Memorandum submitted by The British Youth Council (E&S 10)
1.1. BYC believes that there should be a removal of the clauses within the Education and Skills Bill which impose penalty fines on young people if they do not participate (clauses 45 to 47).
1.2. The offence of not complying with an attendance notice must not be regarded as a recordable offence under the National Police Records and result in young people getting a criminal record (clause 45).
1.3. BYC would recommend that the Education and Skills Bill includes an entitlement up to the age of 18 of a programme of careers education.
1.4. There should be an amendment to the Education and Skills Bill to make Personal, Social and Health Education mandatory in the curriculum for Key Stages 3 and 4.
1.5. There should be an amendment to the National Minimum Wage Regulations 1999 (regulation 12) to remove the exemption of young people under 19 in apprenticeships.
2. Don't force us, inspire us.
2.1. BYC supports the motivation behind through the Education and Skills Bill which wishes to see an extension of educational opportunity to all young people and improvement of support measures to young people in education but wishes to voice strong concerns about the use of compulsion to ensure young people remain in education or training until they are 18.
2.2. BYC believes legal coercion is completely the wrong approach to engage young people with learning.
2.3. If criminalising measures are enforced on those who do not participate in education or training this will have the effect of further alienating young people who are already struggling within the education system.
2.4. It is inevitable that those who will be penalised will be young people from the most vulnerable groups in society who face difficult circumstances that make them unwilling or less able to engage with education.
2.5. These young people will need the uptmost support and motivation to engage, not the threat of penalty fines, potential spiralling debt and a criminal record.
3. Give support, not a criminal record.
3.1. If young people do not participate an enforcement process occurs. If individuals fail to participate they will be issued with an 'Attendance Notice' and if they do not comply with this notice to attend they will have to pay a penalty fine. If they refuse to pay this fine this is an offence under clause 45 of the Education and Skills Bill and the young person will now have a criminal record for this offence.
3.2. It is likely that the sanction for this offence would be a measure such as a 'Youth Default Order' (a prospective sentence proposed in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill which could impose an unpaid work requirement, curfew requirement, or attendance centre requirement on young people).
3.3. BYC strongly opposes the fact that young people could receive a criminal record from not fulfilling the duty to participate.
3.4. This is an enforcement that will criminalise young people for the rest of their lives.
3.5. A criminal record has to be declared on UCAS applications and job applications. This enforcement measure will utterly whitewash any increase in life chances for a young person that may occur from being forced to go back into education after enforcement proceedings.
3.6. There should be a removal of the clauses within the Education and Skills Bill which imposes penalty fines on young people if they do not participate.
3.7. The offence of not complying with an attendance notice must not be regarded as a recordable offence under the National Police Records and result in young people getting a criminal record.
4. Young people deserve to keep their right to choose.
4.1. BYC also contends the removal of young people's existing right at 16 to leave education or training.
4.2. The latest figures from our survey of young people found 45% of young people disagreed or strongly disagreed with the proposal for the compulsory participation age to be raised, 43% agreed or strongly agreed,10.3% didnt know and 2% did not answer this question [figures sourced 25.01.08].
4.3. These findings are supported by research by the Learning and Skills Network (LSN) who found that teenagers were less than enthusiastic about the proposals. Their research was based on a public opinion poll of 920 parents and 380 teenagers, which ran between 30 March and 10 April 2007. Only a slim majority of teenagers agreed (50.5%) with raising the compulsory participation age; with the substantial minority (33.9%) not agreeing (Raising the leaving learning age, are the public convinced? 2007: 12).
4.4. Research by LSN also found that a strong majority, 71.3% young people were in favour of retaining their right to choose whether to stay on in education or training after 16 (2007: Raising the Leaving Learning Age: 14).
4.5. Moreover, when BYC put forward the statement 'The Government want young people to take part in education voluntarily, but if they ignored the warnings and still refuse to attend, do you agree or disagree they should be penalised?' 50% either strongly disagreed or disagreed with this proposal. 19% of young people didnt know how they felt about the proposal and 31% either agreed or strongly agreed [Figures sourced 25.01.08].
4.6. BYC believes that instead of removing rights from young people efforts should be focused on improving the education system to enable and motivate more young people self-elect to stay on in the learning process.
5. Pre-16 education needs to be improved first.
5.1. By ensuring that the pre-16 education system is at it's optimum a larger proportion of young people would achieve Level 2 qualifications by 16; thus negating the perceived need to keep young people in education until 18 in order that they achieve these qualifications as a baseline.
5.2. Indeed improving their learning experience would ensure that more young people would be motivated to voluntarily remain in the system beyond the age of 16.
6. The need for a comprehensive careers education.
6.1. Careers education needs to be strengthened if the choice to leave education or training at 16 is removed.
6.2. Currently schools must provide a planned programme of careers education within the curriculum in years 7 to 11. There is no statutory duty for colleges to provide careers education, though most colleges do so as a matter of good practice.
6.3. BYC would recommend that the Education and Skills Bill includes an entitlement up to the age of 18 of a programme of careers education.
7. Improve Personal, Social and Health Education.
7.1. BYC also sees the Education and Skills Bill as an important opportunity to make Personal, Social and Health Education a mandatory subject for Key Stages 3 and 4.
7.2. PSHE helps to young people to make informed decisions in areas such as sex, drugs, relationships, their health and financial management.
7.3. PSHE is not currently compulsory because it is currently deemed necessary to allow educational institutions 'flexibility' in how they present this part of the curriculum. However, this flexibility means that some people are denied education in these vital topics.
7.4. A recent report by OFSTED on PSHE found that the current provision of non-statutory PSHE is under-resourced, does not always meet pupil's needs and delivered in many schools by non-specialist and/or poorly prepared teachers (April 2007, Time for Change? Personal, Social and Health Education).
7.5. Making PSHE mandatory would raise the priority to address these issues with PSHE provision. Young people should also be consulted to ensure that the PSHE curriculum meets their needs.
7.6. There should be an amendment to the Education and Skills Bill to make Personal, Social and Health Education mandatory in the curriculum for Key Stages 3 and 4.
8. Apprentices need a National Minimum Wage.
8.1. The Education and Skills Bill could mean that many more young people enter apprenticeships and it needs to be recognised that apprentices under 19 are currently legally exempt from receiving the National Minimum Wage.
8.2. Although there is a Learning and Skills Council requirement that "employed" apprentices should be paid a minimum of £80 per week for full time work this amount could still cause financial hardship to young people who need the money full-time employment at 16 offers.
8.3. Having a National Minimum Wage for apprentices is a necessary requisite if the Education and Skills Bill is going to put young people in this positon.
8.4. One of BYC's long-running campaigns is for an Equal National Minimum Wage for everyone over 16; we believe the current three-tiered system is discriminatory as there should be equal pay for equal work.
8.5. There should be an amendment to the National Minimum Wage Regulations 1999 (regulation 12) to remove the exemption of young people under 19 in apprenticeships.