As part of our work on Every Child Should we have been talking to young people and those that work with them and reviewing many reports on what children and young people should have achieved and experienced by the time they leave school. The lobby on this is vast – from the traditional ‘which GCSEs debate’; to ‘vocational v academic’ arguments and reports making the case for everything from Latin to coding to volunteering to self-defence.
We will be exploring these over the year.
But one of the things that became clear in our discussions and research is that for many young people the things they wanted – needed – were not at the top of anyone else’s list.
We’ve selected 10 things that young people reflected back to us. Not a scientific survey – but rather to provoke debate on whether we are really preparing children and young people – all of them – for adulthood. Does our lens focus on the pathways to university and employment at the cost of other wider experiences? And – even within those pathways – do we assume that all young people can and will get support and guidance to navigate some of the practical issues that young people face?
So, our starter for 10 things that should sit alongside qualifications in the package that young people leave school with.
Every Child Should have…:
- An address – not to confused with a home, though clearly linked, and the problem of youth homelessness is a challenge for our times. But an evidenced address. Without it accessing almost anything else from the state or from business becomes a significant challenge.
- A bank account – whether it is university loans, benefits or salary a bank account is essential. And yet not automatic. The process can be confusing and without the ‘right’ address evidence or regular payments can be nigh on impossible to access.
- A GP and know how to access health services – many young people did not know how to register with a GP; particularly if they moved away from their home area. Similarly, that they could get advice from a wealth of services including at a pharmacy, walk in surgery and from 111, was not something they had understood.
- A passport application – for many for whom overseas travel is a way of life it is hard to believe that many young people have not left the country. But also, those that have will still – over time – need to apply for their own adult passport. Beyond being a valuable piece of identity evidence it was considered a statement of intent for a wider life experience.
- “Something I can be employed to do”- this came up again and again. GCSEs, A level and university places were all very good but in an economy where full-time jobs are becoming rare, or work needs to be juggled with studies or care or other responsibilities, young people wanted employable skills and qualifications. Barista training; lifeguard qualifications; child care certification; data entry skills – things that were immediately identifiable by employers and could support flexible working.
- Understanding online application forms – young people applying for part time employment in retail and the service industry report increasing use of online psychometric testing and scenario scoring before even getting to an interview. These are difficult to navigate, and the answers are not immediately obvious. Being turned down – automatically by a website algorithm – because you don’t ‘fit’ is demoralising.
- Access to support for reading – this was a very specific request. Often from dyslexics and from those with learning disabilities. This was not the usual – every child should leave school with GCSE English request – rather the realisation from a large group that they will never be literate in the traditional sense. They wanted to know what tools they could use to help them navigate a world of words; whether reading pens or dictation software; a trusted other to take things to; techniques for managing the social embarrassment when they can’t read the menu.
- An email address and how to access email – in a world of social media it seems strange to think that this would be a challenge but for many young people when they leave the school bubble access to devices that receive emails or internet/data can be limited. The importance of libraries and other access cannot be underplayed when employment, learning and so much life access relies on an email address. Many organisations provide email addresses, but often young people lose access to these, and the services they have set up using this email, when they move on.
- Understanding tax – this was mentioned a lot! In part by those who had received a pay slip and had been hammered with emergency tax. But also, by those who were setting up their own business and had to navigate the world of HMRC (and entrepreneurial skills was a whole separate category of interest which we will return to).
- Self-care and first aid – we confess to being somewhat biased in this area. But many people we spoke to said that they wish they had been taught what to do if their friend was drunk and vomiting. Or if they were at university with flu. Or if they’d gone over on their ankle on the way home from work. A number reported near misses with overdosing on paracetamol not realising that Lemsip and paracetamol were a potentially lethal combination in even relatively small amounts.
So – perhaps when the debate tends to be whether GCSE Art is better than GCSE Geography; or university is the only pathway of value maybe there are some other, more pragmatic but high impact wins to be had. And while the impact would potentially be substantial for all young people their impact on the 500,000 most vulnerable young adults could be the different between paying the rent this week and being on a mate’s sofa the next.
What would you add to the list?