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

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner / Caretaker / Storeman

£15500 - £17680 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has become available...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Sales - SaaS B2B

£60000 - £120000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This conference call startup i...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital and print design a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
File photo dated 11/3/2014 of signage for the main entrance and emergency department at a hospital  

Weekend opt-out is stumbling block as BMA and NHS negotiate new consultant and junior doctor contracts

Charlie Cooper
The alleged meeting between George Osborne and Rupert Murdoch is said to have taken place in Downing Street in late June (Getty)  

Rupert Murdoch's private meeting with George Osborne: The mogul always likes to back a winner

James Cusick James Cusick
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk