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UK – Record sum in vocational education

The coalition is investing a record sum in the kind of educational opportunities that 16 to 18 year-olds need

Polly Toynbee writes of the “shocking news … that the number of 16-year-olds staying on in education has fallen for the first time in years”. It is hardly shocking when you consider that the fall in numbers in education and work-based learning is purely attributable to the fall in population. The proportion of 16-year-olds participating in education and work-based learning remained stable, at 95.5%, though it’s true fewer are now full-time. And the proportion of 16- to 18-year-olds participating in education and work-based learning actually rose by 1.4 percentage points.

She goes on to criticise the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance. However, whereas nearly 50% of young people were receiving EMA, research carried out by the last government showed that only 10% of those receiving EMA relied on it to participate. Our 16-to-19 bursary fund is big enough to pay the equivalent of EMA to more than 15% of young people.

Toynbee is also wrong to suggest that there is no plan to increase participation. Not only are local authorities duty-bound to support participation but this government is spending a record £7.5bn on education and training places for 16- to 18-year-olds. Through the Youth Contract we are spending £126m over the next three years supporting 55,000 vulnerable 16- to 17-year-olds back into education or training.

It is also hard to agree when she says that “there is no problem with the top 50% of students who get five good GCSEs plus English and maths”. Evidence from the education select committee last month revealed a cross-party consensus that standards of assessment have fallen, and that this is one reason why we lag behind top-performing countries. How is it possible to look at our steep falls in rankings by the Programme for International Student Assessment with steep rises in GCSE attainment without asking questions about the rigour of our qualifications?…

via We’re making vocational education a priority | Jonathan Hill | Comment is free | The Guardian.

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