CHILDREN who took part in an education programme to stop them dropping out of the system said it also kept them out of jail and off drugs.
One hundred per cent of those who answered said they felt the project helped them prepare for college, training or the world of work and take responsibility for themselves.
And comments from past learners included: "If it wasn't for Engage I would have been in jail.
"If it wasn't for Engage I would have gone down a bad road with drugs."
Another said: "It is only after I left that I realised how brilliant Engage was and what a good opportunity I had — I wish I could go back."
The authority's Engage programme was originally funded through the European Social Fund.
That money came to and end in August 2012, but Neath Port Talbot Council continued to sustain two elements of the project — a full- time alternative education programme for key stage four pupils excluded from school, and three Keeping in Touch (Kit) youth workers who focus on Neets (youngsters not in education, employment or training).
In the academic year 2012/13, all 40 youngsters who attended gained a nationally- recognised qualification.
More than 40 per cent of year 11 pupils left with five GCSE equivalents and, in total, the young people achieved 190 qualifications and progressed to further education.
Principal youth and community officer, Jan Jones said the team would continue with the study into experiences of students, to inform the planning and development of the future of the project.
She added: "The annual Neets figure dropped to 3.1 per cent in 2012.
"Neath Port Talbot is currently the sixth best performing local authority in Wales and has achieved the most significant improvement across the whole of Wales."