From education to employment

Ed Balls and John Denham : A more skilled group of youth, could potentially generate an addition


Ed Balls and John Denham today published the Education and Skills Bill and outlined their plans to boost the skills and education of young people and adults.

The Bill will raise the education and training leaving age to 18 by 2015 as well as strengthening the provision and support available to young people and adults to meet the ambition set out in the Leitch Review of achieving world class skills by 2020.

Independently verified research also published today estimates the economic benefits of raising the participation age to be around £2.4bn per year group over the course of their lifetime. This is because staying on longer improves the skills and employability of young people and raises their earning potential. There are clear benefits of higher skill levels to the economy and to society.

The Bill not only legislates for raising the participation age but also paves the way to making sure young people are fully supported in staying on. This includes the transfer to local authorities of the responsibility for delivering Connexions services, strengthening careers education in schools and changes to transport provision. Local authorities will be required to promote young peoples participation and to support them to find appropriate education and training opportunities.

These are followed by major strides in improving adult skills to make sure that adults have a right to basic and intermediate skills development, enabling them to gain the skills they need to thrive in society and throughout their working lives.

The Bill also streamlines the monitoring and regulation of independent and non-maintained special schools.

Key aspects of the Bill include:

  • * Raising the education or training leaving age to 17 by 2013 and to 18 by 2015 – ensuring that every young person is in some form of recognised education or training until they are 18. No young person will be forced to stay at school, there will be a range of opportunities including new Diplomas, part-time training alongside employment, work based learning and apprenticeships.
  • * Adult skills – giving adults a right to basic and intermediate skills and enabling the benefits of adult skills to be measured. The Learning and Skills Council will have a duty to ensure the proper provision of free courses for basic literacy and numeracy programmes and courses leading to a first full level 2 qualification. It also means that 19-25 year olds who are undertaking their first full level 3 qualification do not have to pay tuition fees. The Bill also gives the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority additional powers, to enable it to recognise and accredit awarding bodies, thereby reducing bureaucracy and increasing the transparency of the accreditation process.
  • * Information, Advice and Guidance – local authorities will be required to have regard to the Quality Standards for Information, Advice and Guidance, which were published at the end of October. There will also be a duty on schools to provide impartial careers education to help pupils to make the most appropriate future learning and career choices.
  • * Transport – changes in the Bill mean that local authorities will have to ensure that when they provide transport to schools they not only take into account distance, but also time. Currently some pupils complain they have to take very long bus rides when the journey could be done much quicker by train. This is designed to support participation.
  • * Flexibility and accountability for independent schools – independent schools will no longer have to consult the Secretary of State on minor changes, nor will they have to apply separately to be an approved SEN school. Independent schools will now be overseen by Ofsted rather than directly by the Secretary of State.

Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, said:

“These are the biggest reforms in education, training and skills in a generation and it is estimated that raising the participation age alone will potentially benefit the economy by around £2.4bn per year group. By 2015 every young person will be in some form of education or training until the age of 18 and there will be a range of free training beyond that. But lets be absolutely clear, this is not about forcing young people who want to work while they train to stay at school. There will be a range of exciting qualifications and options to go into, including new Diplomas and 90,000 more apprenticeship places. Those who want to leave school to begin working at 16 will still be able to do so, as long as they participate in part-time training.

“We want many more young people to be successful at 16 in Diplomas and GCSEs, and then to progress on to further study or training at school or college, or through an apprenticeship or training at work. We need to raise the aspirations of young people and their families. This Bill will galvanise the entire system, changing expectations so that young people stay on in learning beyond 16, not just because it is compulsory but because they can see the benefits. Completing a Diploma or getting GCSEs at 16 will not be seen as an end in itself, but merely a stepping stone to the next level.

“Already 90 per cent of young people do carry on in learning at 16. But this does not mean that raising the participation age will be easy and we need parents, schools, colleges, employers and local authorities to all play their part. The fact that it will be hard is not a reason for not doing it. We must not give up on the young people who reach 16 and simply feel there is nothing out there for them. Its a shocking waste of talent and potential and it is virtually always young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds that slip through the net. This legislation, far from criminalising young people, will give those young people better skills and a better future, reducing their chances of getting on the wrong side of the law by giving them something worth working towards.”

John Denham, Secretary of State for Universities, Innovation and Skills, said:

“Improving access to adult learning will help drive Britains economy forward to compete in an increasingly competitive world. Our reforms will give adults and young people the right to access the basic skills training they need to improve their life chances whether by getting into work or moving to a better job. These reforms are fundamental to creating a stronger and more prosperous society where all citizens will have the right and opportunity to rise as far as their talents will take them.”

Sue Dutton, Acting Chief Executive of the AoC, said:

“AoC believes that requiring all youngsters to stay on until they are 18 is a worthwhile ambition with clear economic, social and personal benefits both for the individuals and the nation as a whole. It is important to understand that the policy it is not about forcing more people to stay in school but offering them new and innovative options in college and in the workplace.”

John Freeman, Joint President of the Association of Directors of Childrens Services, said:

“ADCS welcomes the intentions behind this Bill. Ensuring that every young person engages in education and training up to the age of 18 is a laudable aim, but will challenge local authorities, schools and colleges to provide a curriculum that engages them. The new Diplomas are a major step in the right direction, and local 14-19 consortia are making great progress on their introduction.

“We believe that sanctions on parents, employers and young people should be an absolute last resort; if we get the curriculum offer right, sanctions should not be needed.”

Martin Johnson, acting deputy general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said:

“We support making education or training compulsory to 18 since past evidence shows that raising the participation age always raises achievement. It is important the content of diplomas and apprenticeships is relevant and attractive to the target group – the 10 per cent of 16-18 year olds currently not in education, training or employment – if they are going to be enticed back into learning.”

Major steps towards preparing for 100 per cent participation, to ensure young people are encouraged and supported in staying on, are already well under way. The first Diplomas will be available from 2008 and there are now 17 Diplomas in train, three of which are academic. Over 5,000 business have already committed to supporting Diplomas. In addition, Ed Balls recently announced an extra 90,000 apprenticeship places by 2013.

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