Evidence-based policy is a wonderful thing. We’ve finally had a chance to look at the DCSF-commissioned report on the proposals to raise the education ‘participation age’ to 18, published a couple of weeks ago:
The main benefit for young people of further participation is in terms of increased future earnings. Even though there is evidence that vocational qualifications at level 2 or below have little economic impact generally, research suggests that they are likely to considerably benefit young people who leave school with no qualifications.
Which seems to translate as: young people who stay in education earn more. Well, actually, if they have low-level qualifications, no they don’t. But staying in education in order to get low-level qualifications is good for them. (Although the report calls higher earnings the ‘main benefit’, there doesn’t seem to be any mention of any other benefits. So quite why it’s good for them isn’t clear.)
It gets better:
It is reasonable to assume that staying on in education or training will lead to improved qualifications, which will in turn lead to increased future earnings. However, relatively few studies have examined the link between staying on and improved educational outcomes.
Ah, IOW there isn’t any evidence so we’ll resort to assumptions.
In addition to searching bibliographic databases and internet sources, international contacts were asked to provide relevant information. There was little or no direct evidence of the likely impact of introducing a system of compulsory education or training to the age of 18
So we don’t even know what the effects might be.
Although the proposal is for compulsory participation, the Green Paper acknowledges that it will be better to encourage young people to participate of their own free will.
An interesting concept of ‘free will’ there. And if they exercise it…?
It will be necessary to track young people, and enforce participation in cases where they refuse to engage voluntarily. Countries which operate a similar system use sanctions such as fines (for young people and/or their parents) and withholding driving licences
But guess what:
as yet there is limited direct evidence indicating how successful these sanctions are