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Stronger Rhondda Gryfach baseline paper

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Stronger Rhondda Gryfach baseline paper

  1. 1. Rhondda Alliance: An area-based approach to supporting young people in the Rhondda Valleys. Rhiannon Bowen August 2015 CMC@Loudoun Plas Iona Butetown Cardiff CF10 5HW Tel: 029 2048 8536 Email: rhiannon.bowen@peopleandworkunit.org.uk Website: www.peopleandworkunit.org.uk Charity Registration No: 515211 Company Registration No: 1809654 Research Evaluation Ymchwil Gwerthuso
  2. 2. Abstract This paper sets a framework for an area-based approach to improving education and employment outcomes for young people in the Rhondda Valleys in Rhondda Cynon Taf. The area-based approach is being implemented through the Rhondda Alliance, a collaboration of local voluntary sector partners with a common overarching aim of promoting an environment that enables, supports and challenges young people in Rhondda. The framework consists of a baseline study of Rhondda, focusing on the conditions and needs of young people and of the local and wider labour market. It has been developed to inform the work of the Rhondda Alliance, providing a platform for discussion and evaluation. The primary method used was analysis of baseline evidence using secondary analysis of data sources such as official statistics. However, engagement with local organisations and young people was also used to inform the discussion and recommendations. The key recommendations of the paper are to support young people to improve their educational attainment, progression and course completion in a person-centred way. This should be focussed in areas where there is likely to be demand in the local labour market and consider development of softer skills alongside qualifications. It also recommends development of work focussed on young people aged 19-25, as a relatively neglected group with a high rate of unemployment. The study also found that there are some areas where not enough is known about the local conditions. Following from this, it recommends that the Rhondda Alliance further explore these areas to establish any necessary action and contribute to the ongoing development of learning within the area-based approach. Overall, the outcome of the research is that ongoing and new work supporting young people in Rhondda will have an evidence-based framework for development and evaluation. Keywords: Rhondda; Valleys; Wales; Education; Labour Market; Baseline; Area- based approach; Secondary Analysis; Voluntary Sector
  3. 3. Contents 1. Introduction ................................................................................................ 1 2. Methodology................................................................................................ 4 3. Literature Review ......................................................................................... 7 3.1 Education............................................................................................... 7 3.2 The Labour Market .................................................................................. 9 3.3 Health.................................................................................................. 11 4. Findings from secondary data search............................................................ 14 4.1 Education............................................................................................. 14 4.2 Labour Market....................................................................................... 16 4.3 Health.................................................................................................. 18 5. Discussion and recommendations................................................................. 20 5. Conclusion................................................................................................. 24 Bibliography.................................................................................................. 25 Appendix A: Maps of key indicators in Rhondda................................................. 34
  4. 4. 1 1. Introduction Rhondda is an area in the county of Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT), situated in the central South Wales Valleys. It consists of the two valleys of the Rhondda Fawr and the Rhondda Fach. The nearest major city is Cardiff, which borders the county. Historically, coal mining was the dominant industry in Rhondda which sparked high rates of migration to the previously relatively unpopulated Valleys. However, with deindustrialisation and the pit closures up to the 1980s, there has been a legacy of high rates of unemployment, reliance on benefits and deprivation (Walkerdine and Jimenez, 2012). The population of Rhondda is approximately 70,000. The median age is 41, around average for a UK constituency. There are approximately 9,000 15-24 year olds, making up 13% of the local population (Office for National Statistics (ONS), 2015a). There are five secondary schools in the area; Porth County Community School, Ferndale Community School, Treorchy Comprehensive School, Tonypandy Community College and Ysgol Gyfun Cymer Rhondda. There is one further education (FE) college, Coleg y Cymoedd, which has students from across RCT. The University of South Wales is the nearest university, with a campus in Pontypridd in RCT. Figure 1: Map of Rhondda (National Assembly for Wales, 2010: 2)
  5. 5. This baseline research will provide a framework for an area-based approach to improving education and employment outcomes for young people in Rhondda. This will be implemented through the Rhondda Alliance, a collaboration of voluntary sector organisations was formed with a common overarching aim of promoting an environment that enables, supports and challenges young people (age 14-25 years) in Rhondda. The focus on young people is in response to a wide body of evidence supporting the role that education and early post-education years play as key social determinants of poverty across the socio-economic spectrum (Egan, 2012, 2013). The area-based approach will allow for the multiple and inter-related forms of disadvantage experienced by local people to be targeted and accounted for through an integrated and collaborative third sector platform in Rhondda (Byron, 2010). The holistic and organic nature of the project means that the approach is not concerned with, often problematic, dichotomies between people- and place- based focuses. Rather, the aim is that the people involved are affected but that the work also leads to sustainable cultural and structural changes in the area, meaning that the Rhondda Alliance is ‘people-focused to affect place’ (Griggs, et al., 2008). Area-based approaches have been criticised for lacking a thorough evidence base and overarching framework for target areas, implementation and evaluation (Byron, 2010; Winterton, et al., 2014). This research aims to counter this and provide a solid basis for the Rhondda Alliance. The work of the Rhondda Alliance is theoretically underpinned by asset-based community development (ABCD). This is inherent to the project since the skills, capacity and resources of the local organisations and groups involved are being used to build a stronger and more sustainable local community where strengths, as opposed to deficits, are central. This approach is particularly beneficial for fostering greater local confidence and promoting capacity, connectedness and social capital (Foot, 2012; Together Network, 2013). However, ABCD has also been subject to criticism for applying gloss to issues and ignoring the wider structural and political causes of social inequalities, providing an excuse for withdrawal of public services (Harris, 2011; Friedl, 2012). The baseline research supports the asset-based approach of the Alliance by acknowledging the holistic picture of a person’s life. Rather than considering the assets and the needs of the community as mutually exclusive, it posits that ‘the identification of strengths is not the antithesis of the identification of problems. Instead, it is a large part of the solution’ (Graybeal, 2011: 234). This includes the need to acknowledge where issues are deeply rooted in structural causes, and consider that these may not be within the Rhondda Alliance’s mandate for change. In the context of this, the baseline acknowledges that Rhondda is an area with widespread deprivation, which has a profound effect on the local community, and that structural and political causes play a major role in reproducing this.
