A record number of young people are staying on in education or training according to Government figures out today. They show that last year 77.3% of 16-18 yr olds were in education or training, and the number of NEETs (Not in education, employment or training) had reduced to 10.3%

However, despite more young people engaging in learning than ever before, the figures still fall short of the projected numbers under The 14-19 Implementation Plan which aims to have 90% of 16-18 year olds in education or work based learning by 2015.

With this in mind the Government have announced an action plan, the centrepiece of which is "The September Guarantee" which will come into force this year. Every local authority will have to ensure that all 16 year olds wanting an offer of learning at a school, college or work based learning provider will have the right to a place.

Skills Minister Phil Hope said: "The increase in post-16 participation in education from the end of 2005 to 2006 is very good news. Todays statistics show that NEET figures are moving in the right direction. This is essential if young people are to gain the skills and qualifications they need in todays economy."

But he recognised that more needed to be done in order to meet Government targets:"We now have an action plan in place which will help push figures down further by bringing together agencies and policies to work in stronger partnership.

"Increasingly young people themselves are recognising the benefits of staying on. The figures are positive, but we need acceleration in order to achieve our ambition of 90% of 17 year olds participating by 2015.

"We will achieve greater breadth, choice and quality through the 14 new diplomas in occupational sectors of the economy, more apprenticeships for those who want them and a sound grounding for all in the basics.

"90% participation will not be enough to keep us in a position to compete globally - it does not put us amongst the leaders of the OECD. Our proposals to extend the requirement for all young people to remain in education or training until 18, full-time, part-time, in a school, college or as part of employment, will help us go beyond this.

"The September Guarantee is an important step forward as we consult on raising the participation age to 18. It will be brokered by the Learning and Skills Council, Connexions and local authorities."

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Mark Haysom, Chief Executive, Learning and Skills Council said: "I am delighted with the continued progress made on participation rates for 16-18 year olds. The figures show that 15,500 more young people, when compared to last year, are in learning or training programmes - this is more than ever before. I would like to thank all our partners in the FE system, including schools, colleges, training providers, and of course young people, for all they have done to achieve these great results.

"Learning plays a crucial role in giving all young people the skills, attitudes and qualifications they need to prepare them for productive and rewarding work in a modern economy. I am greatly encouraged to see that such an increasing number of young people are making this decision. Getting vital skills will make a real and lasting difference to peoples lives."

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