The department provides a number of financial support programmes for economically disadvantaged 16 to 19 year olds to help with the education-related costs associated with staying in post-16 education. The 16-19 Bursary Fund is the principal scheme. Under the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund, young people are eligible for awards of up to £1,200 per year (in particular, vulnerable groups that generally do not receive financial support from their families). Those not in these particular vulnerable groups, but who still need financial support, can apply to their education institution for discretionary bursary support. Each institution receives an allocation to make available these discretionary bursaries.
The department spoke with a sample of schools, colleges and other 16-19 education providers in 2018 to help us understand how the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund was being used and to assess the extent to which discretionary bursary allocations met the needs of students in the different institutions. Providers were using the available funds to support their most disadvantaged students, but there were different responses on the adequacy of funding. We are continuing to keep the use of the fund under review to inform our understanding of whether it is providing effective support to our most economically disadvantaged students.
With regard to its effectiveness in promoting social mobility, providers have the flexibility to target those young people in most need of financial support to stay on in further education and training. This flexibility helps to ensure that the poorest students get the same opportunities available to those with more financial support, for example, by purchasing equipment for technical courses, taking part in trips, purchasing books, participating in industry placements and getting support with UCAS fees. The majority of providers that the department spoke to in 2018 confirmed that this funding was making a significant impact on the ability of young people to access opportunities.