In England, the compulsory age of participation in education or training was raised to 17 in 2013 and then 18 in 2015. In Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, the school leaving age is 16. The idea of raising the age of participation in education or training is gaining traction in the Scottish context, as well as in Wales.
Countries that have raised the age of participation in recent years (including a number of USA and Australian states as well as England), have argued that a better qualified workforce would improve economic output and performance in an increasingly globalised economic market. In some cases, this was supported by an inclusion agenda, with a commitment that enforcing continued participation in education (or training) for longer periods of time would help to narrow social and economic inequalities.
Welsh Government is keen to explore the implications of pursuing this policy in Wales, including how it might interact with the ongoing reforms to school age and post-16 provision in Wales, and a consideration of alternative policies which concentrate on reducing early school leaving as opposed to policies that legally require young people to remain in learning for longer periods of time.
To examine the above issues, we have commissioned a desk-based literature review to look at international evidence on the benefits and challenges of increasing the participation age, as well as alternative policies. This will be complemented by quantitative analysis to model the impact of raising the participation age (RPA) in Wales. To understand how this policy would interact with current and planned policy reform in Wales, a small number of interviews with key stakeholders in Welsh Government and in the wider education sector were conducted.
The literature review shows that:
Findings from interviews with nine key informants (who included senior policymakers, as well as senior representatives from organisations which play a key role in post-16 education and training across Wales) indicated the following:
Taking into account existing and proposed legislation in the post-16 education and training space (e.g. the implementation of the New Curriculum for Wales and the proposed post-compulsory education and training [PCET] reforms), recommendations include: