Participation of young people in education, employment or training

This page provides information on the law surrounding the participation of young people (16-18) in education, employment or training. This includes the various options available to young people to ensure participation and the duties of the Local Authority to encourage participation.  

The law now requires all young people in England to continue in education or training until at least their 18th birthday. 

Is education compulsory after the age of 16?

Under previous legislation it was compulsory for young people to remain in education until the age of 16. However, as a result of legislation introduced in September 2013, the law now requires that young people continue in education, employment or training until the age of 18. 

Statutory guidance published by the Department of Education which explains the legal position can be accessed here

Why has the participation age been raised?

This change was introduced to improve the career and life prospects for young people.

There are various advantages to remaining in education or training for longer:

  • Young people can develop a greater range of skills
  • The likelihood of unemployment is significantly reduced
  • An increase in earning potential 
  • Offers the opportunity for young people who are disengaged with mainstream education to develop new skills in an alternative setting.  

What are the options available for young people? 

  • Option one is to study full-time at school, college or with a training provider. The definition of full-time participation is at least 540 hours a year; this is around 18 hours per week.
  • Option two is full-time employment or volunteering (full-time is counted as more than 20 hours a week) combined with part-time study or training. To count as full-time work, the job must be for 8 or more weeks consecutively and for 20 or more hours per week. Part-time education or training alongside full-time work must be at least 280 hours per year.
  • Option three is to enrol in an apprenticeship, traineeship or supported internship.

(S.2 Education and Skills Act 2008)

What are the duties of the Local Authority?

The Local Authority has broad duties to encourage, enable and assist young people, between the ages of 16-18, to participate in education, employment or training.

The legislative framework:

Sch 2, Para 4 Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 – ‘’A local education authority may secure the provision for their area of full-time education suitable to the requirements of persons over compulsory school age who have not attained the age of 19.’’

S.10 Education and Skills Act 2008 – ‘’A local education authority in England must ensure that its functions are (so far as they are capable of being so exercised) exercised so as to promote the effective participation in education or training of persons belonging to its area.’’

S.12 Education and Skills Act 2008 – ‘’A local education authority in England must make arrangements to enable it to establish (so far as it is possible to do so) the identities of persons belonging to its area who are not participating (in education or training.)’’ Strategic leadership should be provided up until the time that there was a meeting due to take place which and therefore there are many strategic support organisations which govern this particular

In so far as meeting these duties, Local authorities are expected to: 

  • Provide strategic leadership in their communities to ensure that there is a network of support available which encourages, enables and assists the participation of young people in education, training and employment. This includes liaising with local partners such as employers, Jobcentre Plus, community sector organisations and youth offending teams.
  • Local Authorities must collect information about young people in their area who are not participating and to target their resources on those who require them most.
  • Local Authorities are expected to liase with education providers to identify children under the age of 16 who are at risk of not participating post-16 and for intensive support to be provided to remedy the situation. This is particularly important in relation to children with SEND who are significantly less likely to participate post-16 in comparison to their peers without SEND.
  • Every young person who reaches the age of 16 or 17 in any given academic year is entitled to an offer of a suitable place, by the end of September, to continue in education or training the following year.

What are the duties of education providers?

The Education and Skills Act 2008 placed two Raising Participation Age related duties on education providers with regard to 16 and 17 year olds:

  • Section 11 places a duty on education providers to promote good attendance to enable young people to meet their duty to participate.
  • Section 13 places a duty on education providers to inform their local authority when a young person is no longer participating, for example, if they have dropped out.

Under S29 of the Education Act 2011, Schools are under a duty to secure independent careers guidance for pupils in years 8-13 on the full range of education and training options, including apprenticeships. Schools are expected to work in partnership with local employers and other education and training providers to ensure that young people have a wide range of options available to them.

RPA enforcement: What does the Law say? 

The legal requirement to participate is on the young person, not the parent/carer. Enforcement does not form part of the current law and therefore young people will not receive a sanction for non-participation. This could change in the future as this position is regularly reviewed.