I read an interesting article in FE Week earlier this month on a subject that directly relates to our business.
It was about a new proposal made in a report from the NCFE and Campaign for Learning calling for enforcement measures to be introduced to ensure 16 to 18 year olds participate in education and training.
The report also calls for more funding, support and an extended participation rate to help meet the needs of this group.
Unsurprisingly, the proposal for the Government to extend the duty on parents to make them legally bound to ensure their children attend education or training until 18, which currently applies for children under 16, is proving controversial.
FE Week quotes the report as saying: "Sanctions should be introduced as a last resort to ensure young people and parents support the duty to participate, not to criminalise young people, but ensure cases of non-participation are highlighted to ministers to stimulate necessary policy change."
Raising the Participation age (RPA) came about from government legislation, introduced in 2013, to encourage young people to stay in education and training until they are 18.
The legal requirement to participate is on the young person, not the parent/carer.
While the Labour government planned a range of measures to ensure participation, enforcement does not form part of the current law and therefore young people do not receive a sanction for non-participation.
And non-participation is something we experience regularly.
Young people come to training and some drop out as soon as they have written confirmation they are on one of our courses.
We follow up with their parents and the common response is they can't force their child to attend.
We sometimes have the local authority asking for lists of our students, but nothing seems to happen to those who fail to attend.
The facts are undeniable - if a young person continues their education post-16, and if that learning is engaging and relevant, they are more likely to achieve valuable qualifications, earn more, and lead happier, healthier lives.
There are fewer low-skilled jobs so young people must be as well qualified and trained as possible to enter the labour force.
It's not just for the benefit of the young people themselves, but also for the economy and society.
There should be a rigorous enforcement system in place as too many students are drifting out of training when they and their parents realise there aren't any strict sanctions for non-attendance for them to worry about.
While I concur with the report that imposing sanctions should only be as a last resort, something has to be done to encourage them to stay on track.
It’s very hard for some of these young people as there is not enough post-16 provision available and schools and colleges don’t want them unless they are good grade students so they feel unwanted.
The problem boils down to the lack of good quality careers advice.
Schools are now responsible for this and many teachers often have little experience or knowledge of career pathways such as apprenticeships and training courses, narrowing options for many students for whom college or university may not be the most appropriate route.