There are 24,000 young people in Scotland causing concern to the authorities because they are not in education, employment or training, and they are not the "homogeneous" group of 35,000 that is commonly supposed.
This was revealed last week by Michael Cross, the senior Government official in charge of enterprise and employability for young people, speaking at a conference whose title, "35,000 lives", was immediately pronounced out-of-date.
Mr Cross said school-leaver destination figures for last year showed the figure in the Neet group was 32,000, a fall of 1.2 per cent on 2006 and 6.3 per cent since 2004 when action began to cut the numbers. He described 8,000 of the 32,000 as having a "benign" connection with the Neet group, because they were on a gap year or in other positive circumstances.
While there had been improvements in 28 of the 32 education authorities, Mr Cross cautioned that the record of success for some groups was "desperately poor": 62 per cent of care leavers were in the Neet group compared with 13.5 per cent for 16-19s, and 20 per cent left school as soon as they could.
The Government would increasingly expect schools to take "effective early intervention", before pupils left school, to improve their post-16 learning experience, he said, and careers officers would be "absolutely central" in that effort. There was increasing evidence that the peak for pupils switching off was between September and February of the year they left school.
Mr Cross said schools must move to early identification through better tracking and monitoring. There should also be more personalisation and choice in their learning, pre- and post-16.
The conference heard a call from the Microsoft boss in Scotland for businesses to get more involved. Raymond O'Hare said his company had convened a group of employers in Tayside to "commit" to monitoring and mentoring.
Maureen McGinn, chief executive of the Laidlaw Youth Trust, which funds charities working with the disadvantaged, said the most successful at helping youngsters make the transition from school were the ones who spent a lot of time building relationships with employers.