In a report today, the NAO highlighted that the percentage of 16- to 18-year-olds in education and training has increased, even as the money spent on the group by the Department for Education was reduced.
At the end of 2013, 81.2% of 16- to 18-year-olds were in education and government-funded training, up from 79.2% at the end of 2012. Overall, only 7.6% were classified as NEET – not in education, employment or training. This is compared with 9.2% at the end of 2012.
Since September 2013, young people have had to stay in full-time education or training for a full academic year after Year 11, when people are aged 15 or 16.
‘The department is implementing its reforms at the same time as reducing spending on 16-to 18-year-olds, the report stated. ‘In 2013/14, the department’s core budget of £7bn for this age group was 8% lower in real terms than in 2010/11.’
Among the chnages, the department has started to allocate funding on a per-person rather than per-qualification basis. This has removed an incentive for schools and colleges to encourage learners to complete many short courses.
Auditor general Amyas Morse said the department had introduced significant reforms and the overall value for money of the annual £7bn spent on 16-to 18-year-olds age group had increased.
‘But 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,’ he added.
Auditors also urged the DfE to improve its grip on its apprenticeships programme.
Apprenticeships are getting longer but the total number of people becoming apprentices has fallen, the report stated, and there are risks to plans requiring employers to pay more towards the cost of apprenticeships.
Responding to the report, Public Accounts Committee chairMargaret Hodge said the DfE had introduced a raft of reforms must do more to understand the impact of all these changes.
‘The number of young people not in education, employment or training has fallen to 7.6% but a major reason for this is that the education participation age has gone up, with 16-year-olds now told that they have to remain in education or training. The department must focus hard on the 150,000 young people who are still not getting this good start in life,’ she added.