Increasing opportunities for young people and helping them to achieve their potential


We want to increase the quality of education for young people so that they are well prepared for further education, higher education and work. We want to make sure that there are high quality options for young people to undertake both academic and vocational education, including apprenticeships and traineeships.

More broadly, we want to ensure all young people have the tools and opportunities they need to fulfil their potential, regardless of background or life circumstances. We believe that all young people should have access to local and national opportunities to develop skills for life and work and to create a more responsible, engaged and cohesive society. We also want to encourage young people to have their say on issues which matter to them; and decision-makers at local and national levels to listen to them.

Together, this will help to ensure that:

  • more young people go on to study and gain the skills and qualifications that lead to sustainable jobs
  • fewer young people are not in education, employment or training (NEET)
  • more young people are involved in social action and feel they can make positive changes in society and in their own lives


Improving education

To improve the quality of education available to young people at school, we will:

This will help more young people to reach the age of 16 well qualified and prepared for further and higher education and for work.

We also want to improve the quality of what young people study after the of 16. For 16- to 19-year-olds, we will:

Supporting more young people to study

Improving the quality of education will help to make study more attractive to young people. We will:

  • raise the participation age in 2013 and 2015, requiring young people to remain in some form of education or training until their 18th birthday
  • make sure that young people have the information they need to make good choices by extending the duty on schools and colleges to secure independent, impartial careers guidance
  • provide targeted financial support to young people who need it through the £180 million 16 to 19 bursary fund
  • support 16- to 17-year-olds who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) and have few qualifications to move into education or training through the Youth Contract

Providing wider opportunities

To increase opportunities for young people, we will:


Supporting more young people to study

In November 2011, we announced the Youth Contract, which included a new programme of support in England in 2012 to 2015 to help 16- to 17-year-olds who are NEET.

The programme aims to help 16- to 17-year-olds who:

  • have one or no GCSEs at A* to C
  • are or have been in care
  • are young offenders and have been released from custody

Successful providers across the country are offering support to young people who meet these criteria to move into education, an apprenticeship or work with training. The government will pay them on the basis of the results they achieve to ensure good value for money.

Providing wider opportunities

On 9 March 2011, the Department for Education and the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services hosted a Positive for Youth summit to discuss the issues facing young people. The summit brought together government ministers, representatives from the voluntary youth sector, local authority officials, the private sector and young people themselves.

In December 2011, we published ‘Positive for Youth: a new approach to cross-government policy for young people aged 13 to 19’, aimed at providers and funders of services for young people. It contains details of all the government’s policies for 13- to 19-year-olds. In July 2013, as part of the transition of youth policy from the Department for Education to Cabinet Office, we published the progress government has made to place young people at the heart of decisions making since December 2011.

National Citizen Service has tripled in size since its first full year in 2011 and already has over 70,000 graduates. Funding is in place so that NCS can continue to grow rapidly and meet its aim that every young person should have the opportunity to take part.

Cabinet Office has provided 5 organisations with £4.2 million of funding for new ways to encourage voter registration, particularly by young people.

We also awarded £11 million to 41 organisations to encourage young people to help others through social action through the Cabinet Office Centre for Social Action in support of Step Up To Serve. A further £10 million will support the Uniformed Youth Social Action Fund to help create more social action opportunities for young people.

Who we’ve consulted

The Positive for Youth consultation sought the views of young people, businesses, representatives from the voluntary youth sector and local authorities. The consultation ran from June to September 2011.

We ran the ‘Consultation on the raising the participation age regulations’ from 20 January to 13 April 2012. We invited the views of schools, employers, local authorities, work-based learning providers and others and we received 176 responses.

In October 2013, we commissioned a survey of local authorities to find out about local youth services, understand any problems and identify strong practice. The findings of this work will continue to inform policy development.

Through the National Scrutiny Group and other elements of the Youth Voice programme we have consulted young people on a range of policy areas and initiatives across government.

Bills and legislation

The duties for raising the participation age are included in the Education and Skills Act 2008.

Who we’re working with

The British Youth Council is delivering the Youth Voice programme.

The following charities and businesses are delivering the Youth Contract programme in England:

The Youth Action Group brings together chief executives from the largest voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations working with disadvantaged young people, and advises ministers and officials on policy.

We are working with Youth United Foundation to jointly run the bidding process for the Uniformed Youth Social Action Fund.

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