Confusion over education maintenance allowance is causing thousands of teenagers to shun college for fear of depriving their families of state benefits.
Research by the Learning and Skills Council shows the EMA scheme remains widely misunderstood. It says 38 per cent of teenagers and 40 per cent or parents think household benefits would be reduced if EMA grants of up to pound;30 a week are paid.
Many youngsters also believe they cannot get an EMA allowance if they have a part-time job.
Trevor Fellowes, director of learner support at the LSC, said: "Staying in learning after the age of 16 boosts young people's employability and earning potential.
"It is less widely understood that leaving learning can inflict a financial penalty on the whole family and could cause households to miss out on pound;3,000 in benefit payments.
"EMA allows an entire household to benefit from learning. Not only will young people enjoy better prospects, but they will be financially supported to remain in learning and the rest of the family can continue to receive benefits such as child benefit."