So near, yet so far for NEETs - report

Published: 21 May 2014 at 10:24

Proximity to thriving cities skews expectations for rural disadvantaged

Investigations carried out by researchers at Anglia Ruskin University suggests young people could be more at risk of becoming NEET (not in employment, education or training) in rural areas such as Fenland, because expectation levels are raised by being so close to affluent areas such as Cambridge and the rest of Cambridgeshire.

A paper entitled ‘Who are the young people not in education employment or training? An application of the risk factors to a rural area in the UK’ published by Anglia Ruskin academics Dr Jane Akister and Dr Sarah Burch, along with social worker Katy Sadler, says while the district of Fenland is, in some areas, less than 20 miles from the city of Cambridge, it struggles to recruit doctors, teachers and other professionals.

In contrast, Cambridge is one of the UK’s fastest growing cities and is a world-leading centre for academia with a thriving science and technology sector.

Statistics referenced in the study show Fenland as being over-represented in factors aligned with NEET status. A 2011 health profile states Fenland had a long-term unemployment rate (more than 12 months unemployed) of 7.4 per 1,000 of the population, compared to 2.3 in nearby South Cambridgeshire (which excludes the city of Cambridge itself), 3.2 in East Cambridgeshire and 6.2 in England overall. The percentage of pupils achieving Key Stage 4 at GCSE level was 45.6%, almost 10% below the national average (55.3%).

The paper states:

“Whilst deprivation can be experienced in many areas, this dissonance between expectations and actual opportunities may be more pronounced for those whose deprivation exists relative to a largely affluent population at close quarters.”

The authors believe poor transport options are a key problem, “trapping people in impoverished environments”. Rail links are limited and buses are often infrequent. With the area lacking major roads, it takes more than an hour to travel the 40 miles from Wisbech to Cambridge.

Dr Akister said:

“One of the factors in becoming NEET, wherever you live, is unrealistic expectations. When educational achievement in an area is poor, this means you are less likely to achieve your goals. Unrealistic expectations can also be gained through exposure to opportunities available elsewhere or through the media, for example TV programmes like Britain’s Got Talent may lead people to think that there are more opportunities in showbiz than there are in reality.
“If you cannot achieve what you hope there is a tendency to refuse to take jobs that you feel are beneath your capacity – for example graduates do not want to take non-graduate jobs – then you have no work experience and slip into being NEET.
“The factors that lead to NEET are generic – so it is likely to be a problem repeated throughout the UK and may be a particular feature for isolated rural areas.”