The carrot is dead, long live the stick?

7th November 2008 at 00:00

The raising of the compulsory education or training age to 18 - a measure due to be fully in force in 2015 - raises one very big question which should be on the minds of everyone who believes education is about more than bums on seats.

When post-16 education or workbased training becomes compulsory, just how attractive a proposition does it need to be?

In the interests of harmony, let's assume that we can trust everything this Government, and indeed the further education system itself, does for students will always be in their best interests.

Even if we take all this at face value, there's one thing that has not been considered. Something that no longer seems the remote threat it once was - the prospect of a Conservative government.

The influential right-leaning think tank Policy Exchange raises an inevitable question: if 16-years-olds have no choice but to stay in the system, why do they need a Pounds 30-a-week incentive?

The raising of the participation age could yet prove to be the worthy but misguided measure that allowed a future Government to remove a financial lifeline from hundreds of thousands of teenagers. In addition, we know that many will drop out anyway, regardless of the law, and be even more likely to do so without the incentive of the EMA.

There are always dangers when policy-makers attempt to combine the belt of the marketplace - in this case in the form of the grants designed to increase demand - with the braces of regulation - in the form of criminalising those who refuse to stay on.

Policy Exchange has spotted the over-egging of the pudding and, perhaps a little ironically considering its right-wing credentials, has decided the heavy hand of the state is more to its taste than the financial incentive of EMAs.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today