WEARSIDE youngsters leaving school this summer will be the first who have to carry on learning until they are 17.
Under new Government regulations, school leavers have to take part in education or training in some form until they are 17 – with the age rising to 18 in 2015.
The move was passed as part of the Education and Skills Act 2008 and although it is included that local authorities could take action against those who don’t comply, the Government is not expecting them to and instead the situation will be reviewed each year.
Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West and shadow minister for children and families, said: “I’m glad to see the increase in participation age finally coming in. It’s particularly important at a time when the number of NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training) remains stubbornly high that we find opportunities for young people who would have left school after their GCSEs to continue learning in some way, and there are some great post-16 providers in our area who will hopefully be geared up to provide those opportunities.
“There is a worry that with the Connexions service and EMA scrapped, some young people might not be able to make the most of this new opportunity. However, I am confident that this increase, and the next one planned for 2015, will bring real benefits to young people and the country in years to come.”
Coun Robert Oliver, Tory spokesman for education in Sunderland, said: “Making it compulsory to participate in school-based learning or work-based training up to the age of 17 and then 18 in 2015 is a necessary move to help combat youth unemployment and ensure young people have the skills they need to compete.
“These proposals make it clear that attendance at school is not compulsory as young people can take on an apprenticeship or practical training.
“Apprenticeships have already proven to be very successful across Wearside with a big take-up in the last two years as the local economy benefits from the surge in demand from the automotive industry and skilled manufacturing jobs.”
A spokesman for Sunderland City Council, said: “As they approach this stage of their school careers, every pupil in Sunderland is actively encouraged to go into further education or training and provided with expert guidance.”
He said Sunderland had the second highest rate in the region of 17-year-olds in education or training and a strong network of partners identify any young person who needs help to get back into learning.
He added: “This successful, proactive approach will continue, and we can use these new government guidelines to further promote the importance of post-16 education and training.”