This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Find out more here


To discuss how you and your organisation can get more involved with The Work Foundation, please contact us.

Call 020 7976 3575 or email


Government’s watered down reform of raising the participation age at risk of minimal impact

20 August 2014


·Raising the participation age (RPA) policy has become a largely voluntary system

·Voluntary systems have worked in other countries but appropriate options and support are intrinsic to its success

·Crucial long-term problems around a lack of careers advice, post-16 options, and financial support remain unaddressed

·21% per head funding gap for 16-18 vs 14-16 year olds will place increased financial pressures on education providers

 A report released on Wednesday (20 August 2014), Staying Power: Making the raising of the participation age a policy success, will reveal that the Government’s RPA reform is at risk of minimal impact in its current state. Lancaster University’s Work Foundation warns that the Government’s removal of legal enforcements and many financial incentives – means that, without significant improvements to the educational offer, the reform is at risk of failing.

 The report highlights that the UK already faces one of the lowest rates of 15-19 year olds participating in education and training amongst OECD nations (78%) - below that of Spain (86%), France (84%) and Italy (81%). The need to bridge this gap has gained increasing political support and the reforms presented a significant opportunity to improve participation rates.

 The paper’s author, Beth Foley, suggests that the policy will see further pressure being placed on spending for 16-18 year olds, which has already fallen from 7.7bn (2010/11) to 7bn (2012/13). In addition, the removal of the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and cuts to local authority budgets will negatively affect the ability of RPA to reach those from disadvantaged backgrounds, who are more likely to be NEET.

The paper - supported by Barclays, Impetus – The Private Equity Foundation, and Trust for London - makes the following recommendations:

•Improving the quality of options available post-16, given concerns remain about the take-up, quality, and market value of the current options
•Improving careers advice and guidance to ensure that it becomes independent, and that face-to-face advice is made available for 16-18 year olds
•Introducing Youth Transition Partnerships to join up services currently available to support young people’s transition from school to work
•Increasing the financial support options for learners aged 16-19 by widening the eligibility for the new Bursary Scheme in addition to transport assistance
•Focusing on better tracking and monitoring given the voluntary nature of the legislation

 Commenting on the paper, Beth Foley, researcher at The Work Foundation, said: “Without legal enforcement, much of the success of the increase in participation age to 18 depends upon the ‘carrots’ on offer. The Government must provide the necessary support to ensure careers advice and financial assistance reaches the most disaffected and disadvantaged young people. Any less would represent a missed opportunity at a time when youth unemployment remains a serious problem.”

 This paper is part of the Missing Million series examining youth unemployment in the UK.


Notes to Editors:

1.The report’s author, Beth Foley is available for interviews, blogs, briefings and written comments.

2.The report is supported by Trust for London, Impetus – The Private Equity Foundation (Impetus-PEF) and Barclays.

3.The Raising of the Participation Age (RPA) applies across England and will increase the age at which a young person can legally leave education and training to 18 by 2015. An increased participation age encompasses a variety of educational routes; as well as the option of full-time education at school or college, students can also move into work-based learning through an apprenticeship or a traineeship. They can also take a job (or volunteering) as long as they take part in at least 280 hours of accredited training per year.

4.The report, Staying Power: Making the raising of the participation age a policy success, is available under embargo from the press office.

5.Lancaster University’s Work Foundation transforms people’s experience of work and the labour market through high quality applied research that empowers individuals and influences public policies and organisational practices. The Work Foundation is part of Lancaster University – an alliance that enables both organisations to further enhance their impact.

6.The OECD data relates to figures for 2011.

Media enquiries:

Angelo Evangelou 020 7976 3597

For urgent out of hours media enquiries please call 07825 527 036


Follow us on or signup to our press releases at