'He deserves far more than a label'

12th February 2010 at 00:00
"Neet" term should be abandoned according to the Welsh education minister

The word "Neet" should be abandoned as a way of describing young people as it labels them unfairly and fails to understand their needs, according to the Welsh education minister.

The catch-all term for young people not in education, employment or training has been widely adopted by politicians as Wales struggles to tackle the problem.

An Office for National Statistics survey last month showed that almost 13 per cent of 16 to 18-year-olds fall into the category in Wales - the highest proportion in the UK.

But Leighton Andrews has warned that using the term to define individuals will not help them back into work or education.

"Using the shorthand Neet to define an individual like the word geek, we miss the complexity of the true picture and the individual challenges young people face in life," Mr Andrews told the Wales Council for Voluntary Action.

"There is no one solution which will encourage young people to engage with education, or to help all of those out of work to get back into the labour market.

"Labelling them and categorising them without consideration for their individual needs is not going to help them have a prosperous and successful future."

The minister said young people who are "bored by the school experience" must be re-engaged with education.

His comments follow the annual publication of Neet statistics, Neet initiatives and last year's wide-ranging Neet strategy, launched by the Welsh Assembly to tackle the problem.

David Reynolds, professor of education at Plymouth University, who has advised both the Westminster and Assembly governments, said the minister's views were a "bit silly".

He said: "There are a large number of young people who fall into the Neet category, and the arrival of the Neet definition as a shorthand for describing this group has actually helped give them more attention.

"I can't see the problem of recognising the group by using an acronym like Neet; it has focused attention on them in a way that's helped them. We now have targets and strategies. I don't see the downside."

The Conservatives said Mr Andrews should get on with tackling the problem instead of worrying about words.

Shadow education minister Paul Davies said: "Rather than obsessing about whether we should use Neet, the minister should spend his time reducing the number of people who actually are Neets."

But Mr Andrews said schemes like the vocationally led 14-19 Learning Pathways, along with apprenticeships and work-based learning programmes, were providing choice for young people.

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