Teenage participation behind new DfE probe by audit office

The Department for Education (DfE) is facing a second National Audit Office probe, with efforts to increase participation in education and skills among England’s 16 to 18-year-olds set to come under the spotlight.

The DfE’s Education Funding Agency had already been under investigation since June last year by the audit office, which has been looking into whether it was “prepared to meet future challenges”.

The findings are expected to be out by next month, an audit office spokesperson told FE Week, but there are now plans for another investigation, this time into whether the DfE is doing enough about the expected growth in the number of 16 to 18-year-olds in education.

It is due out in the summer and comes as the government prepares to make young people stay in education until they are 18 by raising the statutory participation age. The change is expected to come into effect next year.

An audit office spokesperson said: “There are almost two million 16 to 18-year-olds in England. However, at the end of 2012, 9.6 per cent of 16 to 18-year-olds were Neet.

“The government is committed to raising the statutory participation age to 18 by 2015.

“It is increasing the number of places in education and training and providing more support to young people so that they can participate, particularly those with additional needs or who face barriers to learning.

“This study will examine the DfE’s approach to increasing participation and the progress that it is making. It will also examine whether education and training provision and learner support meets the needs of young people and employers.”

The investigation into the DfE’s agency for funding and compliance was started in June 2013, when an audit office spokesperson told FE Week: “The agency distributed more than £50bn in 2012-13 to local education providers in England to fund education and training for learners aged three to 19 — three to 25 for those with learning difficulties.

“The agency is also responsible for the oversight of financial management and governance in open academies, and for major capital programmes in the education sector.

“Our report will examine the performance of the agency to date, and consider whether it is prepared to meet future challenges.”