Department for Education
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Raising the participation age - four building blocks

Raising the participation age - four building blocks

DEPARTMENT FOR CHILDREN, SCHOOLS AND FAMILIES News Release (2007/0198) issued by The Government News Network on 5 November 2007

Children, Schools and Families Secretary Ed Balls today set out the building blocks that will underpin Government plans to raise the education participation age to 17 by 2013 and 18 by 2015.

In an address to the Fabian Society, Ed Balls also gave details of a new strategy to drive down the numbers of young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET).

Ed Balls said:

"In today's fast changing, dynamic world, everyone needs skills to prosper. And the days where many people could leave school at sixteen without qualifications and work their way up into a fulfilling and rewarding career are behind us.

"As Sandy Leitch's report said, the demand for high level skills has increased substantially over the last 20 years and is likely to continue to do so with a 50% increase in the proportion of jobs that demand high level skills by 2020.

"Raising the participation age is about social justice too - young people who leave education and training at 16 are disproportionately from poor families. Those who leave school early without good skills and qualifications are less likely to get a good job, while those who stay in education are more likely to gain further qualifications and are likely to earn more in the future.

"If we don't act now to increase participation, it will be the most disadvantaged young people who will be the losers in this new and fast-changing world."

Raising the participation age means a new culture of aspiration for all young people, with new rights for young people to high quality education and training opportunities, balanced by new responsibilities for young people, parents, employers and the education and training sector .

Ed Balls set out details of four building blocks that the Government will ensure are in place to successfully raise the participation age:

* curriculum and qualifications that provide the right learning opportunity for every young person, personalised to their needs, aptitudes and aspirations, including a solid grounding for all in functional skills in English, maths and ICT; stretching A-levels with extended projects, and GCSEs with less focus on coursework; and Diplomas which mix the best of theoretical and practical learning;

* advice and guidance that helps all young people make the right choices; with clear specifications for local authorities to provide every young person with guidance on the educational choices available to them, including local online prospectuses setting out the full range of courses; and 'taster' experiences to try out different courses;

* financial support so that no one is excluded because of cost; including an expansion of the Education Maintenance Allowance to support a broader range of courses and Entry to Employment programmes; changes to the New Deal programme; and continuing the Care to Learn scheme to pay for childcare for young mothers as they continue in post-16 education;

* employer engagement and the right training and apprenticeships; to deliver a major expansion in high quality workplace learning; including the creation of a further 90,000 apprenticeships for young people by 2013 (a 60 per cent increase on the current number).

Ed Balls also set out details of a £100m NEET Strategy 'safety net' to tackle the problem of the estimated 10 per cent of young people categorised at any one time as NEET, including:

* extending early entry to the New Deal for all young people who reach their 18th birthday having already been NEET for six months. At present, someone who has been long term NEET on their 18th birthday becomes eligible for Job Seekers Allowance, but they do not enter the New Deal for another 6 months. This will mean that the New Deal rights and responsibilities regime will apply to long term NEETs as soon as they turn 18 years old without the need for a further 6 month wait;

* trialling an extension of the Education Maintenance Allowance to include all educational provision that is approved by local authorities, including provision that they commission from the voluntary sector, so that young people can be financially supported to take a wider range of courses;

* making the Education Maintenance Allowance available to all young people taking Entry to Employment courses to encourage more young people to access the early training that will prepare young people for employment;

* extending the September Guarantee (which currently offers a place in continuing education to all 16 year olds leaving school) to 17 year olds so that all 17 year olds have opportunities to continue or re-engage with learning;

* enabling more young people to start programmes during the course of the academic year so that those who drop out or do not start a course in September can be re-engaged quickly;

* continuing Activity Agreements which offer personalised learning, linked to financial support, to help the hardest to reach young people.

This builds on the work the Government is already doing ensure that young people do not fall out of the system and become NEET, including robust identification and tracking of NEETs by local authorities, and targeted youth support to provide personalised services for young people to deal with social problems and get them back on track to learning.


1. Ed Ball's speech and the accompanying document 'Raising expectations: staying in education and training post-16' as well as a copy of the NEETs strategy document are posted on the DCSF website at

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