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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 June 2006, 12:11 GMT 13:11 UK
More youths not in school or work
group of teenagers in street
There is official concern at the country's poor staying-on rate
The proportion of young people in England who are not in education, training or work appears to have gone up, despite government efforts.

The provisional figure for 2005, just published, is 11% against 10% for 2004.

There has been an improvement in the proportion of those aged 16 to 18 who are in education or training, rather than in employment.

This is now 76.2% compared with a low point of 74.8%, but is still below the 1994 figure of 77.6%.

The UK as a whole has a poor record internationally on encouraging young people to "stay on" in education.

The Westminster government has made tackling this a priority.

'Getting it right'

One of the main initiatives is the education maintenance allowance (EMA).

This gives means-tested payments of up to 30 a week to those who continue studying after 16.

The latest English statistics show the biggest annual improvement in the staying-on rate was among 16-year-olds, with a rise of almost two points - from 87.2% to 89.1% - at the end of the calendar year.

Skills Minister Phil Hope described this as "excellent progress".

He added: "We are getting it right for many but we are aware that there is more to do if we are to achieve our ambition of 90% of 17-year-olds participating in education by 2015.

"We will continue to tackle the culture of 'dropping out' and ensure that staying on is the first choice for every young person."

Diplomas

He said there was a renewed focus on the basics of English and maths in secondary schools and ministers were determined to ensure every young person gained the key skills they needed.

How dare Tony Blair boast about his record on education?
Sarah Teather
Liberal Democrat
"A new set of diplomas combining academic and work related learning are currently being developed in partnership with employers.

"These will allow pupils from the age of 14 to pursue subjects that interest and engage them and active employer involvement means that young people will acquire the skill business want."

The figure for youth unemployment is in the context of a four-year high in the overall rate of unemployment.

Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Sarah Teather MP said Labour ministers should be ashamed so many youngsters were dropping out of school.

"How dare Tony Blair boast about his record on education?" she said.

"Government cash incentive schemes are clearly no substitute for a reformed, modern, relevant curriculum that engages young people in learning."

She said radical upheavals were needed. Young people deserved a choice of high quality vocational courses and properly funded work-based learning.

New scheme

On Thursday the Department for Education and Skills announced 10m for 21 areas in England to pilot "work-focused" programmes designed to motivate about 5,000 young people most at risk of dropping out.

The department said a variety of factors could contribute to low attainment at GCSE level.

Some teenagers felt unmotivated by what was on offer in the classroom, personal problems could create a barrier to education and others had learning difficulties.

Schools Minister Jim Knight said: "We need to ensure that every young person is in learning and fulfilling their potential."




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