Despite a recent decline, Spain is still the country with highest early school leaving (ESL) rate in the EU. To improve youth employability and to re-engage youngsters at high risk of becoming ESLers and NEETs, the Catalan education authorities redesigned and reallocated two initially work-first oriented out-of-school programmes within the Youth Guarantee Plan in 2015.
Drawing on qualitative data gathered in these compensatory measures, this chapter explores the views and experiences of youngsters and staff about their effectiveness in tackling the risk of ESL in relation to their official goals and the participants’ expectations after leaving lower secondary education.
Our analysis reveals that the perspective shift and the redesign undertaken do not appear to have been effective enough in transforming risk into opportunities. Although positive attitudinal changes and emerging aspirations were identified within the participants in the programmes, a thorough reform is lacking at the system level to include these compensatory measures in the opportunity structure available for the most vulnerable youth. Finally, instead of increasing their awareness about the perverse effects of the system, the youngsters tended to blame themselves for their earlier disengagement and failure.