About the project


What is RESL.eu about?

Reducing Early School Leaving in Europe (RESL.eu) is an international research project examining the processes that lead young people to leave school without achieving the skills and qualifications necessary for successful transition into the labour market.

Funded by the European Commission, the project was carried out between 2013 and 2018 in nine countries: Austria, Belgium, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

The research and publications produced within RESL.eu aim to:

  • provide insights into the complex, diverse and dynamic trajectories of young people from school to training and into employment;
  • explore how gender, class, ethnic background and local context shape their opportunity structures and choices;
  • inform wider policy debates about educational trajectories, training pathways, including apprenticeships, and the risk of young people becoming NEET, on local, national and EU level


How is Early School Leaving defined in the UK context?

In the UK policy discourse, the focus is primarily on youth unemployment and young people not in education, employment or training (NEET)

For England and Wales, the EU definition of early school leaving pertains to having left education without a minimum of 5 GCSEs at grades A*-C

From this definition, it is clear that RESL.eu does not exclusively address young people dropping out of school, but also those who complete their studies without having achieved a minimum level of education.


About our research and data

  • eu employed a mixed methodology, combining quantitative surveys of young people and educational staff with qualitative interviews and focus groups of young people, parents, teachers and other education and training professionals, as well as policy makers on local, national and EU level
  • In 2013/14, an extensive survey was administered to almost 20,000 young people across the partner countries. The UK team surveyed more than 3,000 students in schools and colleges in two research sites: London and the North-East of England, with whole cohorts of pupils in Year 10 & 12.
  • Survey participants where then approached again in 2015/16 for a follow-up survey to track their trajectories from school to further studies or labour market entry.
  • Qualitative interviews and focus groups have been conducted with over 180 participants in the UK, including young people, parents, teachers, school and college staff, apprenticeship providers, policy makers and youth workers. A sample of the young people was re-interviewed to gain a longitudinal perspective on their experience of transitioning from school to work.
  • An online survey of educational staff was used to collect data on the attitudes and practices of teachers in regards to institutional and national-level policies aimed at reducing early school leaving


Key Recommendations

Schools and colleges

  • Implementation of ‘school engagement risk assessment’ toolkits: these can be used at school- and class-level to identify individual students who report low engagement, as well as at school level in cooperation with local authorities to identify areas where resources may be focused;
  • Development of measures and interventions targeted at specific ‘risk’ groups: risk should be determined not only on the basis of socio-demographic, and attainment and attendance data, but should also take into consideration students’ self-perceptions and the level of support they feel is available to them;
  • Compulsory high-quality career information, advice and guidance (IAG) integrated into the school curriculum, starting at the beginning of secondary education to benefit all young people from the age of 11; and continued over the course of compulsory education;
  • Rethinking school league tables: Schools need to be incentivised to promote alternatives to university, such as apprenticeships; which means changing school league tables so that success is not judged simply on A-Level results and progression rates to university.

Vocational education and training

  • Coordinated, single portal application process for apprenticeships: The creation of a single portal and application process, like UCAS, so that young people, their parents and schools are confident in accessing high quality apprenticeships delivered by reputable providers
  • Provide living wage for apprentices so that these opportunities are viable for a broader range of young people.
  • Creating progression pathways from vocational and other training courses into employment, for example through work guarantees.

 Employers and policy makers

  • Incentives to employers to recruit and provide mentoring schemes for inexperienced workers, as well as young people with criminal convictions, growing up in the care system and those from disadvantaged background.
  • Locally available and free IAG for NEET young people, advertised at highly visible places
  • Financial help during the first month of employment for young people coming out of unemployment.