New analysis by the Health Foundation (@HealthFdn) shows that 16 of the 30 local authorities in England with the largest percentages of young people who do not go on to education, employment or training following their 16-18 studies, have not been classed as top-tier priorities for the government’s Levelling Up Fund.*  

East Cambridgeshire has not been placed in the top priority category for levelling up funding even though 31% of students in the area do not go on to further education or employment - the second highest percentage in England. Similarly, Wyre in the West Midlands (which ranks fourth worst), Hackney and Haringey in London (fifth and seventh worst, respectively) and Portsmouth in Hampshire (eight worst) have not been deemed top-tier priorities for levelling up.  

Between 31% and 24% of young people in the 30 lowest ranking local authorities do not go on to further education or employment. This is compared to an England average of less than 19% and less than 10% in all of the 30 highest ranking local authorities.  

The Health Foundation says the analysis provides further evidence that the government’s current criteria for allocating funding are flawed and, in practice, do not take adequate account of the major factors that influence people’s health and wellbeing. The independent charity is highlighting the critical importance of education and high-quality employment for young people in shaping long term health. It says that, in its current form, levelling up is unlikely to achieve the government’s stated aim of reducing inequalities and levelling up life expectancy across the country. 

Additional targeted investment in further education in these areas as part of the wider levelling up agenda would help increase the percentage of young people in education, employment and training. As could designing proposals for the Levelling up Fund that create opportunities such as apprenticeships. 

Previous analysis by the Health Foundation found that the current allocation of levelling up funding doesn’t account for people’s health, with only half of local authorities in England with the lowest healthy life expectancy in the list of highest-priority areas. 

As well as highlighting the flaws in the government’s levelling up strategy, the Health Foundation says that its analysis highlights the need for greater national investment in further education in the wake of the pandemic. It says this is needed to create the conditions for a healthier and more prosperous society.  

Further education has seen the most severe cuts in the education sector over the past decade, with an 11% real-terms cut in funding between 2010/11 and 2020/21. As highlighted by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, spending on apprenticeships and adult education has seen a real-terms combined cut of 35% over the past decade. Modelling by the Institute for Public Policy Research suggests that for the sector to keep up with pressures, it would need an additional £4.8bn in investment per year (on top of the already pledged National Skills Fund), rising to £6bn per year by the end of this parliament. 

Jo Bibby, Director of Health at the Health Foundation, said: 

‘The effects of the pandemic have fallen unequally across society. For many young people this has meant significant disruptions to their education as well as disproportionate rates of furlough and job losses. The recovery provides an opportunity to build back better, improving opportunity via further education and changing the life course of thousands of young people across the country. But our findings suggest that, in its current form, levelling up will fail to improve further education in many areas with the greatest need. 

‘Now is the time to recognise the vital role of further education in recovery and for the nation's future health. Long-term investment in the further education sector could lead to improved outcomes across several areas central to the levelling up agenda – from creating a more skilled workforce, through to reducing rates of unemployment and boosting local productivity. With the white paper on levelling up due before the end of the year, there is still time for the government to seize this opportunity to improve health and reduce health inequalities. Such investment is not just sensible but imperative for a more prosperous future.’

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