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Children's Commissioner research into children leaving education without basic qualifications - AoC responds

23rd September 2019

Today a new report by the Children's Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, shows a rise in the number of children leaving school at 18 without basic qualifications. AoC's Senior Policy Manager, Eddie Playfair said: “Today’s briefing from the Children’s Commissioner highlights the proportion of young people who have not yet achieved a full level 2 qualification. The fact that nearly one in five of 18 year olds haven’t yet reached this level continues to be a major challenge for our education system. In particular, we should be concerned about the growing achievement gap between more disadvantaged young people, those with Special Needs and their peers as well as the regional disparities. Colleges are successful in supporting many thousands of young people to achieve at level 2 and beyond by the age of 19. Every year, over 130,000 young people study at level 2 in colleges in England. With an average pass rate of over 90% colleges are raising the bar for many young people who leave school without a full level 2. In addition, colleges support 160,000 apprentices at intermediate level and a further 150,000 at higher levels. We also need to value students’ achievements on their way to level 2. 110,000 young people are studying at entry level or level 1 in colleges. It is wrong to describe those who have not yet achieved a full level 2 qualification as having achieved ‘nothing’ or having had ‘no substantive education’. Many young people are working hard and improving their skills using level 1 and entry level qualifications as a stepping stone to progression. Their learning journey and their achievements should not be dismissed. We need a qualification system which motivates and supports all young people to achieve and progress and which acknowledges that this happens at different rates for different people. The curriculum should be able to engage students, support them to develop their knowledge and skills and prepare them for progression to employment and further learning. At the moment, young people face a cliff edge at 16 between success and failure and the stakes are high. It’s not surprising that those who don’t make it at 16 often find it hard to scramble back up the cliff – particularly when their post-16 courses are less well funded. We also need the funding and commissioning system to focus on those learners who are most at risk of failing or dropping out. These are generally the young people who need the most support and guidance. Clearly, more needs to be done and many of the solutions to this problem lie with pre-16 secondary education, and colleges will continue to play their part in re-engaging, re-motivating and supporting the full range of young people, whatever their previous achievements.” You can read the full report here.