The Campaign for Learning and NCFE publishes today 'Mending the Gap: Are the needs of 16-18 year olds being met', a new paper by John Widdowson.

The author argues that the education and training needs of a significant proportion of young 16-18 year olds aren't being met. Young people should be at the heart of strategies for a high skilled economy, yet ‘remain neglected, under resourced and at the mercy of volatile policy change’. This is despite major reforms such as the introduction of the new T-Levels and the apprenticeship levy.

The paper proposes that the effective implementation of the raising of the participation age (RPA) is one of the most important responses that can be made to address this gap. The author's recommendations include that there should be a fundamental review of the RPA to the 18th birthday and research undertaken into the 'quality' of jobs undertaken by over 83,000 16-17 year olds who are in employment but not in full-time education. Other recommendations cover the 16-18 phase and supporting participation until 18.


At a time of great political and economic change following the decision to leave the European Union, there is widespread recognition that the need for a workforce equipped to operate in a high skills economy has never been greater….It is therefore more than ironic that young people aged between 16-18, about to enter the workforce at this crucial time, who should be expected to be at the heart of any strategy, remain neglected, under resourced and at the mercy of volatile policy change with every change of government.

John Widdowson from the introduction of ‘Mending the Gap: are the needs of 16 to 18 year olds being met?’

The paper was launched at the Campaign for Learning on 30th January 2018 at a special event with speakers John Widdowson (author and principal, New College Durham), David Laws (executive chairman, Education Policy Institute), Denise Ellison (joint ceo, Just IT) and David Grailey (ceo, NCFE).

Responding to the paper, Denise Ellison, joint ceo, Just IT said:

Over the past five years, 85% of our Apprentices have been 16-18 year olds. In the past nine months, this has fallen to near single digits. To ensure that the government's social and inclusion agenda is delivered upon, we must quite simply guarantee funding and initiatives to drive employers' appetite to offer young people employment through the Apprenticeship pathway. It's vital for our young population and vital for the future skill needs of the UK.

Julia Wright, national director, Campaign for Learning said:

We are delighted to co-publish John's paper with NCFE. Whilst an independent report, the Campaign agrees with the paper's first recommendation. We believe the time is right for the new secretary of state for education to announce a formal review of the participation age to the 18th birthday.

Download the paper