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Education: Warrington

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 16 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what steps he plans to take to increase the percentage of young people between 16 and 18 years old in Warrington education. (158717)

Engagement in learning, and educational attainment, are critical if young people are to achieve good outcomes, and fulfil their potential. My Department has a number of initiatives already in place to ensure that 16 to 19-year-olds have access to education and employment with training. Our 14-19 reforms, that include an entitlement for every young person to access a Diploma programme from 2013, will ensure that all young people have the opportunity to choose a learning pathway which suits them and which can be the basis for progression to further learning, higher education and employment.

Government-funded apprenticeships offer the opportunity for young people to earn as they learn. There over 200 apprenticeships, designed by employers, available to 16 to 19-year-olds in 80 different sectors with 130,000 employers taking part. These apprenticeships give employees the opportunity to learn on the job and also through off the job training.

16 and 17-year-olds who are in employment, and who have not yet attained NVQ level 2 or equivalent, are entitled to reasonable paid time off during normal working hours to study or train for a qualification which will improve their future employment prospects. The Department is also piloting Learning Agreements to help 16 and 17-year-olds in employment get back into education and training. Young people will agree personal contracts to return to education or vocational training in return for financial support.

However, we are not complacent and know that there is a lot more to do. Numbers of 16 and 17-year-olds in full-time education have increased in Warrington from 63 per cent. in 1998 to 68 per cent. in 2005, but we need to do more to increase the number of work-based learning opportunities for young people. By 2013 we will introduce an entitlement to an apprenticeship place for all school-leavers who meet the entry criteria. It will mean that every young person leaving school who wants to continue their learning in a work-based environment can do so.

Once the Diploma and apprenticeship entitlements are in place, all young people will be required to continue in education or training post-16. The bill will include provisions to raise to 18 the minimum age at which young people can leave education or training.