School's not out: fears for teenage ‘guinea pigs’ forced to stay in education

Government in move to ensure teenagers stay in learning or training until they are 18 - but there are fears whether there are enough places

Education Editor

Concerns are growing about the impact of a radical but little-known reform coming into force next month which raises the education participation age by one year to 17.

Thousands of 16-year-olds are guinea pigs this summer in a reform that is the first step towards ensuring all teenagers stay in education and training until they are 18 by 2015.

The legislation was driven through the last Parliament, although fears are already being raised that there will not be enough places available to provide something for all 600,000 16-year-olds by the autumn. Ministers argue that massive extra provision is unnecessary since most 16 to 18-year-olds already engage in some form of education.

Raising the participation age is not the same as raising the school leaving age. Teenagers can fulfil its purpose by undergoing the equivalent of one day’s training  a week while employed – or even study flexibly while holding down a full-time job.

A “myth-buster” document about the reform prepared for the Department for Education says: “You will still be able to work full time if you want to or volunteer full time or even set up your own business. You will still be participating as long as you are also doing part-time training which leads to a qualification.”

The Government is silent on the question of sanctions for teenagers who do not take part – a suggested £50 fine floated by Labour was ruled to be counter-productive. 

Ministers have concentrated on increasing the number of apprenticeships to smooth the passage of the new regulations. There is also a bursary fund of £1,200 each for disadvantaged young people – such as those in care, teenage parents or the disabled who need financial support, Schools and colleges can top this up for those, say,  who need help with travelling costs.

Nevertheless, John Healey, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury in the last Labour Government, reckons the shake-up will be “a massive missed opportunity”. Writing in the  Municipal Journal, the local government management magazine, he argues that the axing of education maintenance allowances for 16 to 19-year-olds, combined with poor careers guidance, may prevent young people taking advantage of the reforms.

Research from Barnardo’s had shown the bursaries were failing to offer adequate support. “Teenagers from poorer families will not go to college if they can’t afford food, books and transport,” he said.

Conservative ministers had “washed their hands” of the rise in the participation age “which is why we have heard nothing from ministers or the national media about this historic change and opportunity in our education system”, Mr Healey added.

Simon Renton, president of the University and College Union, said: “Students should be encouraged to continue their education... but they should not be conscripted into staying on. Successful education enables, not coerces, learners and compulsion is not the way to motivate young people.”

Q&A: Education leaving age

Q: Why raise the education leaving age to 17?

A: Ministers argue it is necessary to provide all young people with some form of education and training - thus cutting down on the number of teenagers classified as “NEETs” - not in education, employment and training - and roaming the streets.

Q: If they have been bored or switched off from schooling, what’s the point of making them carry on for longer?

A: This is not raising the school leaving age to 17. It is raising the participation age and it could mean a teenager holding down a full-time job but going on week-long block release courses for training. All 16 to 17-year-olds will have to do is to be taking up a course which leads to some kind of qualification.

Q: What happens if they don’t?

A: Questions about sanctions are met  with the response that the legislation is all about ensuring all young people have the opportunity to access the learning opportunity they want - a move to introduce £50 fines never got under way. Official pamphlets from the Department for Education argue that employers recognise the need for training and see their employees get it.  Bursaries are available of up to £1,200 for those in hardship to help them take advantage of what is on offer.

News
i100
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsAll just to promote a new casino
News
i100
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Creche Assistant or Nursery Nurse

£8 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: The Job Creche Assistant to start asap ...

Nursery Nurse Level 3

£8 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: The Job Nursery Nurse Leeds We are now ...

Deputy Education Manager

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Deputy Education Manager (permanent ...

Science Teacher Urgently required for October start

£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: We are currently recr...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering