More teenagers are leaving education with no job or training to go to, according to official figures released yesterday.
The proportion of 16-18-year-olds who were not in education, employment or training (NEET) in 2011 rose to 8.1 per cent, up from 7.5 per cent in 2010.
The statistics also reveal that there was a slight fall in the proportion of 16-18-year-olds in full-time education, which fell for the first time since 2001, to 70.5 per cent.
Brendan Barber, TUC General Secretary, said: “The future for these youngsters looks increasingly bleak. With so many people chasing a declining number of jobs, those fresh out of school with no work experience behind them are losing out every time to more experienced jobseekers.
“The government must now surely realise that its decision to cut the education maintenance allowance (EMA) has meant that thousands of teenagers from the UK’s poorest families can no longer afford to continue their education. Without qualifications their chances of finding work anytime soon are slim.”
The University and College Union (UCU) said government policies such as axing the EMA and raising university fees, at a time of high youth unemployment, would make things even harder for young people.
Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said: “At a time when youth unemployment is at record levels, the government’s decision to scrap initiatives such as the EMA look more ill-advised by the day.
“Education is a key social and economic driver and can help young people develop the necessary skills to find jobs and realise their potential. Instead of erecting barriers to study, such as hiking up university fees, the government should follow the example of other countries and invest in education, not cut the very services young people need.”
Children and Families Minister Tim Loughton said: “This is not a new problem. But we are determined to tackle it. We are spending a record £7.5billion on education and training, including high-quality apprenticeships. And we are spending £126million over the next three years on extra targeted support for 55,000 16- and 17-year-olds most in need of education and training.
“Today’s figures are also a clear sign that the education system needs to do more to equip young people with the knowledge and skills employers that colleges and universities want.”