m (Scottish Government ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • NEET
  • early leaving
  • early school leaving
  • policy discourse
  • youth transitions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Public Administration
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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