Monday, 28 October 2013

My concerns over Government inaction on Raising the Participation Age - abandoning Hyndburn's NEETs

I recently received the following complacent answers from the Department of Education regarding the Government’s execution of the raising of the participation age policy. The changes in the law place a legal duty on local authorities to ensure that from 2013 all young people continue in education, training or in an apprenticeship until they are 17, rising to 18 in 2015.

Graham Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Education how many young people required to stay in education, training or apprenticeships under Raising the Participation Age have been unable to find places in (a) education, (b) training and (c)apprenticeships to date.

Matthew Hancock: Local authorities are required to inform the Department by the end of October how many young people did not receive an offer because they could not find a place. Information on the proportion of young people who did not receive an offer will be made available on the Department's website in January 2014.

Graham Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Education how many local authorities have been unable to provide sufficient school placements to meet increased demand under Raising the Participation Age.

Mr Laws: Local authorities are required to inform the Department by the end of October how many young people did not receive an offer because they could not find a place. Information on the proportion of young people who did not receive an offer will be made available on the Department's website in January 2014.

The intention of the policy is a good one – however for a policy aimed at resolving the ‘NEET’ problem amongst the under 18, it isn’t immediately obvious to me that a slow process of chasing up local authorities and publishing the results online is the best way to ensure that vulnerable young people are in education or training.

The Department’s own advice for local authorities states that: “The vast majority of 16 and 17 year olds already continue in some form of education or training. However, the small group of young people not participating includes some of the most vulnerable. We want to give all young people the opportunity to develop the skills they need for adult life and to achieve their full potential.”

A noble aim indeed, however if there is not pre-emptive and active work to get the minority who do not continue in education, training or an apprenticeship to do so, then the RPA policy is not worth the paper it is printed on. The Department needs to explain exactly what it is going to do to ensure these young people are in education, training or an apprenticeship beyond publishing the numbers of the DfE’s website. I do not see how the answers that I received can be seen to square with the stated intention of the policy, which is to provide places, and take action to ensure that “some of the most vulnerable” young people do not get left behind and hinder their future development.