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I hope to be able to deal with this very briefly. We should not be encourage young people to leave learning at 16. We know that being NEET at 16 is universally associated with poor outcomes, as the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings explained earlier, and that staying in learning post-16 is hugely beneficial to young people. They are more likely to gain further skills and qualifications, which helps them to progress in learning in future, find and keep employment and earn more over their lifetime. Those who participate are also more likely to be healthy and less likely to commit antisocial behaviour or get involved in crime.
It would be difficult to define a gap year in law, or to identify who was taking one and who was simply using it as an excuse not to participate. If the point is that some young people want to leave or take a break from academic study at 16, as the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton suggested, that is fine—young people will be able to work or volunteer.
Paragraph 18 of the explanatory notes states:
“Regulations made under subsection 1(b) can prescribe any other kinds of occupation that should count for these purposes, including volunteering, agency work and working as the holder of an office (for example, police officers or public appointees).”
We want the regulations to make it clear that volunteering would count, as long as the young person did some part-time training as well. If a young person wished to travel or volunteer outside England, as the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton suggested, they would not be subject to the duty to participate, because they would be out of the country. Clause 1 states:
“This Part applies to any person who is resident in England”.
My understanding is that the duty would apply to full-time athletes and apprentice footballers training full-time; they would still have to work towards an accredited qualification. It might be possible to find a way of accrediting some of the training undertaken by full-time athletes or footballers, but it is important, given the possibility of serious injury that elite sportsmen and women can incur, that they have other options. Not every apprentice footballer, even those with the great premier football teams, such as Arsenal, makes it, and it would not be right for them to have to begin their education again. It is a positive aspect of the Bill that even they would have to take part in accredited training.