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‘No 16-18 year old left behind’ – key takeaways

NCFE recently teamed up with Campaign For Learning to launch a new policy paper titled: ‘No 16-18 year old left behind’.

The collective paper, penned by ten leading authorities from across the education sector, delved into the challenges that the Government face to help ensure that young people fulfil their duty to participate in further education up until their 18th birthday.

In this article, Michael Lemin, Policy and Research Manager at NCFE shares his thoughts on the top ten takeaways from the paper:

1. Two challenges

The issue of ensuring educational participation for 16-18 year olds is twofold. The new Conservative Government must ensure that no 16-18 year old is left behind during a period of an expanding cohort of 16-18 year olds, while at the same time, level-up attainment of 16-18 year olds with special education needs and from lower income households.

2. Funding beyond the cost of provision

Tackling these two key challenges will require funding the 16-18 phase of education and training more equitably compared to pre-16 education and higher education. But the funding question goes beyond funding rates for provision and between academic and technical education. A more generous, extensive, equitable and less complex system of financial support to parents and young people in full-time education and apprenticeships is needed.

3. 16-18 year old’s must be in it to win it

To achieve GCSEs in maths and English, Level 2 or Level 3 qualifications, 16-18 year olds must be participating in recognised education and training in the first place. Education policy makers should desist from putting the cart before the horse. As the population of 16-18 year olds in England breaks the two million mark by 2024, now is the time for the Conservative Government to make effective the duty to participate to the 18th birthday.

4. Full-time study for two years from 17 to achieve a Level 3 will not suit everyone

Whether a transition year at 16 is intended to facilitate progression to A levels or T-levels to achieve a Level 3, two years of full-time study will not be suitable for every 17 year-old. Some young people might decide they have had enough of full-time study, however excellent the content and structure of T-levels might be. Others might wish to stay-on and benefit from the promise of a work placement but decide on financial grounds they cannot afford to do so. The prospect of some money from minimum wage jobs at age 17, 18 and 19 might outweigh the limited amount of child benefit and uncertain eligibility for child tax credits to their parents, and uncertain eligibility for the 16-19 Bursary Grant and diminishing changes of getting a ‘Saturday’ job.

5. Review availability of advanced apprenticeships for 16-18 year olds

Advanced Apprenticeships for 16-18 year olds are an alternative pathway from A levels and T-levels to increase attainment at Level 3. Some 17 year olds might wish to progress to an Advanced Apprenticeship after completing a transition year. Advanced Apprenticeships are seen as the gold standard for apprenticeships and there has been debate about limiting public funding to Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeships only. The reality is that the number of Advanced Apprenticeships at both 16 and 17 is a relatively small fraction of each cohort. Even at age 18, the share is 4.5% or about 29,500. Crucially, the low number of Advanced Apprenticeships at age 16-18 predates the Apprenticeship Levy. The new Conservative Government should consider what steps can be taken to expand Advanced Apprenticeships for 16-18 year olds.

6. Don’t forget Level 2 and below

The laudable aim of increasing progression and achievement at Level 3 by 16-18 year olds should not blind policy makers of the importance of Level 2 and below qualifications to many young people. For some, the achievement of a Level 2 or a Level 1 qualification followed by a job is a personal success.

7. A brave decision to remove funding for Level 2 apprenticeships

Any decision to cease funding Level 2 apprenticeships from the Apprenticeship Programme Budget would have a negative impact on 16-18 year olds. The Government would need to insure against a rise in the number of 16-17 year olds not meeting the duty to participate by funding an extra 62,000 places in full-time education at a cost of £250m.

8. Maintain Level 2 qualifications

Achieving a Level 2 before progressing to a Level 3 is the norm in 16-18 education. Level 2 qualifications should be maintained in full-time further education and form part of the T-Level Transition Programme.

9. GCSE Maths and English Re-sits: The BREXIT Issue of 16-18 Education

Nothing quite like the maths and English GCSE re-sit policy ignites such polarised views in 16-18 education. It is the BREXIT issue of the 16-18 phase. Progress is being made, but at what cost? For those who make the grade, the benefits should not be dismissed, but for those who repeatedly fail the impact can be devastating. Consider, for example, 16-18 year olds with special education needs. At age 16, 22% have a GCSE grade 4+ in maths and English: by age 19, the proportion is 30%. This is of immense credit to them and their teachers. Many others, however, will have failed not once but twice or sometimes even more. Compromises are in short supply but we need to break the re-sit impasse urgently.

10. Child benefit to parents of apprentices and EMAs for young people

To underpin participation, and enhance the chances of achievement of all levels of education, the new Government should use the Budget and Spending Review to assess improvements to 16-18 financial support. On the one hand, it should consider extending eligibility of child benefit to parents with 16-18 year olds on apprenticeships. On the other, it should re-introduce Education Maintenance Allowances paid to 16-18 year olds in full-time further education.

The full ‘No 16-18 year old left behind’ policy paper with articles from authors including the Education Policy Institute, Association of Colleges, Learning and Work Institute and the Resolution Foundation is available to view and download now.


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