  6. 6. The working definition of deprivation for this paper is in line with that of the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation (WIMD). This is the ‘lack of access to opportunities and resources which we might expect in our society... relate[s] to both material and social aspects of deprivation’ (Statistics for Wales, 2014: 9). The indicators by which this is measured are income, employment, health, education, access to services, community safety, physical environment and housing. The approach to measurement is area-based. An area is considered multiply deprived if it has a high concentration of people experiencing two or more of these deprivation types. Since this is a relative measure, there is not an objective amount of deprivation. Nor does this measure indicate the deprivation experienced by individuals (Statistics for Wales, 2014). The literature review centres deprivation as a theme in relation to the impact that it has on the educational, employment and health based opportunities and outcomes for young people. Following from this, the findings examine the results of the secondary data analysis and the trends and characteristics which can be deduced based on this qualitative data. The discussion and recommendations consider the key themes which have emerged from the literature and the data analysis, informed by the ongoing involvement in the Rhondda Alliance. It further highlights some key areas where it is recommended that the Rhondda Alliance focuses its efforts. The outcome of this work is expected to be a more informed voluntary sector approach with strong rationales for their work, and the tools to develop an evaluation structure based on the key themes which have been identified.
  7. 7. 2. Methodology Introduction This chapter outlines the use of secondary analysis for the baseline project, including the major data sources used. It highlights the key ways in which this method was a strength for the research, including the scale and quality of data which would not have been possible to attain through a primary research method. However, it also discusses how the lack of available data for a number of critical topics formed a key barrier for this research project. Furthermore, the social context of the research is discussed, including the ongoing involvement of the researcher in the Rhondda Alliance project and engagement with local young people. Research Strategy and Method Research questions:  What are the characteristics and needs of young people in Rhondda?  What are the characteristics and needs of the local, national and wider labour market? The study aims to develop a holistic baseline of young people (14-25 years old) following key themes of education, employment and health. This was in response to calls from the Rhondda Alliance for an evidence-based understanding of the local area to support their area-based community development work and evaluate the impact it has. A gap was identified within existing literature, whereby a focussed and detailed study of Rhondda which acknowledged the nuanced socio-economic local characteristics had not previously been undertaken. The method primarily used was secondary analysis of a range of archive materials, most of which were official statistics. This primarily included quantitative data collected and released by the Welsh Government (WG) such as WIMD, My Local School, Careers Wales and Statistics for Wales. Examples of other major data sources include ONS and the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). Where raw numerical data was unavailable, studies citing relevant quantitative findings were incorporated. Analysis involved exploring themes which were reflective of both key indicators identified in the literature review, and of the needs and specialities of the community organisations utilising the findings. The study found current rates of variables and historical trends in the local area in comparison to Wales’ average levels. In addition to identification of trends, mapping software was used to create thematic choropleth maps of Rhondda using StatsWales data (2014). This was a visual tool for analysis of differences within the Rhondda where the prevalence of key indicators varied throughout the Valleys (Appendix A). No new statistical tests were involved in the
  8. 8. study and therefore statistical significance is only stated where this is provided by the secondary data source. Context The analysis of the secondary data was set within the context of the researcher’s involvement in the ongoing development of the Rhondda Alliance. This included observation and active participation in meetings, discussions and project work as well as presenting preliminary findings. The researcher also spent time with a mix of the young people involved in Rhondda Alliance work. This entailed a number of phone interviews and observations during Rhondda Alliance meetings and project work. This was based around themes of education, training and work including goals for the future and the support they received. More broadly, their involvement in projects and activities, as well as their life in Rhondda and softer skills were covered. This helped to triangulate the data, for example, through allowing for some insights into young people’s relationship with higher education (HE). The themes explored reflect, not only the dominant messages from the literature review, but also the focus of the organisations, groups and young people involved. This means that some alternative elements of social life have not played a major role in this research project, such as transport and housing. Strengths and Weaknesses Using an unobtrusive method (Lee, 2000) had the benefit of removing the researcher from the interactions being studied and mitigated issues associated with methods prone to issues of reactivity. Further, the archived material analysed almost exclusively followed a repeated cross-sectional research design. This allowed for historical trends to be examined which would otherwise not have been possible. In the future, this is also expected to allow for evaluation of the community development work to compare changes in the secondary data sets to the baseline levels. The statistically representative nature of the samples used by the sources meant that the data was more robust and generalisable than could have been achieved through undertaking in a study involving primary data collection. However, the study was limited by the lack of small locality data. When data specific to Rhondda were unavailable, equivalent evidence using the nearest possible comparable locality was used to provide sufficient gist of an overarching picture. Furthermore, some of the available data were insufficient in depth for the specific nature of the study. This was often due to inconsistencies in reporting frameworks but also some data which would have been a valuable resource for the project were not publicly available. Some sources were not suitable for development of historical trends since they were published on an ad-hoc or sporadic basis as opposed to at regular intervals. As a consequence of this, there will be limits to how the data can be used for evaluation of the Rhondda Alliance projects. There are also some areas
  9. 9. with knowledge gaps where further investigation is recommended to establish actions needed in relation to that area, these are identified within the recommendations.
