Persistently high rates of disengagement from education and training led to the raising of the participation age (RPA) in England to 17 in 2013 and 18 in 2015.
The intention of the RPA was to boost the UK’s education and training performance and improve young people’s economic and social outcomes.
Ten years on, this research is the first detailed examination of the design, implementation, and impact of the RPA on participation, retention and achievements in post-16 learning and labour market outcomes (up to age 24), including variations in local approaches to implementation.
The research will address the following questions:
- What was the impact of RPA in England on education and training participation, retention, and qualification outcomes among young people up to age 24?
- What were the impacts of RPA on labour market outcomes up to age 24?
- How did the policy impact different groups of young people, defined by inter alia gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background, prior attainment, and region?
- How and by whom was the RPA policy formulated and why?
- What tensions and problems does RPA policy face, including capacity constraints?
- How is the RPA perceived by different stakeholders?
- How, why, and with what effects does the policy differ between different localities?
- What can other UK administrations and other nations learn from the implementation of RPA in England?
How the research will be carried out
The project has four core elements:
- A review of the academic and policy literature underpinning the decision to introduce the RPA in England, evidence from previous RPA trials, and the impact of similar policies in comparable economies.
- A national policy assessment through interviews with key policy makers behind the RPA in England to understand the rationale and implementation.
- Analysis of Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) data to analyse the causal effects of the RPA policy on post-16 participation, course completion rates, qualifications gained, training, employment, earnings, and benefit receipt.
- Case studies in six local authorities, involving interviews with stakeholders including young people, to capture how the RPA policy has been tailored according to local context and challenges.
How this project will make a difference
The findings will be relevant to future policy on post-16 participation, retention, and achievement in post-16 learning.
In England, this will include providers, employers, and local authorities who are tasked with engaging young people in education and training.
More widely, for the devolved UK nations, which have not introduced RPA, and internationally, it will inform policymakers who may be considering extending the learning age for young people.
Dissemination of the outputs will include research reports, academic articles, briefing papers, blogs, and podcasts.