In this article , Kevin Munday shares some of the ways schools, colleges and work-based learning providers can work together to make Raising the Participation Age a reality….
The Coalition Government has confirmed, through the ‘Importance of Teaching’ White Paper and Spending Review announcements, that it will maintain the statutory commitment to raise the learning leaving age to 18 in 2015. This year’s Year 10 will be the first expected to stay in learning to at least 17. Against a backdrop of post-16 participation that has increased year on year and with many areas already achieving more than 90% of learners staying on, this may not seem like much of a challenge. However, the last few percent needed for full participation consist of some of the most vulnerable learners. Already hit by the loss of a key incentive in the form of the Education Maintenance Allowance, as well as the increasing tight funding for post-16 learning, few individual institutions can meet their needs alone. In this article I address some of the ways schools, colleges and work-based learning providers can work together to make Raising the Participation Age a reality.
Maintaining an area-wide offer
The new duty on secondary schools to secure access to impartial and independent careers guidance means that many local authorities are no longer providing a universal careers service. Every school needs to ensure that all their pupils are supported to consider their options and to make a well-informed choice about the option that best fits their current needs and future aspirations. This means involving parents and families and helping all teachers to understand what is on offer so that they can signpost and support choice alongside the careers specialists. However, there are a wealth of opportunities open to our young people at 16 and 17 and it can be confusing for young people and teachers alike.
Continuing to collaborate with neighbouring institutions and providing an area-wide prospectus will make it easier for them to navigate their way through the options. London recently launched a new regional prospectus on UCAS – Progress. Although an impressive website, this will only ever be as good as the information provided by each institution.
Offering personalised and integrated support
Offering a wide choice of learning options, and information and advice to make a good choice, is critical in order to raise participation. But it is not enough. Those young people who are at greatest risk of drop out need early and ongoing intervention. 15 schools across Hackney, Islington and Tower Hamlets are collaborating together to trial a new initiative providing long term and personalised support. ThinkForward will help the most vulnerable young people navigate the sometimes tricky transition from school to work, by providing inspirational ‘Progression Coaches’ who show them the way. The aim is by identifying the at-risk young people and providing bespoke support from age 14 and for up to five years, to see them through the critical school years and onto their first job. By working together the schools hope to create a supportive network effect, maximising their impact and enabling easier access to employment.
Developing progression agreements between providers
Whilst it is admirable that many institutions are widening their offer to attract a wider range of learners, no single institution is likely to provide all of the choice required to meet full participation. Often those most at risk are those who need post-16 options in foundation or work-based learning. After as short a period as just six months many learners may be progressing again onto a different programme or even a different institution for a longer, higher level course. As a result, drop out at 17 can be very high. Progression agreements can be an effective means of bridging the gaps. Although these may be best known for supporting progression from further to higher education, the same principles can be usefully applied to lower levels. By planning their offers together, institutions delivering courses at different levels within the same vocational area can ensure there is a clear progression pathway for learners. The transition between courses can be eased by offering guaranteed interviews or even place offers on achievement of the requisite prior qualifications. However, the links between schools and work based learning providers can be patchy. Simple measures such as inviting other providers in during options events can be an effective way to start dialogue.
The Department for Education recently published the results from some locally-led Raising the Participation Age pilots. More information can be found here.
by Kevin Munday, Private Equity Foundation
Kevin Munday is the ThinkForward Programme Development Manager. His role is to fundraise, performance manage and develop ThinkForward, the new PEF initiative focusing on young people who are at risk of becoming NEET, providing them with long term and intensive support to ensure that they transition successfully into the world of work.
Kevin Munday is the ThinkForward Programme Development Manager