The number of 16- to 17-year-olds offered a place in education or training fell by just 1.3 per cent in 2020 despite the impact of the pandemic, official Department for Education data shows.
However, the data on places provided through the September Guarantee also reveals that across all nine regions of England, seven offered fewer places in education or training to 16- to 17-year-olds then they did in 2019. Just two regions – London and the East Midlands – offered more.
First introduced in 2007, the September Guarantee helps local authorities to provide education and training to young people, and includes full-time education in school sixth-forms or colleges, an apprenticeship or traineeship and employment combined with part-time education or training.
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In 2019, 95.5 per cent of 16- to 17-year-olds were offered a place in education or training – in 2020, this percentage fell to 94.2 per cent.
Every young person 'should get a job, training or education place'
Across all nine regions, the proportion of 16- to 17-year-olds offered places remained above 90 per cent. The South East saw the fewest places offered, at 90.9 per cent, and the North West had the highest rate at 96 per cent.
In December, the Office of National Statistics revealed that 60 per cent of the total fall in employment in the past quarter was among 16- to 24-year-olds, while redundancies in the three months to October reached a new high of 370,000.
And at the start of January, the Learning and Work Institute warned that around 1 million young people could be locked out of education, employment and training as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Reflecting on the latest data, Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute, called for a youth guarantee to be introduced.
“It’s unacceptable that 5 per cent of 16- to 17-year-olds don’t have a suitable education or training offer, and that this varies so much across England," he said. "It’s the result of underfunding, lack of joined-up education and employment support, and the need for a higher national ambition.
“We urgently need a youth guarantee so every young person is offered a job, training and education place. Our recent youth commission showed how that could be delivered. Without it, we risk failing a generation of young people.”
The Association of Employment and Learning Providers' managing director, Jane Hickie, said that the data was not surprising and that work-based learning opportunities had suffered as a result of the pandemic.
"It is good that young people have the option of going to college because the arrival of Covid and the first lockdown inevitably had a major impact on the number of work-based learning opportunities, as many employers were either having to close their premises or were struggling financially," she said.
"Apprenticeship starts have halved during the pandemic, no 16 to 18 traineeship provider expansion plans have been announced since the chancellor’s commitment in his Plan for Jobs last July, and this age group is not eligible to participate in Kickstart [the job placement scheme for young people on Universal Credit].
"There is also no help for these learners in terms of addressing their digital poverty, despite many coming from very disadvantaged backgrounds. What has happened to the prime minister’s opportunity guarantee?”