Keep them students busy’: ‘Warehoused’ or taught skills to achieve?
RPA (Raising of Participation Age) legislation re-positioned all youth in England to participate in post-16 education and training, the ultimate aim to develop ‘human capital’. However, how does RPA play out in practice with previously NEET (not in education, employment or training) and so-called disengaged youth engaged on a Level 1 pre-vocational course? Empirical research was conducted at a large general further education (FE) college in south-east England, named The Site with seven tutors and twenty-six students from the 2013-14 and 2014-15 cohorts. Key findings revealed ‘warehousing’ appeared to be the main purpose of education for these students. Whilst student conduct was observably loud and disruptive, it arguably overshadowed concerns over pedagogical activities and teaching practices, reproducing negative classroom conditions which consolidated stereotypical beliefs that with these particular students, there was a reluctance to learn – in effect, legitimising warehousing practice. This study brings into focus a counter discourse: structurally, the system is producing the kind of provision reflected on this course. Hence, creating and consolidating NEET identities rather than providing conditions in which new learner identities can emerge and benefit individuals themselves and (to use the neo-liberal line of reasoning) to the ‘economy’.