An extra year in school would be great for the poorest pupils - if only they could afford it

The Government will soon require young people to stay in education until they’re seventeen, but there are no plans to increase the already insufficient Bursary Fund

Share
Related Topics

When schools break for summer this week, every Year 11 (fifth form) pupil who walks out of the classroom will, for the first time, be expected to walk back in when the next term starts. From September, young people will be required to stay in education or training until they’re seventeen - eighteen from 2015.

The Raising of the Participation Age (RPA) gives the Government a landmark opportunity to improve the life chances of disadvantaged young people. Whether it grasps or squanders this chance rests, in part, on how far it supports the poorest children to continue.

The reality is that young people do not go through school on a level playing field. Their ability to achieve and succeed is strongly linked to the income of the family they are born into. The children we work with at Barnardo's have often fallen behind at school, not achieved good exam results and are not motivated by traditional education, leading to an increased risk they’ll be unemployed or take ‘dead end’ jobs when they leave school. Handled well, the RPA could present a huge step forward for these most vulnerable youngsters.

Crucially, the measure classes vocational training and apprenticeships as ‘learning’, of equal value (in this context) as academic study. It allows young people to be employed too, if they’re also in recognised training. This acknowledgement paves the way for the UK to develop a world class skills training that will give some of the most marginalised young people - who are least likely to take up school-based education - a real chance to gain the skills they need for quality life-long employment.

However, it’s a sad fact that some of these youngsters may go from NEET to truant as they simply cannot afford to continue in education or training, and the reasons for this are worth revisiting. In 2010, the government scrapped the £560 million Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and replaced it with a £180 million discretionary Bursary Fund a third of the size.

The poorest young people we work with reported that the EMA grant, which provided them with up to £30 a week to cover the basic cost of studying and training, was what enabled them to stay in education. Students whose families expected them to start bringing home a wage were able to pursue education and contribute to the family income. The money also enabled some to go to college where lunches aren’t free instead of having to choose an inappropriate course at school, where free meals are available.

Following the demise of the EMA and introduction of the Bursary Fund Barnardo’s was one of the first to report on the deeply worrying impact the scheme was having. We spoke to young people who were making choices between eating lunch and catching a bus to college. Others who were struggling to cover the cost of course equipment. And also the pressure that schools and colleges found themselves under in having to administer this new scheme with almost no guidance - and minimal cash - to do it with.  

This pot is going to have even more demand on it with the introduction of RPA and yet a recent Government consultation on the Bursary gives no indication that there will be any increase in funding. Nor does it set out plans to increase the most vulnerable student’s grants in line with inflation, or to help struggling institutions administer funding. The consultation does however propose giving funding to any young person who receives the Pupil Premium. While on the surface this appears well meaning, without additional resource it risks doubling the number of student jostling for the already inadequate pot, leaving them an average £2.20 per day per head (based on five day week) – barely enough for a lunch let alone books.

Ultimately, plans that increase access to further education without addressing the crisis in hardship funding, will not only fail our poorest young people but also our economy.  

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The reign of the cupcake may be at an end  

Gluten-free diets reveal more about Western anxieties than they do about the protein

Memphis Barker
 

Letter from the Whitehall Editor: The spurious Tory endorsement that misfired

Oliver Wright
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence