The percentages of 16-year-olds in England remaining in full-time education in the five years from 1981–82 have been 48 per cent., 51 per cent., 48 per cent., 47 per cent. and 47 per cent. respectively.
Is the Minister aware that the staying-on rate in my constituency is well below the national figures that she has just given? Does she agree that the reason for that is the financial pressure on young people in the poorer regions who, because they seek financial independence as well as support for the family, are forced to abandon education in their search for paid training, employment or welfare benefits? Is it not time that a system of allowances such as that proposed by the Labour party was introduced to encourage 16 and 17-year-olds to stay on at school?
I do not agree that there is any need for some kind of educational maintenance allowance —[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"]—as has been suggested by the hon. Gentleman, because the number of 16-year-olds who are remaining in education and training has reached 90 per cent. of the numbers in that age group. I really do not believe that what he suggests would be a very great advance. I might also say that very few other countries would agree with that proposition.
Will my hon. Friend confirm that her original figures did not refer to the several hundred thousand children who are now able to participate in the two-year youth training scheme, which offers relevant and practical training to many who failed to respond to full-time education?
My hon. Friend is correct. The number of young people who are actually participating in the YTS is up to 90 per cent. of the total figures. Before the introduction of the YTS there were not anything like so many young people participating in further education.