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HIGHEST RATES: The neighbourhood where 1 in 10 young people are not in education

HIGHEST RATES: The neighbourhood where 1 in 10 young people are not in education

Little Hulton pictured in September 2021, Image: M.E.N.

Every year, hundreds of young people in Salford leave school aged 16 with no work, training or further study lined up, among the highest rates in England.

Some parts of the city are worse than others with Broughton, Langworthy and the former Irwell Riverside council ward consistently at the top of the table.

While the full impact of the coronavirus crisis is yet to be felt, the local authority says the situation has improved in some ways over recent years.

But in one neighbourhood, the number of school leavers who are not in education, employment or training (NEETs) remains ‘stubbornly high’.

Around 10 pc of 16 and 17 year olds in Little Hulton are known to be NEETs.

In March 2021, there were 42 young people in this age bracket who were not in education, employment or training while the status of four more was unknown.

The figures fluctuate and the most recent national lockdown – which was in force when these high rates were recorded – may have contributed to them.

But across the country, council bosses are anticipating a spike this autumn.

The opportunities available

Two years ago, Salford council launched its NEET reduction strategy – but since then, the numbers have increased in some places, including Little Hulton.

Alison Jones, development manager at Little Hulton Big Local, says young people in the area tell her there is a lack of good quality placements nearby.

The charity she runs aims to attract opportunities for those struggling to find them, by working with the likes of Sale Sharks, Foundation 92 and Connexions.

These three organisations, which each have a presence in the area now, offer apprenticeships, training and career advice to young people in Little Hulton.

In the summer, a £250,000 community bike park opened at Peel Park with support from charity Access Sport which runs sessions, bike clubs and outreach programmes for young people, working with local schools.

It comes after the sports inclusion charity ran a six-week bike maintenance course for local teenagers who finished school with minimal qualifications.

Little Hulton Big Local is now raising funds to refurbish the pavillion at the park, from which it runs a youth club, to create a community hub and cafe.

But despite all these efforts to support young people, the problem persists.

“We still haven’t made an impact,” Alison, who has worked in the role for around five years, said, “but it would be worse if we hadn’t tried something.”

The barriers that exist

Alison believes lower attainment in school is the biggest barrier for those school leavers who are failing to find employment, education or training.

But while optimistic about standards improving at The Lowry Academy – which featured in television series Educating Greater Manchester under its former name of Harrop Fold – she says better exam results alone will not be enough.

“I don’t think the issue will just disappear overnight however hard the schools are working,” she said.

Public transport is often cited as a problem in Little Hulton which ‘can feel like it’s right on the edge’, Alison says, creating barriers to work, study and training.

Labour councillor Kate Lewis, who has represented Little Hulton since 2015, says long and costly commutes can hold young people back in their careers.

“It can take around an hour to get from Little Hulton to Future Skills at Media City by bus outside of rush hour,” she said.

“The time it takes to get to where they need to be for the course they want can be a major barrier.”

Many have benefitted from the Our Pass scheme – offering free bus travel to Greater Manchester teens for the first two years after finishing their GCSEs.

And although Salford council officers say uptake in the city has been low, Little Hulton has the highest uptake of any council ward in the local authority area.

Coun Lewis has called on the town hall to work with employers at Logistics North such as Amazon with the aim of providing apprenticeships and jobs.

However, education bosses say the variety of job opportunities available at the industrial park in Over Hulton is ‘limited’, mainly offering warehousing roles.

‘The hardest to reach’

For some young people, often called ‘the hardest to reach’, the issue is apathy.

Sarah Scanlan, who is the head of participation at Salford council for the 14 to 19 age group, suspects the coronavirus crisis may have contributed to this.

But she told a scrutiny committee last month that some NEETs who are approached by authorities with offers of support are just not interested.

“They don’t want to know,” she said. “They are actively saying, ‘I do not want help, I’m okay as I am.’

“Sometimes parents are struggling as well to engage with them and get them out of the house.

“Or they’re busy doing their own thing and it’s just very difficult to track them down.

“But we do have young people who say, ‘I’m just not interested’.

“That becomes a very difficult conversation – to say, ‘why don’t you come on this traineeship programme or something like that’ – when it’s just something they’re not interested in.”

‘A significant concern’

Highlighting the long-stadning issue in Little Hulton, Coun Lewis says Salford council needs to ‘fully understand’ the barriers holding young people back.

“They are as aspirational as any other children,” she said. “But often their disadvantage can make life more difficult.”

She quizzed cabinet members at a full council meeting last month, asking for assurances that the NEET reduction strategy will be effective in Little Hulton.

Councillor Philip Cusack, who is the executive support member for skills, work and business, said the number of NEETs in Salford is a ‘significant concern’.

He said: “It’s difficult to say why there are more NEETs in one ward than another, but if you look at the larger metropolitan areas in the country, commentators do suggest that there is an observable link between local poverty, areas of relative deprivation, areas with fewer local opportunities, employment opportunities and the number of people not in work, education or training in those areas specifically.

“Although Little Hulton has the highest figures, this is a problem across the city and it can’t be solved on a single ward basis.

“Training, apprenticeships and employment opportunities transcend ward boundaries.”

Coun Cusack listed a number of external agencies which the Salford Skills and Work Board is working with to tackle the issue, including the Department for Work and Pensions, the Leaving Care Service, Salford City College, the University of Salford and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

Speaking later, he added: “Salford City Council and our partners provide a wide range of support for young people to help them find their future career paths and would encourage any young person to make full use of that support.”

Information for young people, parents and carers looking for opportunities in Salford is available at


Words: Joseph Timan, Local Democracy Reporter

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