Calendar Year 2020

Participation in education, training and employment age 16 to 18

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Last updated
See all updates (1) for Calendar Year 2020
  1. Updates to "Headline facts and figures" section relating to compulsory participation and age 18 NEET rate

Introduction

The Department for Education's official measures of participation and NEET (not in education, employment or training) for 16 to 18 year olds.

  • 16-17 year olds are required to remain in education and training in England following raising the participation age legislation in 2013.
  • 18 year olds in this release are in the first year post compulsory education.

Much of the narrative focuses on these two age groupings but individual ages are discussed where appropriate. Other key analyses is by gender, type of learning (e.g. full-time/apprenticeships), institution type, highest qualification level being studied and labour market status (e.g. employed/unemployed/inactive).

Information is drawn together from various post-16 data sources to give a coherent and comprehensive picture of participation and employment. Sources include administrative data from schools, further education, apprenticeships and higher education. Wider training and employment rates are estimated from the Labour Force Survey (LFS).

Participation estimates for the 2020 cohort impacted by COVID-19 may not fully reflect engagement and attendance. 


Headline facts and figures - 2020

Overall ages 16-18

  • Participation in education or apprenticeships is the highest on record
  • The age 16-18 not in education and training (NEET) rate remained stable and is still one of the lowest on record.
  • 4.1% in wider training and 7.0% in employment.

Ages 16-17 (in compulsory education or training)

  • 91.2% participating in education or apprenticeships, a record high.
  • 3.9% NEET,  a record low.
  • 2.8% in wider training and 2.1% in employment.

Age 18 (first year post compulsory education or training)

  • 64.0% participating in education or apprenticeships, a record high.
  • 12.0% NEET, an increase compared with last year and the highest level since 2014 resulting from falls in employment and falls in participation in wider training.
  • 6.9% in wider training and 17.0% in employment.

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About this release

These are the Department for Education's definitive measures of:

  • participation in education and training
  • those not in education, employment and training (NEET)

for 16 to 18 year olds. They set recent changes in the context of historical trends.

The estimates relate to a snapshot of activities at the end of the calendar year, and are based on academic age, defined as ‘age at the start of the academic year’ i.e. age as at 31 August. 

Includes analysis by age, gender, type of learning, institution type, labour market status and highest qualification aim.

The accompanying methodology provides information on the data sources, their coverage and quality, and explains the production process for the data.

It also includes reference to other published data on participation and not in education, employment and training (NEET) rates, including estimates for the wider 16-24 age group and by local authority.

Raising the participation age policy

Raising the participation age (RPA) legislation was introduced in 2013/14, requiring 16-17 year olds in England to remain in education or training. Further detail is given in the ‘Raising the participation age (RPA) legislation 2013/14’ section of this publication and in the methodology.

Feedback

We welcome feedback on any aspect of this publication at post16.statistics@education.gov.uk

Participation: headlines

The proportion of 16-18 year olds in education or apprenticeships increased by 1.0ppts to 82.3% at end 2020, the highest participation rate since consistent records began in 1994.

Note: The measure in ‘education and apprenticeships’ includes those in full and part-time education, or on an apprenticeship. Overlaps are removed to give a definitive estimate of the proportion participating.

Age 16: 

Relatively stable, 0.1ppts down from the highest participation rate of 94.0% last year.

Age 17:

Record high, up 1.0ppt from last year.

Age 18:

Equal highest participation rate on record (equal with end 2015), up 1.2ppts from last year.

16-17 year olds are required to remain in education and training in England following raising the participation age legislation in 2013.

In addition to the 75.0% in full-time education and 4.1% in apprenticeships, a further 3.3% in part-time education contribute to the headline 82.3% in education and apprenticeships.

Looking at wider training for overall 16-18

  • 3.3% in employer funded training (EFT) (3.4% if including those also in part-time education)
  • 0.9% in other education and training (OET) (4.0% if including those also in part-time education)

Therefore the total percentage of 16-18 year olds in any education and training was 86.5% at end 2020. 

Education and apprenticeships are used as our headline measure as they are the best estimate for monitoring compliance to the raising the participation age legislation (see methodology for more information).

Participation: full-time education by institution type

At ages 16-17 the proportion in full-time education increased by 1.5ppts to a record high 85.2%.

  • There was an increase of those in state-funded schools of 1.7ppts to 37.4%

16-17 year olds are required to remain in education and training in England following raising the participation age legislation in 2013.

At age 18 most full-time study is in higher education institutions, and this level has increased to the highest since consistent records began.

  • Overall full-time education increased by 2.5ppts to 53.9%, a new record high
  • There was an increase of 2.4ppts to 36.1% in higher education institutions
  • There was a slight gain in those in further education colleges

Further breakdowns (e.g by part-time education) are available through the online table tool builder from the “Download data and files” section above.