  10. 10. 3. Literature Review Introduction The literature review has a broad scope, initially following the negative impact that deprivation has on educational attainment and progression, considering the level of support that young people need when they have to make educational and career choices. It also discusses vocational education as an alternate, albeit neglected, route for young people. Furthermore, the importance of considering the characteristics and needs of the labour market in relation to young people is outlined alongside current trends such the high number of unemployed 19-25 year olds. Finally, it touches upon the stark correlation between deprivation and poor health within Rhondda communities and the factors and mechanisms which impact on this trend. 3.1 Education Disadvantage and education There is a prevalent gap in educational achievement between people who are disadvantaged and more advantaged. This difference has been identified in infancy and cumulatively widens through each subsequent educational stage (Sammons, Toth and Sylva, 2015). Having a high level of educational attainment is strongly associated with improved employment and income prospects, consequently acting as a protector against disadvantage (Smith and Middleton, 2007). Indeed, education has consistently been found to be the most important factor driving intergenerational income mobility. Inversely, the majority of childhood factors associated with the intergenerational transmission of poverty operate by impacting children’s educational outcomes (d’Addio, 2007; HM Government, 2014). Parental qualifications act as one of the most important indicators of educational attainment. Children with parents who have low educational attainment can be up to seven times more likely to have a low educational outcome themselves than those with highly educated parents (The Sutton Trust, 2008; HM Government, 2014; Serafino and Tonkin, 2014). However, there is some debate over transmission mechanisms causing such a strong correlation. Social causes such as increased likelihood of participating in educationally stimulating activities and higher aspirations in addition to biological differences have all been cited as potentially impacting this trend (Bird, 2007; Field, 2010). Higher Education In England, the 20% most disadvantaged are approximately six times less likely to go to university than the 20% most advantaged (HEFCE, 2005). Even for those disadvantaged children who are found to be bright at a young age, it is significantly less likely that they will progress to HE. Achievement at ‘A’ level has been found to
  11. 11. account for this major difference in university progression. When student characteristics such as gender, ethnicity and socio-economic family status are also considered the significant association between deprived areas and lower participation rates in HE remains (The Sutton Trust, 2008). The achievement gap further extends to a reduced likelihood in disadvantaged areas of participating in Russell Group or ‘high status’ higher education institutions (HEIs) such as Cardiff University (HESA, 2014) or the likelihood of taking facilitating1 subjects (Crawford, et al., 2014). ‘High status’ HEIs have been argued to have an elitist and exclusive image which deters students from low participation areas who are more likely to exclude themselves from places perceived as socially, culturally and ethnically different (Reay, et al., 2009). With a quarter of the HE student population failing to complete their course, completion rates are a subsequent area of concern (Vignoles and Powthavee 2009). The post-1992 universities tend to recruit students with lower academic qualifications and from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds and have higher drop-out rates (Rodgers, 2013). Prior achievement is the dominant variable for predicting early drop out. However, socio-economic background is subsequently of significance (Chowdry, et al., 2008; Vignoles and Powthavee, 2009). There is ongoing debate with regards to the role that intangible variables play in HE participation and completion rates. For example, lack of confidence and lack of knowledge and family experience of HE may lead to less motivation to strive for high attainment and HE progression. Programmes which aim to improve confidence and aspiration have been successful in encouraging more university applicants (Evans, 2014). Other potential variables include un-met expectations, low self-esteem, poor teaching quality, feelings of isolation and hostility. Economic cost is also often cited as a major reason for non-completion of disadvantaged students but this is widely disputed in academic literature (Bennett, 2003; Davis and Elias, 2003). Careers Advice The significant attainment gap based on disadvantage has led to questions regarding support and advice for young people in relation to their education. Careers advice in schools has been criticised as ‘the weakest feature of learner support’ and insufficient in helping young people plan their future education and career plans (Estyn, 2014: 3-4). The service currently targets those deemed at high risk of disengaging from education (WG, 2013a). While a commendable area to tackle, this can mean that not all pupils have the necessary support on an individual level (Estyn, 2014). Supporting Estyn’s findings, The Association of Accounting 1 These are those most commonly deemed beneficial by top (Russell Group) universities for a wide range of degree courses. They include English Literature, History, Modern and Classical Languages, Maths, Further Maths, Physics, Biology, Chemistry and Geography.
