Becoming 'NEET': an exploration of marginalised young people’s trajectories and experiences

Rajah, Heera (2019) Becoming 'NEET': an exploration of marginalised young people’s trajectories and experiences. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


Young people who are ‘Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET)’ have been an ongoing concern for successive UK governments; policies abound, but the number remains stubbornly high. Some studies indicate that young NEET people form a marginalised group with diverse issues. Hence, there is the need to understand the complexity of their situations. Therefore, this qualitative, in-depth study goes beyond the statistics and advances the knowledge about some of the varied factors that contribute to young people becoming NEET.

The participants were 18 young NEET people, aged 18-24. They were all living with their families except for one who had left home, aged 24. This study was located in London and therefore reveals the challenges the young people faced despite it being the capital city, with all the opportunities London is perceived to offer. At the time of the study, the participants were all NEET and were attending a self-development course offered by Possible, a charity working with NEET young people; four of its staff members who work with young people who are NEET were also interviewed. This qualitative study examines the issue of becoming NEET from the perspectives of an immensely diverse group of young NEET people (including new arrivals to the UK), thereby prioritising the voices and experiences of those within this NEET group.

Bourdieu’s concepts consisting of capital, field and habitus formed the theoretical framework. The findings indicate that, for this diverse NEET group, ‘family’ and ‘school’ were major influences and, for some of them, ‘family’ referred to their wider, extended family. The study reveals how much family, school and social class intersect, leading to the conclusion that the common thread running through these factors is ‘class’. Therefore, social class is a major determinant in young people’s trajectories and explains why some of the young people are positioned unfavourably with regard to their life chances. Significantly, all of the participants had been continuously NEET since the age of 18, with 12 of them NEET since the age of 16, and with none of them having been in employment since the age of 16. This, therefore, depicts the continued long reach of family and school influences, mediated by social class: the enduring shadow cast into adulthood and on young people’s life chances. However, this study also signifies hope: it reveals that young people can be encouraged to move out of the NEET category when they engage with staff that they feel care for them and can be trusted.

Despite being in the 18-24 age range, the key issues raised by the participants were related to school. Focusing solely on their concerns, they imply that well-resourced strategies are needed to help pupils of all abilities. In view of schools’ limited resources, forming external partnerships seem relevant, as illustrated by the participants’ praise for Possible’s initiatives. Hence, some examples of potential partnerships for schools are noted in the concluding chapter.

Overall, this in-depth study will add to the knowledge about 18-24 year old young NEET people. This knowledge is intended to contribute to the current debates on education, training and employment and help with informing the interested parties: policymakers, schools, training providers and also charitable organisations working to meet the needs of young people classified as NEET.

Rajah-Heera_Thesis-FINAL-2019.pdf - Published Version
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