Young people across the country receiving their GCSE results will for the first time be required to continue in some sort of learning.
In September, the national participation age will be raised to 17, meaning young people will have to continue their learning until at least the end of the next academic year.
The change does not necessarily mean students staying on in school or doing A-levels. Young people have a choice about how they continue in education or training after the age of 16.
This could be through full-time study, a combination of part-time education or training with work, or as part of the ever-expanding range of apprenticeship opportunities.
Cambridgeshire County Council wants young people to leave the education system with the skills, knowledge and qualifications to succeed. The authority’s aim is to ensure that there are enough college places, training opportunities, apprenticeships and other options available so that every young person can choose the option that’s right for them.
Cambridgeshire already bucks the national trend when it comes to young people continuing to learn. At the end of June, 93 per cent of 16-year-olds were in learning (compared to a national average of 91.7 per cent), and only 4.5 per cent were Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) - compared to 5.9 per cent nationally.
The majority of young people collecting GCSE results this week will already know what they plan to do in September, but if any don’t have a course, or an apprenticeship or a training placement lined up it’s not too late.
Schools and the County Council can help find the right people to talk things through with. Advice is also available for unexpected GCSE results. As well as their school, young people can contact Council centres in Wisbech and March for advice: Wisbech: 01945 585128
Businesses and employers in Cambridgeshire also need to know about the raising of the participation age and how it affects them. There are excellent opportunities for employers to be supported to develop their young employees to reach their potential but equally it is important that businesses recognise the national requirement that all young people under the age of 18 who are employed are receiving appropriate training and education alongside their work experience.
Information for employers is available at www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/business/employing-young-people.
Cllr David Harty, Cambridgeshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Learning said: “Supporting further learning beyond age 16 is a key priority for the County Council. We want 16-year-olds to have choices about their further learning. If we can establish a good range of options including apprenticeships, A-levels, traineeships, NVQs, and opportunities which combine work with learning then young people will be able to choose the option that is right for them.
“We’re doing well in Cambridgeshire - the number of young people participating is on the up and the number not in employment, education or training (NEET) is going down. This is thanks to the collective effort of schools and post-16 education centres, businesses and a host of other partners as well as County Council services. I want to pay particular thanks to our locality teams who work really hard to support young people to find places in learning and support those with additional barriers to achievement.
“Schools and post-16 providers have come together as 14-19 Area Partnerships to prepare for the raising of the participation age alongside the local authority. These partnerships have achieved better information sharing, have established new learning routes, have provided high quality advice and guidance and have made excellent links with businesses and employers all contributing to the positive picture in Cambridgeshire. However we do know there is more to do as we plan ahead. Next priorities include continuing to review our current Post-16 transport policy to ensure this supports our young people and providing more opportunities for young people who may need extra help such as care leavers, young mothers, young offenders or those from deprived backgrounds.”