  12. 12. Technicians found that although the majority of 14-19 year olds have an idea of their chosen career, 43% felt that formal careers advice had not been very influential in this decision. Large proportions turned instead to informal networks such as parents and friends. This led to myths and false knowledge of the types of qualification needed to perform certain roles (AAT, 2014). Furthermore, a bias has been found in career advice in favour of academic education, at the expense of alternate institutions and options such as vocational courses like apprenticeships (Estyn, 2014; Boston Consulting Group 2013). Vocational education Despite criticisms of relevant advice for apprenticeships, their uptake increased in 2014 across Wales. This is following a drive from WG to increase the availability and quality of apprenticeships, in recognition of their importance for reducing long term youth unemployment. They aim for Higher Apprenticeships to be equivalent to a bachelor’s degree course at a top university (WG, 2014a). Indeed, apprenticeships can offer valuable skills and experience in roles foundational for the Welsh economy and offer individuals a pathway to HE (Wolf, 2011). However, cultural perceptions do not match this rhetoric. Many parents feel that apprenticeships can lead to steady jobs, but nonetheless are inferior to academic qualifications (Devins, 2013; Demos, 2015: 4). This is in comparison to neighbouring European countries such as Germany where apprenticeships are associated with excellence and around two- thirds of young people undertake in an apprenticeship by the time they are 25 (Wolf, 2011). Poor public opinion with regards to vocational qualifications has been argued to have some grounding, since there is a proliferation of low level courses with no workplace or HE value. In England, between a quarter and a third of post-16 young people have been found to intermittently engage in these low level qualifications and short- term employment (Boston Consulting Group, 2013; Wolf, 2011). Furthermore, the vast majority of apprenticeships go to adults over 25, often those who are already employed, and the majority are below the level 3 standard required for most technician or paraprofessional jobs (Boston Consulting Group, 2013). 3.2 The Labour Market The Labour Market for young people The Wolf Report (2011: 9-10) argues that the youth labour market has been subject to dynamic changes in recent years. There has been a decline in the number of jobs available for 16 and 17 year olds, education and training up to age 18 are now the dominant pattern, partially in response to this. Despite this, work experience is rewarded by employers while some qualifications are not seen as particularly useful and the market is therefore complex. Furthermore, young people change jobs very quickly and the education system needs to be aware of the continuous changes
  13. 13. within the labour market. Despite these dynamic changes, English and maths remain constant as the most valuable vocational and educational skills. This is in the context of a major trend of rising levels of young people not in employment, education or training (NEET). Even a short period of unemployment in youth has a scarring effect on future labour market prospects, raising the risk of becoming socially excluded, in poverty and lacking skills for improvement (Hodgson and Spours, 2013; Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 2015). In OECD countries, 7.1% of 15-19 year olds and 18.2% of 20-24 year olds are NEET. In the UK, the average rates are even higher than this2 (OECD, 2015). Meeting the future demands of the labour market The WG (2015a) targets specific industries which are foundational for the future economic growth and job development of Wales. Within each of these sectors science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects and related skills are highly valued and demand for relevant qualifications is likely to significantly grow over the next few years (WG, 2012). There is evidence to suggest that there is no sufficient link between supply and demand between college provision and the needs of the labour market. For example, in England five hair and beauty qualifications are awarded for every relevant vacancy whereas there are three vacancies for every STEM qualification awarded, indicating that too few technicians are being trained (Botson Consulting Group, 2013). In addition to specific ‘economically viable’ sector specific skills, there is a need for those which are ‘generic’ such as customer- handling, problem-solving and team-working across the majority of sectors (WG, 2013b). These issues with skills mismatch in the job market have led to calls for greater involvement of employers in the structuring of provision and for schools and colleges to make greater efforts to understand the labour market (Wolf, 2011; Gardiner and Wilson, 2012). However, based on current data ‘it is not possible to predict and plan the exact “numbers” of individuals with specific skills that will be needed in particular localities’ (WG, 2013b: i). Furthermore, some of the WG target sectors, such as high performance technology and manufacturing, have been criticised for low levels of job creation, despite economic growth (Blyton and Jenkins, 2011). Characteristics of employment The recession has led to significant and potentially long term changes to the labour market, with unprecedentedly high rates of part time employment. There has been a rise in flexible employment, which in the South Wales Valleys is most commonly 2 OECD figures are not directly comparable with UK national estimates
  14. 14. characterised by fixed term contracts, part time work and casual employment. This work is likely to be low paid and mostly filled by women and young people. Flexible employment is more common in low skilled jobs such as caring, leisure and other service jobs including sales and customer service jobs where up to half of roles can be categorised this way. While these roles do allow for some flexibility with daily life, the majority of roles are at the bottom of the labour market and can act as a barrier to developing sustainable employment (The Bevan Foundation, 2012). Rhondda Cynon Taf has a high level of commuting from the county, as does the wider South East Valleys area, which empirically opposes the stereotype of unemployed people who lack enterprise and effort to travel propagated by politicians such as Iain Duncan Smith who referred to the unemployed as ‘static’ and people who ‘should be more ready to get on a bus’ (2010, cited in Blyton and Jenkins, 2011). However, commuting or relocating for work is a complex issue, particularly in the context of ‘labour market polarisation and inequality’. The ability to commute does increase the chance of securing employment. However, this is complex since a higher paying job with a higher level of skill is generally needed to be able to afford travelling to work (Bailey et al, 2008: 8). Welfare reform is also a major factor impacting the labour market. As an area with a high proportion of welfare claimants, the South Wales Valleys are expected to be amongst the hardest hit since the UK benefits system is more strongly targeted at low income groups (Beatty and Fothergrill, 2013; OECD, 2014). The intended outcome of these reforms as encouraging growth of employment is unlikely in the Valleys where local economies are weak and there is a substantial pool of unemployed labour. Furthermore, a vast proportion of those affected by the reforms are already employed. Indeed, welfare reform has been estimated as possibly resulting in the loss of 3,000 jobs in consumer services in the Valleys as a reflection of the 3% overall reduction in disposable household income (Beatty and Fothergrill, 2014). 3.3 Health There are dramatic differences between the health of the most advantaged and the most disadvantaged in society, with a finely graded relationship between social circumstances and health (WHO, 2008; Marmot, 2010). These differences have been found to be present from the age of three (Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), cited in Hirsh and Spencer, 2008). Children and young people living in comparatively high deprivation are more likely to suffer from both chronic and acute conditions, and with a higher level of severity, and are also more likely to be disabled (Hirsh and Spencer, 2008). This follows through to adulthood, with life expectancy (LE) and disability free life expectancy (DFLE) being lower in areas which are deprived by measures such as education, occupation and housing conditions. The onset of multi-
