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Volume 567: debated on Monday 9 September 2013

8. What proportion of 16 to 18-year-olds were not in education, employment or training in (a) the UK and (b) Isle of Wight constituency in the latest quarter for which figures are available. (900166)

Some 9.1% of 16 to 18-year-olds in England were not in education, employment or training in April to June 2013. This is a fall of 1.4 percentage points on the same period last year and the lowest figure in a decade.

Some 4.7% of 16 to 18-year-olds in the Isle of Wight were NEET at the end of 2012. That is a fall of 0.5% on the same period in the previous year. The progress is good, but there is much more to do.

I thank the Minister for his answer. Will he clarify whether schools and colleges are required to get young people a GCSE in English or maths at level C or above or whether that is an aspiration? What sanctions will be imposed on those that fail to achieve it?

It is a requirement on schools and colleges that students who have not achieved a C in English and maths GCSE will continue to study those subjects. From next year they will lose funding if they do not, because English and maths are the most important skills. They must study towards GCSEs but can take interim qualifications, such as functional skills, as a stepping stone.

Surely if we want post-16-year-olds to stay on in education, young people of that age who attend further education colleges should be eligible for free school meals in exactly the same way as if they were at school.

The question of free school meals post-16 is very important. However, schools are not funded to provide them after the age of 16, so making sure that we have a level playing field requires that we get the funding organised as well.

Ahead of tomorrow’s Ofsted report on careers guidance in schools, does the Minister agree on the importance of careers advice in schools? Does he also agree that it is not working well and that it would be much improved if the National Careers Service were funded to provide support and a challenge for schools in fulfilling their duty?

As my hon. Friend well knows, I am a passionate supporter of the inspiration and mentoring of children in schools and adults of all ages. It is important to make sure that the right people—pupils and students—get the right advice. I am looking forward to tomorrow’s Ofsted report. We will respond and make it very clear what we are going to do to ensure that as many people as possible have such inspiration, mentoring, support and advice.