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FE attracts record numbers

Staying-on rate for 16 to 18s is the highest ever, in line with government policy and investment.

The number of 16 to 18 year-olds in further education or training has increased to the highest level ever - at 753,000. New statistics released by the Learning and Skills Council confirm that training organisations - primarily colleges - are more successful than ever at encouraging teenagers to stay in education.

There are 367,000 studying at A-level or equivalent, an increase of 3.3 per cent, and a further 314,000 at level two (equivalent to five good GCSEs), an increase of 1.9 per cent.

In addition, the Government's apprenticeship programme - which works through contact between colleges and employers - recruited 10,000 more trainees last academic year than in previous years.

And there were 220,000 placements on Train to Gain courses, under which brokers help businesses find training for their staff.

While controversy continues over what the Government sees as low-priority courses, the figures show an increase in those taking approved courses: 350,000 are enrolled on skills for life programmes.

But the shift towards vocational training for adults has resulted in an overall fall in post-19 numbers, as colleges are forced to introduce fees for leisure courses.

Bill Rammell, further and higher education minister, said: "Overall, funding for FE has increased by 52 per cent in real terms under this Government. I am delighted to see that the number of adult learners gaining basic skills is rising. This not only helps those adults into the workplace, but will help those already in work to make real progress.

"This is as a result of our prioritising funding towards courses for those most in need - adults without basic skills or level two qualifications, and young people not in education, employment or training.

"Total investment in FE and skills through the LSC will increase to pound;12.4 billion in 201011, compared with pound;11.2bn in 200708.

"We will continue to support those on priority courses and those on low incomes. However, we have always been clear that learners and employers should contribute more to the cost of learning where they will see the greatest direct returns."

The most popular courses in 200607 were preparation for life and work (including basic skills), health, public services and care, and computers. And the majority of FE students were female - 57 per cent.

Mark Haysom, chief executive of the LSC, said: "I am pleased with the figures. They show that more young people are engaging in learning than ever before. It is vital that every young person entering the workforce is equipped with the skills they need to fulfil their potential, and this is why the LSC is targeting socially excluded learners.

"As part of our service to employers, Train to Gain has continued to drive up skills in the workplace, and by July 2007 approximately 220,000 learners had enrolled. These figures support the Government's decision to invest pound;1bn in the service by 201011."

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