Inquiry delves into why young drop out

1st March 1996 at 00:00
The committee set up to promote wider access to further education and training has appealed for information on drop-out and achievement rates.

The Widening Participation Committee, chaired by Helena Kennedy QC, hopes to survey all published and unpublished findings on initiatives to draw more young people and adults into study.

It aims to review all the available evidence on groups which drop out of education at 16 or which fail to complete or succeed on their courses.

The committee, set up last May by the Further Education Funding Council, is charged with identifying the groups concerned, and then examining how they might be attracted into further education and helped to succeed.

It is due to report in spring 1997 on how FEFC strategies, including the funding system, should be developed to help boost participation and improve its quality.

The appeal for research data is going out to colleges and other FEFC-funded organisations, local education authorities, training and enterprise councils and government regional offices.

Ms Kennedy said an enormous amount of information existed on the factors influencing participation, but not all was known to the committee. "In particular, we do not know about unpublished data and evidence. We want to review all the available information as quickly as we can to see if any more studies are needed. The last thing we want is to re-invent the wheel or do unnecessary research."

The piecemeal nature of existing research, combined with concern over participation levels, was a key factor behind the launch of the Kennedy committee.

The Government, whose consultation on a lifetime learning paper closed this week, is aware that participation must be increased if Britain is to have a hope of reaching ambitious national training and education targets.

Figures released in January by the Department for Education and Employment reveal more than 10 per cent of 16-year-olds and 20 per cent of 17-year-olds in England were not in any form of education or training at the end of 1994.

According to a 1994 Labour Force Survey , 7 per cent of 16 and 17-year-olds slip through the net completely, participating in neither training, education nor employment.

The situation among adults is a further cause for concern. Government-funded research out this week reveals half the mature students on many college and university courses drop out, and suggests college managers are concealing the extent of the problem to avoid cash penalties.

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