More teenagers Neet - not in work or education

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More of England's teenagers are leaving education without a job, government statistics show.

Annual figures show that last year 8.1% of 16 to 18-year-olds were not in education, employment or training (Neet).

That is up from 7.5% in 2010.

There was also a slight fall in in the proportion of teenagers in full-time education, which fell for the first time since 2001 - to 70.5%.

The government wants all young people up to the age of 18 to be participating in either education or training by 2015.

Neet figures are issued quarterly but these latest ones give an overview and compare what happened in 2010 with 2011.

They show there were 154,710 16 to 18-year-olds who were Neet last year, up from 146,430.

They give a breakdown for each year group and show a fall in the proportion of 16-year-olds in full-time education for the first time since 2001.

That fell by nearly two percentage points, from 88% to 86.2%.

'Too high too long'

Among 18-year-olds, there was a slight increase in those in full-time education, an upward trend that has been seen since 2004.

Just over half of that age group are in full-time education.

But overall for 16 to-18-year-olds, there was a slight fall in the proportion of teenagers in full-time education - down from 70.6% to 70.5%.

In the UK as a whole, 2.61 million were out of work in the three months to April - 8.2% of the working age population.

The latest unemployment figures, out last week, showed a slight improvement.

But people between the ages of 16 and 24 are the most likely to be out of work - about one in five are jobless.

The Department for Education said the government was working to improve the prospects of young people, and the coalition had introduced a "youth contract" in November to try to get more young people in to work.

A spokesman said it was crucial attainment was raised, because that had a big impact on what teenagers went on to do.

Children and Families Minister Tim Loughton said Neets figures had been "too high for too long" but the government was determined to tackle the problem by reforming education and the qualifications system.

"We are spending a record £7.5bn on education and training, including high-quality apprenticeships, " he said.

"And we are spending £126m over the next three years on extra targeted support for 55,000 16 and 17-year-olds most in need of education and training.

"Today's figures are also a clear sign that the education system needs to do more to equip young people with the knowledge and skills employers that colleges and universities want."

'Out of touch'

But Labour said the figures were "another nail in the coffin of the government's failed economic plan".

It has criticised the government for scrapping the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA), which was paid to 16 to 18-year-olds to encourage them to stay in school or college.

Karen Buck MP, Labour's shadow minister for Young People, said: "This generation of young people is paying a huge price for the recession made in Downing Street - long-term youth unemployment has more than doubled in the last year.

"Whether it is cutting support for young people to stay in school, trebling tuition fees or ending face-to-face careers advice, this government is hopelessly out of touch with the needs of the next generation."

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, teachers' union, said: "It is no coincidence that the numbers of young people staying in education post-16 have fallen for the first time in a decade, a year on from the government's scandalous decision to axe the EMA."

The coalition said the EMA had been expensive and replaced it with a bursary fund targeted at the poorest students, distributed by colleges, at their discretion.

The Association of Colleges, which represents the leaders of further education (FE) colleges, said its data showed there were 10,000 fewer 16 to 18-year-olds in FE colleges than previous years.

Chief Executive, Martin Doel, said: "Our own enrolment figures from 2011 showed a 14% drop in Level 1 (basic skills and pre-GCSE courses) students for our member colleges.

"Unfortunately, many of these potential students who are not pursuing their education are likely to become Neet - schools do not provide the courses they need and most work-based routes are closed to them."

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