Participation: full-time education by highest qualification aim

Age 16-18

As we've seen, full-time education increased to its highest rate on record, 75.0% (up 2.1ppts).

Looking at the highest qualification aim, most 16-18 year olds in full-time education are aiming for level 3 or above. This continues a broadly stable trend since 2012. 

  • Level 4: an increase in study (up 0.5ppts to 12.3%, a record high)
  • Level 3: an increase in study (up 2.5ppts to 49.6%, a record high)
  • Level 2: a decrease in study (down 0.5ppts to 9.7%)

Age 16-17

  • 85.2% are in full-time education (up 1.5ppts), a record high.

16-17 year olds are required to remain in education and training in England following raising the participation age legislation in 2013.

Level 3 study increased to 67.7%, also a record high:

  • 46.6% are studying for A/AS levels
  • 21.1% for other types of level 3 course

Of those studying for other level 3 courses, roughly half were studying for Tech levels or Applied General qualifications and 0.1% studying T levels which were introduced in 2020.

Age 18

18 year olds are in the first year post compulsory education.

  • 53.9% are in full-time education (up 2.5ppts), a record high.

The proportion studying for a higher education qualification reached 36.2%, also a record high (up 2.4ppts).

Further breakdowns (e.g by part-time education) are available through the online table tool builder from the “Download data and files” section above. This includes more granular breakdowns of the other level 2 and 3 courses, such as T levels.

Following the introduction of Raising the 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 rose sharply in 2013, after which it remained on an upward trend, peaking in 2020 at 85.2% 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 relatively stable trend of those not in education or training (NET).

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% and at end 2020 had increased further to 53.9%, an increase of 2.5ppts in latest year and the highest age 18 rate on record. However, between 2018 and 2020 participation in apprenticeships and part-time education has slightly offset the full-time education increase but the overall participation estimate for 2020 of 64% is the equal highest rate on record with end 2015.

NEET: headlines

The 16-18 not in education, employment or training (NEET) rate remained stable and is still one of the lowest on record at 6.5% (the record low being 6.3% at end 2016).

At end 2020 the NEET rate fell for ages 16-17 to the lowest on record, but increased at age 18 to the highest level since 2014.

16-17 year olds are required to remain in education and training in England following raising participation age legislation in 2013.

18 year olds in this release are in their first year post compulsory education.

Two factors affect the proportion of young people NEET:

  1. the proportion not in any education and training (NET)
  2. the employment rate for young people who are NET, estimated from the Labour Force Survey

In summary, increases in participation in education and apprenticeships, specifically full-time education were largely offset by falls in wider training and falls in the employment rate for those NET.

This has resulted in the NEET rate remaining stable for the overall 16-18 age group between end 2019 and end 2020 (but the NEET rate has increased at age 18).
 

Though the overall 16-18 not in education, employment or training (NEET) rate has remained broadly stable in recent years, the graph below shows this is from the increase in 18 NEET rate being offset by decreasing rates for 16 and 17 year olds.

Two factors affect the proportion of young people NEET:

  1. the proportion not in any education and training (NET)
  2. the employment rate for young people who are NET, estimated from the Labour Force Survey

Considering the first factor, as we have seen the proportion of young people in education and training has been largely rising since around 2001, hence the size of the NET group has been tending to fall. The proportion of 16-18 year olds NET at the end of 2020 was 13.5%, the lowest rate on record.

Looking at the the second factor that influences NEET, the employment rate for the group not in education and training, the graph below shows that between the late 1990s and 2011 the general trend was for the rate to fall meaning there was a notable decline in the proportion of 16-18 year olds in employment.

Between 2011 and 2016 the employment rate of the overall 16-18 NET group rose, albeit with some fluctuations when looking at single ages. It should be noted that sample sizes in the Labour Force Survey (LFS) are small for individual age cohorts, particularly when looking at a sub-group such as those who are NET, so caution should be taken when interpreting changes in the employment rate over the short term.

Compared with 2019, there have been increases in the NET employment rate for ages 16 and 17, particularly notable at age 16. However, due to relatively small numbers in employment at these younger ages, they can fluctuate considerably year on year so overall trends should be considered. The age 18 NET employment rate fell slightly in 2020 to 58.7% (-2.7ppts).

Gender breakdowns

Participation by gender

Females aged 16-18 have higher participation rates than males largely due to more being in full-time education. 84.6% of females were participating in education or apprenticeships at end 2020 compared with 80.1% of males.

Looking at the main study type, males are more likely to be on apprenticeships or in part-time education than females, both whilst still in compulsory education (age 16-17) and when moving into post compulsory education at age 18.

