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16- to 18-year-old participation in education and training

The overall value for money of the £7 billion spent each year on 16- to 18-year-old learning has increased. However, the Department for Education needs better information on which of its reforms are most effective at encouraging 16- to 18-year olds into education and training and improving the learning they receive.

The percentage of 16- to 18-year-olds in education and training has increased. At the end of 2013, 81.2 per cent of 16- to 18-year-olds were in education and government-funded training (compared with 79.2 per cent at the end of 2012). 7.6 per cent were not in education, employment or training (NEET). This compares with 9.2 per cent at the end of 2012. The proportion of young people who are NEET is now at the lowest level since comparable records began in 1994.

A key reform is that, since September 2013, young people have had to stay in full-time education or training for a full academic year after Year 11. From 2015, they will have to continue learning until their 18th birthday. The Department is implementing its reforms at the same time as reducing spending on 16- to 18-year-olds. In 2013-14, the Department’s core budget of £7 billion for this age group was 8 per cent lower in real terms than in 2010-11. The Department has removed a major risk to value for money by starting to allocate funding per person rather than per qualification. This removes an incentive for schools and colleges to encourage learners to complete many short courses, not all of which were useful.

By March 2014, 18,500 young people had been recruited onto the Youth Contract, which is aimed at those among 16- to 17-year-olds who are the hardest to reach. More than half of recruits (10,000) have participated in education and training for at least five months as a result of the support received. On current trends, however, only 30,000 out of an estimated 70,000 eligible young people will be helped by the time the programme ends.

The Department has introduced new statutory duties to improve careers advice. But, in 2013, after these duties came into force, Ofsted visited 60 schools and found only 12 that were ensuring all students received sufficient information about career options. After this, the Department clarified the guidance, but it does not yet know if this has led to improvements.

Apprenticeships are getting longer but the total number of people becoming apprentices has fallen. Although plans to increase employers’ involvement in the management of apprenticeships are sensible, there are risks to requiring employers to pay more towards the cost of apprenticeships. The Department aims to address these risks by trialling the new system. Some young people have commenced new traineeships, but the Department needs to increase capacity for this option. To date, only 40 per cent of eligible providers who said they would deliver traineeships have begun to do so.

 

 

 

“The Department has made significant reforms aimed at encouraging more 16- to 18-year-olds into education and training, and the overall value for money of the annual £7 billion spent on this age group has increased. Although this is encouraging, the Department now needs better information about which of its reforms are effective so that it can decide which to keep, stop or change.”

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office

Notes for Editors

£7bn
Department's funding for education and training for 16- to 18-year-olds, 2013/14

81.2%
Of 16- to 18-year-olds in education and (government-funded) training, at end of 2013

7.6%
Of 16- to 18-year-olds not in education, employment or training, at end of 2013

1,955,100
Young people aged 16 to 18 in 2013 (Department for Education's estimate)

£4,000
Basic rate of funding for each full-time student in 2013/14

Between £11.7 and £32.5 billion
Estimate of the lifetime cost to the taxpayer of 208,000 young people not in education, employment or training in 2008

£180 million
Value of the 16–19 Bursary Fund in 2013-14 (funding provides additional support to young people to help them participate)

59%
19-year-olds, in 2013, who gained a level-3 qualification (such as two A-levels)

32%
Increase in 16- to 18-year-olds starting apprenticeships of 12 months or longer (2011/12 to 2012/13)

  1. Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website, which is at www.nao.org.uk. Hard copies can be obtained by using the relevant links on our website.
  2. The National Audit Office scrutinises public spending for Parliament and is independent of government. The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), Amyas Morse, is an Officer of the House of Commons and leads the NAO, which employs some 820 employees. The C&AG certifies the accounts of all government departments and many other public sector bodies. He has statutory authority to examine and report to Parliament on whether departments and the bodies they fund have used their resources efficiently, effectively, and with economy. Our studies evaluate the value for money of public spending, nationally and locally. Our recommendations and reports on good practice help government improve public services, and our work led to audited savings of £1.1 billion in 2013.

PN: 46/14