Tuesday, 4 March 2014
The learning half of 18-24 ‘Earn or Learn’
by Mark Corney
Around 500,000 young people aged 18-24 in England are unemployed - having looked for work in the past four weeks - but not in full-time education. A further 500,000 are economically inactive - they have not looked for work in the past four weeks - and are not in full time education.
There are two main ways to reduce the million 18-24 year olds who are unemployed or inactive but not in full time education. The first is to increase the number of young adults in employment with or without apprenticeships and in part-time education. The second is to increase the number in full-time education.
Success in expanding the number of 18-24 year olds in full time education depends upon students being able to ‘live and learn’. The ability to live, in turn, depends upon access to maintenance support – loans and grants – and benefits – especially grant-based Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA).
The headline policy of the Coalition Government that aims to increase the number of 18-24 year olds in full-time education is the decision, announced in the Autumn Statement last year, to remove the cap on the numbers of students entering full-time higher education from 2015/16.
An estimated extra 60,000 students could enter full-time undergraduate HE in 2015/16, most of whom will be 18-24 year olds.
Fee loans will remain capped at a maximum £9,000 per year, costing the Treasury an extra £1bn in cash terms in 2015/16 (and £200m more than total spending on adult apprenticeships, at£800m.) But crucially, access to maintenance grants and loans will remain in place, allowing full-time undergraduate HE students to ‘live and learn’.
And yet, there is a possibility that the number of 18-24 year olds in full-time further education might also increase. The end of the 16 hour rule is apparently in sight.
Unemployed 18-24 year olds claiming JSA cannot study for more than 16 hours per week and must be available for work whilst learning. This makes ‘living and learning’ virtually impossible in full-time further education, as there is no comprehensive system of maintenance grants and loans.
Abolition of the 16 hour rule implies that more 18-24 year olds could study full time in further education. ‘Living and learning' would be possible because students would continue to receive JSA - or new Learning Allowances - whilst learning.
The fundamental issue underlying the end of the 16 hour rule, however, concerns whether the decision to study full-time is voluntary or mandatory.
Abolition of the 16 hour rule with access to JSA/Learning Allowance would make ‘living and learning’ in full-time FE rather than getting a job a voluntary choice for 18-24 year olds.
A completely different kettle of fish would be if the abolition of the 16 hour rule ushered in a system where 18-24 year olds faced a choice between mandatory full-time training with access to JSA/Learning Allowance and getting a job.
Voluntary participation in full-time further education is not the same as mandatory participation in full-time training.
Mark Corney is a policy consultant and adviser to the Campaign for Learning
Posted by Campaign for Learning at 09:51