  15. 15. morbidity has also been found to occur 10-15 years earlier in more deprived areas with an increased likelihood of mental health disorders (Barnett et al., 2012). Factors that raise the risk of disease or promote good health accumulate over the life course with increasingly cumulative damage or benefit. These factors are generally clustered in socially patterned ways. In relation to social class, deprived children are more likely to have a low birth weight, have a poor diet, be exposed to passive smoke and have worse educational opportunities. Factors such as these are strongly associated with adulthood disease (Ben-Shlomo and Kuh, 2002). Illness itself also acts as a factor influencing deprivation, where individuals have moved into poverty, in 8% of cases this is as a result of limiting illness and in 16% it is triggered by poor mental health (Jenkins and Riggs, 2001). In addition to physical ill-health, children and young people are more likely to suffer from a range of behavioural and emotional problems. One in six children in low income families suffer from mental health disorders in comparison to one in 20 in better-off households (Meltzer et al., 2000). These mental health disorders are associated with an increased likelihood of using drugs and underage smoking and drinking in 11-16 year olds (Mental Health subgroup, 2012). Furthermore, men aged 15-29 in the 20% most deprived areas are 2.5 times more likely than those in the 20% least deprived areas to commit suicide, with high levels of mental illness being a common characteristic of deprived areas (Exeter and Boyle, 2007). The cycle of poverty and poor health is reproduced when mothers, with health affected by their own experience of childhood poverty, have characteristics which may adversely affect the health of their children. This operates in a social as well as biological way, for example, women with no educational qualifications who have experienced poverty are more likely to smoke during pregnancy. The generational knock-on effect of poor health is further intensified when women have children when they are relatively young. This is more likely to be the case for deprived families since deprived families since deprived teenagers are ten times more likely to become parents themselves than those in the highest social class (Hirsh and Spencer, 2008). The literature review has found that education is the most important factor for social mobility and relieving deprivation. However, in deprived areas young people are less likely to achieve at every stage of the educational process. In the case of academic qualifications, they are less likely to achieve qualifications and attend university, and in the case of vocational qualifications the system is not offering an attractive option. This is in the context of a labour market which is increasingly reliant on skills and qualifications in an increasingly competitive market where mobility and subject choice are often vital determinants. The relationship between deprivation and health is complex. There are many things that young people can do to mitigate the impact
  16. 16. of this. However, ultimately education, as a route out of deprivation, will have the greatest impact on health and young people’s relationship with the job market. The analysis is subsequently informed by the importance of these interlinking variables, underpinned by the overarching importance of educational attainment.
  17. 17. 4. Findings from secondary data search Introduction This chapter provides a summary description of the key indicators and trends which were established during the secondary analysis. Areas investigated in relation to education included educational results at GCSE and ‘A’ level, attendance rates for secondary schools, progression rates to FE and HE, university drop-out rates and work based learning (WBL). The labour market theme covers common labour market statistics such as employment rates, welfare claimants and occupational structure. Additionally it covers commuting rates and rates of NEET young people according to different population measures. The health theme generally includes the prevalence of illness and good health in Rhondda as well as health-related behaviours which act as risk factors. Where possible data specific to Rhondda is provided, however, as indicated in the methodology this has not always been possible. The chapter separates Rhondda data from that which is not area specific for clarity. 4.1 Education GCSE Results Rhondda: The rate of young people achieving the level two inclusive of English or Welsh and maths (Five GCSEs at A*-C) has been increasing over the past five years in Rhondda. However, the results are variable within schools and remain low in comparison to Wales (My Local School, 2015). RCT: The level of grade received is also lower for GCSE exams in RCT than for the wider Central South Consortium3. There is a smaller proportion of A* and A grades with a larger proportion of C grades than the average for the Central South Consortium (WG, 2015b). School Attendance Rhondda: The average rates of school attendance across Rhondda have been improving and are currently largely similar to the Welsh Average. All of the secondary schools in Rhondda have improved their attendance rates over the past five years. Treorchy Comprehensive has a consistent trend of high attendance rates exceeding national average. Of the schools with low attendance rates, these rapidly improved between 2010 and 2014 (My Local School, 2015). There are areas within Rhondda with high levels of persistent absenteeism, these are almost exclusively within the bottom of the Valleys with the top of the Rhondda Fawr having particularly positive outcomes by this measure (StatsWales 2014; Appendix A). Further Education 3 The Central South Consortium is a joint education service. It covers schools within the local authorities of Bridgend, Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil, RCT and Vale of Glamorgan.
  18. 18. RCT: The proportion of young people in RCT leaving year 11 to continue in full-time education in school or college is higher than Wales and growing. While the majority are continuing in school, the proportion moving to colleges has been increasing over the past five years (Careers Wales, 2015). However, the success rates of level three courses in further education institutions (FEIs) in RCT are comparatively low. The rates are particularly low for students aged 18 and on ‘A’ level courses. For this group there was a 62% success rate in RCT in 2012/13 in comparison to 80% in Wales. The courses with particularly low uptake and successful completion are those based on facilitating subjects including social sciences, science and mathematics, information and communication technology (ICT) and history (WG, 2014b; 2015c). In FE provision in RCT schools in 2014, a comparatively low proportion of ‘A’ level exams were in facilitating subjects with a wider lag in results behind the Central South Consortium (WG, 2015b). Wales: The skills and qualifications gained in the FE sector in Wales are not sufficiently linked with the needs of the Welsh labour market. This is leading to an oversupply of training in the creative & cultural industries and fashion & textiles; and hospitality, leisure, travel & tourism sectors in Wales. However, the data available for structural mismatches is limited and without more detailed recording of sector breakdowns, the current knowledge of labour market need is incomplete (Gardiner and Wilson, 2012). Higher Education Rhondda: A low proportion of young people progress to HE in Rhondda. WIMD puts the area within the 20-30% most deprived area in Wales for this measure with 77% of 18-19 year olds not entering HE. In some areas, such as Maerdy and Tylorstown, this figure is as high as 91%, putting them within Wales’ 10% most deprived (StatsWales, 2014; Appendix A, Figure 4). RCT: The rates of year 13 school leavers’ progression to HE are also low following a recent declining trend, at 52% the percentage in RCT was 9% lower than Wales in 2014 (CareersWales, 2015). Wales: The areas of Rhondda with a high measure of educational deprivation are classified as low participation neighbourhoods in HE. Young people entering their first degree from these areas have a higher propensity to drop out in their first year. In Wales the drop-out rate from low participation neighbourhoods is 8% in comparison to 5% from all other neighbourhoods. They also make up a smaller proportion of the student body in ‘high status’ universities in than in the ‘lower status’ post-1992 universities. However, the drop-out rate for those from low participation neighbourhoods who do attend the ‘high status’ institutions is far lower, yet still higher than their more advantaged peers. For example, in Cardiff University,
  19. 19. the first year non-completion rate for students from low participation neighbourhoods is half that of the Welsh average (HESA, 2014). Work based Learning RCT: The proportion of young people leaving school at year 11 to WBL such as apprenticeships has been following an ongoing trend of decline, as the destination of 4% of the 2014 cohort in comparison to 6% in Wales. For year 13 school leavers, the rate has previously been low, hovering at 2% until 2013. However, in 2014, there was sudden growth in the proportion of year 13 leavers progressing to WBL and the rate in RCT was the highest in Wales (Careers Wales, 2015). Figures for apprenticeships at levels two and three show that success rates of these courses are comparatively low and dominated by people over 25 years old (2012/13). The number of students completing higher level apprenticeships in RCT was statistically negligible and figures are unavailable for 2013 (WG, 2015c). However, it is likely that they will have increased in 2014 due to a significant rise across Wales in higher apprenticeship take up (WG, 2015d). 4.2 Labour Market Employment Rhondda: The employment rate in Rhondda is 10% lower than Wales. Past employment trends indicate a more fragile and changeable employment rate in Rhondda than in Wales, but this is to be expected to an extent in a small area. However, there is a trend of an increasing employment rate with a growth of seven percentage points since 2011. Although having recently declined slightly, the self employment rate in RCT was higher than Wales in 2012, and is currently at a comparable level at 7%. The median rate of weekly pay in Rhondda has been increasing at a rate faster than Wales over the past five years. Pay has increased from £376.90 in 2010 to £432.40 in 2014 (ONS, 2015b). However, the comparative rate of inflation means that this represents a real terms fall in wages (Taylor et al., 2014). There is a low level of economic activity amongst working age adults in Rhondda (69%) in comparison to Wales (77%). The percentage of employee jobs that are part time has been steady at 40% over the past five years. This is higher than Wales, where the rate has consistently been around 35% (ONS, 2015b). Temporary employment and use of agency workers has also increased (Annual Population Workplace Analysis, cited in Bevan Foundation, 2012). RCT: RCT is the county with the second highest net commuting numbers with 19,365 workers commuting into RCT and 36,609 residents commuting outwards. This means that 37% of RCT residents commute outwards for work. The majority of these commute to Cardiff but there is also significant flow to Caerphilly, Bridgend
  20. 20. and Merthyr Tydfil and smaller numbers to other local authorities (LA) (ONS, 2015c). Since this measure is based on the definition of commuting as travelling to a different local authority for work, statistics for commuting from Rhondda and that within the local authority are unknown. Welfare Rhondda: In Rhondda, one in four working age adults are benefit claimants, this is higher than Wales (16%) and double the UK wide rate. A fifth of working age adults claim key out-of-work benefits with employment and support allowance (ESA) and incapacity benefit forming the largest segment of claims. The percentage of working age adults claiming job seekers allowance (JSA) (3%) is higher than the Welsh average (2%). However, this has been declining since a peak of 7% in mid 2012. An inflated proportion of these claimants are 18-24 at 31% in Rhondda. This is nine percentage points higher than Wales (April 2015) (ONS, 2015b). StatsWales (2014) has found that almost all communities in Rhondda have comparatively high rates of income deprivation putting them amongst some of the most deprived communities in the country. High welfare claimants rates means that the Valleys are set to have an average yearly loss that is £100 higher per person than elsewhere in Wales as a result of welfare reforms. Beatty and Fothergrill, (2014) claim that in Rhondda this means that for every working age adult, £790 will be lost yearly. This figure is set to increase with the development of further welfare reform. Occupations Rhondda: The majority of communities in Rhondda are within the most deprived 20% of Wales based on the proportion of adults aged 25-64 with no qualifications (StatsWales, 2014; Appendix A, Figure 6). The low level of qualifications amongst adults is reflected in the comparative dearth of employment in highly skilled jobs in Rhondda. A quarter of people are employed in jobs that require a degree level education whereas in Wales occupations at this level make up the largest proportion of the workforce at 40% (Jan-Dec, 2014). However, there has been a gradual increase in the proportion of these occupations in Rhondda since 2008. Occupations requiring a lower level of skill make up a larger proportion in Rhondda than in Wales. For example, in Rhondda, 12% of jobs are ‘process plant and machine operatives’ while the rate is half of this in Wales (ONS, 2015b). Wales: In Wales, key sector areas that are predicted to grow in future are STEM industries. Particular occupation types that are likely to need an increase of skilled workers are corporate managers, teaching and health professionals, skilled trades and carers (WG, 2013b). However, it is difficult to predict the labour market demand for a small area such as Rhondda.
  21. 21. Not in employment, education or training (NEET) RCT: The figures for NEET young people in RCT measure the status of young people at the time they leave school. At year 11, the figures largely reflect Wales with a trend of slight decline. In 2014 the proportion of NEET year 11 leavers in RCT was 4%. At year 13, there has been steep decline in the percentage of NEET young people. This has reduced from 17% in 2009 (10% above average), to 6% in 2014 (1% above average) (CareersWales, 2015). Wales: The figures for NEET young people in Wales are measured based on the status of all young people aged 16-24. At 21%, the highest rate is for those aged 19-24. This percentage has been growing since 2008 with the highest numbers being for females and disabled young people. The level of NEET 16-18 year olds in Wales has been less variable and sits at 11% (Statistical First Release (SFR), cited in Lloyd, 2014). 4.3 Health Health indicators Rhondda: There is a high prevalence of ill health and reduced life expectancies in Rhondda. Rhondda is amongst the most deprived communities in Wales based on the measure of prevalence of limiting long term illness. In some areas, such as Tylorstown, Maerdy and Cymmer, in excess of a third of residents have limiting long term illnesses, 10% above the Welsh average of 23% (StatsWales, 2014; Appendix A, Figure 9). Significantly high levels of adults report their health to fair/poor; are overweight or obese; and receive treatment for key illnesses such as mental illness, respiratory illnesses and chronic conditions (WG, 2015e). Indeed, the 2011 census found that Rhondda is the constituency with the lowest general ‘good’ health rate in the UK, at 70.6% (ONS, 2015d). Health related behaviours Rhondda: There is also a significantly high uptake of health-related behaviours with negative outcomes in comparison to national averages, such as smoking, binge drinking and lack of physical activity. This can particularly be seen in Rhondda Fach (WG, 2015e). In Rhondda secondary schools, a generally low proportion of students have positive associations, and are regularly involved in, PE or community sport. However, Ferndale Community School contradicts this trend with PE and sport participation rates exceeding the Welsh average (My Local School, 2015). In conclusion, secondary data for the Rhondda shows that throughout each of the themes, trends lag behind average rates for Wales. Improving education and employment outcomes for young people in the area will require significant efforts if
  22. 22. it is to have a significant impact. However, for some of the areas investigated in the secondary data analysis, not enough is known for the local area. The discussion and recommendations chapter will outline this, considering where further investigation is required with reference to the community context and the map development which allow for some further light to be shed. It will also draw out some key themes where work is recommended for development based on the findings and the themes from the literature.
  23. 23. 5. Discussion and recommendations Introduction The discussion focuses on a number of key themes which are recommended for further investigation and consideration as directional for the Rhondda Alliance. They cover a broad spread across the needs of young people within the 14-25 age group, recognising that these will often differ considerably. They include a focus on educational attainment as foundational and supporting young people in their educational choices and resilience. A key area which initially appears to need structural development is the vocational apprenticeship opportunities and WBL more broadly. Furthermore, the discussion highlights the holistic picture surrounding education including the labour market demands and characteristics and healthy behaviour habits within Rhondda. Improving educational attainment The data shows that educational achievement, progression and outcomes need to be improved at every level in Rhondda. This includes reducing the proportion of NEET young people, improving progression to and outcomes from WBL, FE and HE, and relating learning more effectively to the local and national labour market to improve subsequent progression to employment. As educational attainment is the factor most strongly associated with social mobility, it can offer a route towards change within an area where almost half of lower super output areas (LSOAs) are within the most deprived 20% of Wales. Particularly since parental qualifications are the greatest predictor of children’s educational attainment, raising the achievement of young people now would be likely to have a sustainable impact on future generations within the area. The importance of this is further cemented by the high rates of adults in Rhondda with low levels of qualifications, the indicator by which the highest rate of educational deprivation is found in the area. There are various stages at which barriers exist in achieving high levels of educational attainment. These are often more difficult for disadvantaged young people to overcome and vary across individual circumstances. Achievement in Rhondda follows a variable trend and it is important to recognise varying need from those who are NEET with no qualifications to those on the path to achieving academic excellence in a high status HEI. Increasing achievement at ‘A’ level is statistically the most significant way of improving progression to, and completion of, HE courses. While this is approach is valid, a one size fits all approach to achieving this would be insufficient due to the varied and complex nature of the characteristics of local young people.
  24. 24. The interaction with young people in Rhondda highlighted the importance of the discussions within the literature with regards to the support and more intangible variables which play a significant role in their educational pathway. These include elements such as confidence, aspiration, expectations of higher education, and the advice of teachers, careers advisors and parents. Furthermore, the distance that young people are willing to travel for their education and the perception of cultural differences, particularly in elite universities, is an area likely to be a significant barrier in Rhondda. The study suggests that there would be value in the Rhondda Alliance developing work around transition planning, raising awareness of options and development of soft skills with the outcome of improving progression to, and completion of, HE courses. Raising educational attainment is ultimately central to achieving this goal. Informed decision making for careers the labour market needs Young people need to be supported to make decisions about their education which will give them the best chance at sustainable and well paid employment in a dynamic labour market. Current careers advice services which focus only on those at most risk of disengaging from education means that others are being left behind. At a university or higher apprenticeship level, this means choosing courses which will give skills that are economically valuable. The economy needs young people who are qualified for employment in STEM sectors. However, not all economic growth within STEM sectors is associated with job growth such as in manufacturing. Therefore, an approach which is tailored to specific roles within the STEM umbrella would be beneficial, for example the growth in demand for health professionals. The study suggests that it would be beneficial for the Rhondda Alliance to develop information and guidance work in relation to the labour market. The young people would benefit from a person-centred approach which understands the strengths and characteristics of an individual, and is indiscriminately available. This work would help to create a buyer’s market rather than a seller’s market for the learners when they come to engage with employment opportunities. Encouraging valuable apprenticeships for under-25s Relatively little is known about WBL and further investigation and development is needed in this area. This is important to explore since evidence suggests that there are skills mismatches between the FE sector and the needs of the economy. Furthermore, following national trends, in RCT there is a low take up of WBL and this is dominated by the over 25s age category. While provision of training opportunities for adults is important, these have potential to be a valuable resource for young people with need for skills and experience. The skills that young people
  25. 25. learn through WBL such as apprenticeships need be of a sufficient level and quality as to be valuable to employers and align with the future need of the market. In the context of WBL, it is recommended that the Rhondda Alliance consider developing a structure for improving access to apprenticeships. This includes identifying potential areas for apprenticeships, early preparatory work to enable young people to have access and brokerage with post-16 learning providers and employers to develop apprenticeship opportunities which lead to a high quality, industry standard qualification. Subtleties to consider within an area-based approach Although the Rhondda is an area with high levels of deprivation across a range of indicators, it is clear that this is not spread uniformly across the area with distinct nuances between different smaller special communities (Appendix A). The maps identify potential correlations across indicators within certain areas. For example, the lower Rhondda has a high proportion of young people who are persistently absent from school (Figure 5) and also a high proportion of young people who do not achieve the level 2 inclusive threshold (Figure 3). From the perspective of an asset based approach, this locally based insight is useful since further investigation of the strengths of areas with particularly positive results within Rhondda can inform development in areas in need of improvement. The work of the Rhondda Alliance can be valuable, both for having an impact on specific local areas and for further knowledge development and allowing a more detailed and nuanced picture of Rhondda to emerge. Focus on the 19-25 age group. NEET young people aged 19-25 need to be targeted if the overall population of young NEETs in Rhondda is to decline. While positive progress has been made for young people leaving school, with rates currently similar to Wales, the picture is very different for 19-25 year olds. Considering the negative long term effects that prolonged periods of unemployment can have at this age, it is important to invest efforts in raising the engagement of 19-25 year olds or the long term effects will also be felt by the local area. However, knowledge of the characteristics and needs of this group is currently limited. For example, young people in this age group may be more likely to have additional childcare needs or learning difficulties and disabilities (LDD) which require support of a specific nature and specialism. Therefore, the Rhondda Alliance needs to further explore this area to enable the development of work which supports this age group. Labour market trends
  26. 26. An outcome of making an impact on the previously identified education and employment related trends will be positive growth of trends within the labour market. Employment is increasingly characterised by low skilled, low wage and part time jobs for young people. Since commuting is one common way that can enable this to be avoided, it is positive that high rates of commuting from RCT have been identified. However, the topography of RCT means that the local authority based definition of commuting may be too simplistic and commuting within the county may be worth exploration. Self employment is also a feature amongst a minority of the workforce which is potentially a worthwhile area of investigation, particularly in light of the recent dip below Welsh averages in Rhondda. The study suggests that it would be worthwhile for the Rhondda Alliance to develop a more detailed and nuanced understanding of labour market trends and enabling young people to access, and also influence, these. The low proportion of highly skilled employment in Rhondda suggests that building the capacity for commuting and/or entrepreneurialism are of worthwhile investigation. Changing health-related behaviours The direct correlation between poverty and illness means that the health of Rhondda needs consideration in light of the high deprivation and illness rates. High rates of ESA and incapacity benefits claimants suggest a correlation between high unemployment and high economic inactivity rates and illness in Rhondda. The high prevalence of negative health-related behaviours offers an opportunity for targetable themes for lifestyle changes. This could lead to reduced illness and subsequent lower poverty rates if successfully tackled. The areas where positive signs of healthy lifestyles are found, such as the high exercise rate in Treorchy Comprehensive, offers an opportunity for further learning and development. The study suggests that it would be beneficial for the Rhondda Alliance developing work that promotes healthy behaviours. However, reducing poverty is ultimately the most likely to have a significant impact on illness. Following the core of the recommended strategy for the Rhondda Alliance, increasing educational attainment is the key mechanism for alleviating deprivation and subsequently improving other areas of social life including health.
  27. 27. 5. Conclusion The recommendations of the baseline research will continually be used as a key component for establishing priority areas of the Rhondda Alliance’s work, and the People and Work Unit as an organisation. It serves as stimuli for navigating the complex debates in relation to the needs and conditions of young people in Rhondda and of the Welsh labour market. The research has shown that there is not a sole clear-cut pathway through which young people can be supported, reflecting the messy intertwined nature of social life. The differing perspectives and specialisations which the organisations in the Rhondda Alliance have is a strength in this sense. Since the potential for targeting different groups of young people in different ways, within a shared overarching aim, is a key theme within the findings. A key example of where the data and supporting literature has been forming the foundation of discussion and driving the aim of community development work has been in relation to supporting young people in their educational progression. This has followed the argument that a poor quality and level of support and career planning is having a negative impact on the progression rates of young people in Rhondda. Following this, the Rhondda Alliance has ongoing plans to provide inclusive support for young people in a way which holistically considers the needs of the labour market including economically viable skills. The linked up nature of the project between the formal data analysis and the local community groups reduces the risk of a lack in ecological validity, which studies of this format are usually concerned about (Bryman, 2012). An outcome from the baseline research will be the ability of community members to further explore the themes within their own communities and transfer knowledge of good practice to other areas in Rhondda. In this way, the geographical maps showing key indicators will be a particularly useful tool. Overall, the outcome of this research project is that ongoing and new work supporting young people in the Rhondda will have an evidence-based approach. The People and Work Unit and partners will continue to use the data as rationales for the importance of their work and clarification of their aims. Additionally, these projects will have the resources to build an evaluation structure against which they can measure their success which considers the role of both tangible and intangible variables as outcomes.
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  37. 37. Appendix A: Maps of key indicators in Rhondda Figure 2: Levels of relative education deprivation (StatsWales, 2014) Figure 3: Achievement of the level two inclusive threshold (%) (StatsWales, 2014)
  38. 38. Figure 4: Young people aged 18-19 not entering HE (%) (StatsWales, 2014) Figure 5: Repeat absenteeism in maintained schools (%) (StatsWales, 2014)
  39. 39. Figure 6: Adults aged 25-64 with no qualifications (%) (StatsWales, 2014) Figure 7: Levels of relative income deprivation (%) (StatsWales, 2014)
  40. 40. Figure 8: Employment related benefits amongst the working age population (%) (StatsWales, 2014) Figure 9: Limiting long-term illness (number per 100,000) (StatsWales, 2014)

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