At ages 16/17 participation in full-time education was reasonably flat between the late 1990s to 2001, but falls in schemes such as Youth Training administered by Training and Enterprise Councils in the 1990s resulted in drops in work based learning (WBL) and caused the overall proportion in education and training to fall.
Between 2001 and 2009 participation in full-time education and overall education and training rose, with a sharper increase in 2008 during the recession period. During a recession, less economic activity takes place and so there are fewer jobs available and more redundancies, which could explain more young people remaining in full-time education.
Following the introduction of Raising Participation Age (RPA) legislation in 2013/14, which required 16/17 year olds in England to remain in education or training, participation in full-time education then rose sharply in 2013, after which it remained on an upward trend, peaking in 2019 at 83.7% of 16/17 year olds. Since the introduction of RPA, these increases in full-time education have been largely offset by falls in apprenticeships and other training resulting in the stable trend of those not in education or training (NET).
At age 18, Overall participation in education and training was fairly flat between 1994 and 2003. Slight reductions over this period in the proportions in full- and part-time education were offset by increases in work-based learning and other employer funded training (EFT).
Full-time education then rose every year from 2003 to 2011, with a step change increase in 2008 during the recession period. During a recession, less economic activity takes place and so there are fewer jobs available and more redundancies, which could explain more young people entering full-time education.
By 2011 participation in full-time education had increased by 12.0 ppts compared with 2003 to 50.5% and although this was partly offset by falls in work-based learning and part-time education, the overall result was that the proportion of 18 year olds in education and training rose from 61.0% in 2003 to 69.4% in 2011.
In 2012 there was a fall of 2.1 ppts in the proportion of 18 year olds studying full-time in higher education institutions, the result of behavioural change due to higher tuition fees (although a 2.7 ppt rise the year before was due to the anticipated arrival of higher fees which in turn drove a reduction in the number of people deferring entry). The fall in full-time education was offset by increases in other participation, so the proportion of 18 year olds in education or training was unchanged.
By 2015 participation in full-time education at 18 was almost back to its 2011 level, at 50.2%. Following slight falls in 2016 and 2017, age 18 participation in full-time education increased in 2018 and again in 2019 to 51.5%, the highest age 18 rate on record. Although between 2018 and 2019 participation in apprenticeships and part-time education fell slightly, the increase in full-time study resulted in the overall proportion of 18 year olds in education and apprenticeships being one of the highest rates on record at 63.4% (max was 64.0% at end 2015).