Durham County Council

The analysis written by Durham County Council of the transitions school to work and back to work can be found below.

General description of situation in the Country

 In England, today, around two and a half million young people are aged 14 to 19. The vast majority are engaged full or part time in education. 

The English Qualification System

At the age of 16 it is possible for a young person to leave education, although most go on to one of a number of post-16 opportunities to further their education.  These include staying at school, Sixth Form Colleges and Further Education (FE) , and eventually Higher Education (for example university), usually at age 18.  There are also modern apprenticeships and vocational education programmes available both inside and outside the workplace.   These provide a means for those in the post-16 age group to follow one of four qualification routes: diplomas; general qualifications (A levels and GCSEs); apprenticeships or Foundation Learning Tier.

In England, today, around two and a half million young people are aged 14 to 19. The vast majority are engaged full or part time in education. 

 A review of Vocational Education carried out by Professor Alison Wolf in 2011 states that conventional academic study encompasses only part of what the labour market values and demands: whereas vocational education can offer different content, different skills, different forms of teaching. Good vocational programmes are, therefore, respected, valuable and an important part of our and any other countries, educational provision.

 A highly distinctive aspect of English education is its use, outside Higher Education of large numbers of separate qualifications and of non-governmental ‘awarding bodies’ or ‘awarding organisations’. We are also distinctive in the way we use qualifications (as opposed to government-set tests) as a key component in accountability systems, in high stakes ‘league tables’ and as the basis for funding allocations to post-16 (non-university) education.

 England’s qualification system evolved independently of the state, which is why our qualifications – both academic and vocational – are not awarded by the state and were, until recently, not designed by it either. By contrast, most countries not only have far fewer separate qualifications, but most of them, especially for young people, are developed, run and awarded by governments. In a number of other developed countries, key vocational qualifications involve other bodies in cooperation with government, but these are employer and craft/professional associations, not specialist examining and awarding organisations.


Participation Post-16 education and training in England

Figure 1.18 summarises the variation in the participation of 16 and 17-year-olds in post compulsory education government supported training (GST) for 2006/07 in the countries and regions of the UK.  This indicates a general trend of participation reducing with age. Lowest participation rates of full-time education and GST for both ages were found in Scotland (79 per cent of 16-year-olds; 45 per cent for 17- year-olds) while significantly higher participation at both ages was found in Northern Ireland (95 per cent and 89 per cent). However, it should be noted that, due to differing options available to this age group, inter-country comparisons should be treated with caution.  

 Highest participation rates in England for 16-year-olds were in London (90 per cent), followed by the South East (85 per cent). The England average reduced by 12 percentage points between 16 and 17-year-olds in 2006/07 with the smallest reduction being in London (9 percentage points). The largest reduction was in the North East (13 percentage points).

The Regional Level – County Durham

County Durham situated in the North East of England continues to have a relatively poor skills profile compared to the region as a whole, the available evidence suggests that educational achievement at age 16 has improved rapidly and now exceeds the national rates. However, notable pockets of underachievement amongst young people and poor skills amongst the adult workforce, and within deprived communities more generally, persist.

 Employers in County Durham have been particularly vocal about the mismatch between their skill needs, the aspirations of young people and their awareness of the job and training opportunities available.  The available evidence suggests that employers in County Durham are as active in planning for and training for their skills needs as employers in the UK as a whole, and the recession does not appear to have had a significant impact on the training behaviour of employers.

 Durham County Council Adult Learning & Skills Service

Durham County Council Adult Learning Service (ALS) delivers mainstream adult education programmes in the community as well as accredited and non-accredited in the workplace. 

 The Service priorities are;

•    Literacy and numeracy training

•    First full Level 2 qualifications and a first full Level 3 for 19-25 year olds

•    Training for learners with learning difficulties and disabilities

•    Training support for the unemployed

•    Informal adult learning to engage the low skilled learner

•    Level 4 qualifications


The Adult Learning Service delivers across a range of subject areas with a focus on the following subject areas: Health, Public Services and Care; Business Administration and Law; ICT; Leisure, travel and tourism; Arts, Media and Publishing; Employability Programmes including  literacy and numeracy.


 The Adult Learning & Skills Service Employability programmes

The Adult Learning & Skills Service provides direct employment support, education and training opportunities including apprenticeships together with advice and guidance to people aged 16 years and over.

The profile of learners accessing the service varies widely and may include:


  • Young people in transition from social care young people’s to adult services who want to enter education or employment
  • Long term unemployed adults wishing to enter the labour market
  • Adults requiring employability skills to aid progression towards the Labour market
  • Adults with disabilities who require a supported employment service to assist them to enter or retain employment
  • Adults requiring vocational training and education to progress towards employment


Addressing skills gaps in order to enable people to access sustained employment is increasingly seen as a vital part of the worklessness agenda. Durham County Council’s Adult Learning & Skills Service recognises that skills, workforce development and worklessness are inextricably linked; and addressing the worklessness issue will raise output and productivity for the whole of the County.




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