Monday, 7 September 2015

Has the participation age been cracked?


by Mark Corney

From this month, the participation age will be raised to 18.

Young people aged 17 at 31st August  must remain in education and training until their 18th birthday or achievement of a Level 3 qualification, whichever is the sooner.

The categories meeting the duty to participate are full-time education, jobs with apprenticeships, jobs and volunteering of 20 hours or more per week with recognised training of at least 280 hours per year, and traineeships.   

Young people covered by the increase of the RPA to 18 were 16 at 31st August 2014. The latest local authority data shows that 94.4% were meeting the duty to participate at the end of March 2015. But by then, more than half were 17.

Around 600,000 births are registered during between September and August in England each year. They are also relatively evenly spread each month at 50,000.

So, during September 2014 and March 2015 – seven months – around 350,000 young people aged 16 at August 31st were 17 by 31st March 2015.

This demographic effect means the challenge of ensuring participation by young people aged 17 at 31st August 2015 until they reach their 18th birthday is easier because each month 50,000 turn 18 anyway.

By December this year, for instance, 150,000 young people aged 17 at 31st August will have reached their 18th birthday. As a result, it will be ‘younger’ 17 year olds who will not reach 18 until after January that are the key group to meet the duty to participate.

Obviously, there is no way of telling what will happen going forward. But a clue of the challenge ahead can be gleaned by looking at the national data on young people aged 17 at 31st August in 2014.

At the end of December 2014, 84.6% were meeting the duty to participate if the legislation had applied to them. This means, of course, that 15.4% were not, equivalent to 100,000 young people. But because of demographics, it can be assumed that a quarter had reached 18 then.

And so, by December 2015, there could be 75,000 young people aged 17 who need to participate from then on until they reach their 18th birthday.

The general challenge, therefore, is to keep this group of 75,000 ‘younger’ 17 year olds participating from this September well into the New Year.

But there is also a specific group which also must be kept in mind. This March, about 35,000 16/17 year olds were not meeting the duty to participate, and many were unknown to the local authorities.

By December 2015, around 10,000 will have reached 18. They will have failed to meet the duty to participate for 9 months if they have not been re-integrated back into education and training.

But 26,000 will still be 17 by December 2015, constituting a third of the ‘younger’ 17 year old group.

All things considered, there is still significant work to be done to make the participation age to 18 a success.

Mark Corney is policy adviser to the Campaign for Learning and an independent consultant

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