NEET by gender

NEET rates for both genders are higher at 18 than at 16-17, however rates for females are lower than their male counterparts.

Institution type of those in full-time education by gender

Age 16-17

Most young people are studying in state-funded schools or general FE colleges.
A higher proportion of females study in schools than males, and a higher proportion of males study in general FE colleges then females. 

16-17 year olds are required to remain in education and training in England following raising the participation age legislation in 2013.


Age 18

Most study is in HE institutions and there is notable variation by gender, with more females than males in HE institutions –  a difference of 11ppts.
Males are slightly more likely to study in a general FE college at 18 than females.

18 year olds are in the first year post compulsory education.

Highest qualification aim of those in full-time education by gender

Age 16-17

Highest qualification aims differ by gender with 16-17 year old females more likely to be studying for A/AS levels than males, and more males studying for qualifications at level 2 or below.

Age 18

At age 18, as we might expect given more females are in higher education institutions than males, more females are studying for a qualification at level 4 or above.

Raising the participation age (RPA) legislation 2013/14

Legislation was introduced in 2013/14 increasing the age to which all young people in England are required to remain in education or training.

Introduced in two stages, it applied to:

  • Young people who left year 11 in summer 2013, who were required to stay in some form of education or training for at least a further year until 27th June 2014.
  • Young people who started in year 11 (or years below) in September 2013, who were required to continue until at least their 18th birthday.

The first cohort impacted by stage 1 of the Raising the participation age (RPA) legislation were academic age 16 (usually year 12) in 2013/14 (end 2013 figures in this publication) and academic age 17 in 2014/15 (end 2014 figures). Those young people impacted by stage 2 of RPS were academic age 16 in 2014/15 (end 2014 figures) and age 17 in 2015/16 (end 2015 figures).

Although participation estimates in this release do not include a measure strictly aligning to compliance with RPA, the proportion reported as being in ‘education and apprenticeships’ is the closest proxy. Education and apprenticeships (which includes all full and part-time education and apprenticeships but not re-engagement activities) is the headline participation measure in this release.  Wider training, funded privately or by employers, which is not picked up in the administrative data collections is included in the ‘Total education and training’ measure. More detail on the differences are given in the policy section of the accompanying methodology document.

Estimates of participation consistent with the duty to participate under RPA, based on data collected by local authorities, are published in Participation in Education and Training by Local Authority. It should be noted that as the local authority estimates are based on different data and methodology to those in this statistics publication, they are not directly comparable. 

Revisions

Each year we update the previous year's figures from provisional to final following the availability of revised administrative data.

These revisions have resulted in the 2019 estimate of the proportion of 16-18 year olds participating in ‘education and apprenticeships’ being revised down from 81.6% to 81.3%.

The methodology accompanying this release details the 2019 changes.

Other sources

Participation and NEET figures are also published in other statistics releases. The table below provides a summary of the four related releases. A more detailed comparison of the NEET and NET estimated from these sources is available in the NEET statistics annual brief.

TitleParticipation in education, training and employmentNEET statistics annual brief Young people NEETLocal authority NEET and participation
ProducerDepartment for EducationDepartment for EducationOffice for National StatisticsDepartment for Education
StatusNational StatisticNational StatisticNational StatisticTransparency data
Age range16-1816-2416-2416-17
Age typeAcademic age[1]Academic age[1]Actual ageAcademic age[1]
CountryEnglandEnglandUKEngland
Regional breakdownsNoYesNoYes
LA breakdownNoNoNoYes
Data typeMostly administrativeSurveySurveyManagement information
Frequency of publicationAnnuallyAnnuallyQuarterlyAnnually
Seasonally adjustedNoNoYesNo
When to use?[2]England NEET (and participation) figures, age 16-18England/regional NEET figures, age 16-24 (includes reasons NEET) UK NEET figures, age 16-24 (published quarterly so often most timely)LA/regional NEET (and participation) figures, age 16-17 (includes pupil characteristics) 

[1] Academic age is defined as ‘age at the start of the academic year’ i.e. age as at 31 August. Actual age is defined as ‘respondents age at the time surveyed’.

[2] Left to right indicates recommended order of preference in which the statistics should be used based on most users’ needs and robustness of the data.  

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Methodology

Find out how and why we collect, process and publish these statistics

Official statistics

These are Official Statistics and have been produced in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

This can be broadly interpreted to mean that these statistics are:

  • managed impartially and objectively in the public interest
  • meet identified user needs
  • produced according to sound methods
  • well explained and readily accessible

Find out more about the standards we follow to produce these statistics through our Standards for official statistics published by DfE guidance.

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If you have a specific enquiry about Participation in education, training and employment age 16 to 18 statistics and data:

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